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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | November 5, 2021

Men's March Madness bracket predictions, ahead of opening night

The men's NCAA tournament field of 68, predicted before opening night

The 2021-22 men's college basketball season kicks off on Tuesday, Nov. 9 and March Madness correspondent Andy Katz has updated his preseason projections for the 2022 NCAA tournament. March will be here before you know it, but until then, here's how Katz projects the 68-team field to look, as of Nov. 4.

Here's the bracket in table form.

  West East mdwest south
1 UCLA Purdue Gonzaga Kansas
16 Southern Utah/Texas Southern Bryant/Norfolk State Nicholls State Stony Brook
         
8 Virginia Tech Louisville Tennessee Xavier
9 West Virginia Rutgers St. Bonaventure Florida
         
5 Houston Maryland Florida State North Carolina
12 Loyola Chicago Yale UAB Belmont
         
4 Arkansas Memphis Oregon Ohio State
13 Buffalo Iona Furman Cleveland State
         
6 UConn Indiana Southern California Texas Tech
11 Oregon State San Diego State/Washington State Colorado State Wichita State/Richmond
         
3 Illinois Kentucky Baylor Alabama
14 UC Santa Barbara James Madison Grand Canyon Georgia State
         
7 Auburn Virginia Syracuse Michigan State
10 BYU Nebraska Seton Hall Colorado
         
2 Texas Villanova Michigan Duke
15 South Dakota State Winthrop Liberty Navy

Let's take a closer look at Katz's bracket.

The No. 1 seeds: UCLA, Gonzaga, Kansas, Purdue

Andy Katz's projected No. 1 seeds in his final preseason NCAA tournament projections include the top three teams in the preseason AP poll, although in a different order at the top, but that's splitting hairs. Katz's seed list goes UCLA, Gonzaga and Kansas, whereas the AP poll voters put the Zags ahead of UCLA.

Katz went with Purdue as the fourth No. 1 seed. The Boilermakers check in at No. 7 in the preseason AP poll.

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Gonzaga was a No. 1 last season, when it took an undefeated record into the national championship game (after beating fellow projected No. 1 seed for 2022 UCLA), and the Bulldogs have been a No. 1 seed in four of the last eight NCAA tournaments.

UCLA was last a No. 1 seed in 2008, the second year in a row in which it earned a top seed and the third consecutive year that the Bruins appeared in the Final Four.

Kansas' last NCAA tournament appearance as a No. 1 seed came in 2018, which was its third consecutive season earning a No. 1 seed, and the Jayhawks advanced to the Final Four. Purdue has earned a No. 1 seed on three occasions, all under former coach Gene Keady in the 1980s and '90s, with the most recent coming in 1996.

Number of bids by conference

The Big Ten leads all conferences with nine teams in Katz's projected NCAA tournament field: Purdue, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers and Nebraska. Next is the ACC (seven bids), followed by the Pac-12 and SEC with six projected NCAA tournament teams apiece, five Big 12 teams, four from the Big East and three from the American.

There are two teams apiece from the A-10, Mountain East and WCC.

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The return of big-name programs

The 2021 NCAA tournament was notably without Duke, Kentucky and Indiana. All three are in Katz's projected field for the 2022 tournament, with the Blue Devils slotted as projected No. 2 seed, one spot ahead of the top No. 3 seed, Kentucky. The Hoosiers are a projected No. 6 seed.

Louisville, another historically strong program that missed the Big Dance in 2021, is projected to qualify for the 2022 edition as a No. 8 seed.

A bubble breakdown

Katz's first four out are St. John's, Oklahoma, Mississippi State and VCU.

Here's the full list, in order:

  • St. John’s
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi State
  • VCU
  • Arizona
  • Drake
  • LSU
  • Iowa
  • Notre Dame
  • Providence
  • Wisconsin
  • Butler
  • NC State
  • SMU
  • Boise State
  • Arizona State
  • Saint Louis
  • Georgia Tech
  • Northwestern
  • Nevada
  • Clemson
  • Northern Iowa
  • Missouri State
  • Ole Miss
  • Missouri
  • Dayton
  • Louisiana Tech
  • Loyola Marymount
  • Kansas State
  • Stanford
  • Utah
  • Saint Mary's

Here's Katz's full field of 68:

RANK | SEED | TEAM | CONFERENCE
1. 1 -- UCLA | Pac-12 (AQ)
2. 1 -- Gonzaga | WCC (AQ)
3. 1 -- Kansas | Big 12 (AQ)
4. 1 -- Purdue | Big Ten (AQ)
5. 2 -- Michigan | Big Ten
6. 2 -- Texas | Big 12
7. 2 -- Villanova | Big East (AQ)
8. 2 -- Duke | ACC (AQ)
9. 3 -- Kentucky | SEC (AQ)
10. 3 -- Alabama | SEC
11. 3 -- Illinois | Big Ten
12. 3 -- Baylor | Big 12
13. 4 -- Oregon | Pac-12
14. 4 -- Ohio State | Big Ten
15. 4 -- Arkansas | SEC
16. 4 -- Memphis | AAC (AQ)
17. 5 -- Houston | AAC
18. 5 --- Maryland | Big Ten
19. 5 -- North Carolina | ACC
20. 5 -- Florida State | ACC
21. 6 -- Texas Tech | Big 12
22. 6 -- Indiana | Big Ten
23. 6 -- Southern California | Pac-12
24. 6 -- UConn | Big East
25. 7 -- Virginia | ACC
26. 7 -- Syracuse | ACC
27. 7 -- Auburn | SEC
28. 7 -- Michigan State | Big Ten
29. 8 -- Xavier | Big East
30. 8 -- Louisville | ACC
31. 8 -- Tennessee | SEC
32. 8 -- Virginia Tech | ACC
33. 9 -- Florida | SEC
34. 9 -- Rutgers | Big Ten
35. 9 -- St. Bonaventure  | A-10 (AQ)
36. 9 -- West Virginia | Big 12
37. 10 -- BYU | WCC
38. 10 -- Seton Hall | Big East
39. 10 -- Colorado | Pac-12
40. 10 -- Nebraska | Big Ten
41. 11 -- Colorado State | Mountain West (AQ)
42. 11 -- Oregon State | Pac-12
43. 11 -- Wichita State | AAC
44. 11 -- Richmond | A-10
45. 11 -- San Diego State | Mountain West
46. 11 -- Washington State | Pac-12
47. 12 -- Belmont | OVC (AQ)
48. 12 -- Loyola Chicago | MVC (AQ)
49. 12 -- UAB | C-USA (AQ)
50. 12 -- Yale | Ivy (AQ)
51. 13 -- Iona | MAAC (AQ)
52. 13 -- Cleveland State | Horizon (AQ)
53. 13 -- Buffalo | MAC (AQ)
54. 13 -- Furman | Southern (AQ)
55. 14 -- Grand Canyon | WAC (AQ)
56. 14 -- UC Santa Barbara | Big West (AQ)
57. 14 -- James Madison | CAA (AQ)
58. 14 -- Georgia State | Sun Belt (AQ)
59. 15 -- Navy | Patriot (AQ)
60. 15 -- Winthrop | Big South (AQ)
61. 15 -- Liberty | ASUN (AQ)
62. 15 -- South Dakota State | Summit (AQ)
63. 16 -- Stony Brook | America East (AQ)
64. 16 -- Nicholls State | Southland (AQ)
65. 16 -- Southern Utah | Big Sky (AQ)
66. 16 -- Texas Southern | SWAC (AQ)
67. 16 -- Bryant | NEC (AQ)
68. 16 -- Norfolk State | MEAC (AQ)

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