2022 NCAA Tournament Region Breakdown (East) - Teams Don't Go Back-To-Back So It's Time To Rule Out Baylor
I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region. I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Thursday morning so there won’t be a ton of revealing here.
1. Baylor ain't going back-to-back - Listen, we all agree Baylor is a good team, great even! But here's the fact. Teams aren't going to go back-to-back anymore. What Florida did in the mid 2000s is going to be the last. Guys don't come back to college like that team. They don't find success like that back-to-back. Also there's a stat I saw that the national title winner made it to at least their conference semis every year since the field expanded to 64. JTT is also out for the Tournament with that torn ACL and we really haven't seen a healthy Baylor all year.
2. UCLA won't have a miracle run - Speaking of last year, everyone fell in love with UCLA this year because of that Final Four run. Hey getting there is a huge story. But it doesn't say who you are as a team. Winning 4 in March matters. But there's also a reason you were a first four team. UCLA hasn't looked right either, especially Johnny Juzang - the star from last year. Don't be surprised to see Akron with the points and UCLA out in the first weekend.
3. John Calipari's Final Four 'drought' - Cal hasn't made the Final Four since 2015. Two brutal losses in the Elite 8 since then and now he has another chance. Yeah, I know. It's my team. I'd like to be in New Orleans. If Kellan Grady can get out of this shooting slump they will be just fine. There's a reason Kentucky is the betting favorite to get out and the 3rd favorite to win the whole damn thing.
4. Can Purdue actually defend? - This is simple. If Purdue can play any lick of defense they are a top-5 team. The problem here is they haven't played a lick of defense all season. Jaden Ivey is a top-5 pick. Trevion Williams/Zach Edey is as good of a big man combo you'll see. They have all the right role players, they just can't defend anyone. Little secret here but that's important.
5. What version of Texas will show up? - Texas is an enigma. I can't shake them because they have been ranked like 21st for the entire year. Just look at their last game for example. They go up 20, great. That looks like the team we thought they'd be. Then they lost that same game. That's the team we've seen all year. I made the comment when they popped up on the bracket, but this is the most 6 seed team ever.
Players to Watch
There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players. I'll try to avoid the obvious like Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero.
1. KJ Williams (Murray State) - Can't lie, this dude terrifies me. He should be like a 3rd team All-American. He's averaging over 18 and 8. He's a monster out there and exactly what a mid-major star should be. He's the guy that can get Murray State a couple of wins.
2. Kellan Grady (Kentucky) - I mentioned his shooting slump and it's real. It's not spectacular. He's a mess right now and Kentucky needs him to get right. He's one of the elite shooters in the country. With the ability to play him on or off the ball, that shooting needs to come back fast.
3. Darryl Morsell (Marquette) - I actually think Morsell got fucked out of defensive POY awards this year. He's that good and since he left Maryland, he's also become a damn good scorer. Marquette struggled down the stretch but that style of play and the fact they just go balls to the wall can create some havoc.
4. Tommy Kuhse (Saint Mary's) - It's sort of bullshit that his name is pronounced the same as Bob but spelled way different. I digress though. Saint Mary's is forgotten about in this bracket. In fact everyone is going to be on Indiana. That's fine. This system is made to beat teams and there's a path to an Elite 8 as weird as that sounds. Kuhse is the point guard that has been there forever.
5. Keve Aluma (Virginia Tech) - We know what Va Tech did in the ACC Tournament and Storm Murphy/Hunter Cattoor deserve all the credit for that. But Aluma is the key piece here. He's the leading scorer. He's a unique matchup. He's a guy that can help open up space for those shooters.
Team underseeded - Murray State (7)
Team overseeded - San Francisco (10)
Matchup you most want to see: Sweet 16 No. 2 Kentucky/No. 3 Purdue
Best bet to win region (via Barstool Sportsbook) Kentucky +150 (come on, I'm taking them)/Texas +2000