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Andy Wittry | | March 13, 2022

68 March Madness predictions, made prior to Selection Sunday for the NCAA men's basketball tournament

Friday's March Madness selection update: What committee's doing today

The start of March Madness is inching closer and in the meantime, we have you covered with March Madness correspondent Andy Katz's latest NCAA men's basketball tournament projections, a tracker of every automatic bid that has been claimed so far and a preview of six NCAA tournament records that could fall this year.

Just like last year, I dusted off my crystal ball to make 68 men's basketball predictions for the NCAA tournament, prior to Selection Sunday.

1. There will not be a first-time national champion.

Sorry, Gonzaga, Auburn, Texas Tech and Purdue, among others.

2. The Big Ten's national championship drought will continue.

Twenty-one, twenty-two... The Pac-12, however, well, I can't rule out that conference just yet, as it seeks to end its own drought that dates back to 1997. Arizona, responsible for the conference's last national championship, is ranked No. 2 in the latest AP poll and UCLA is No. 13.

3. The leading scorer in the NCAA tournament will be one of Gonzaga's Drew Timme, Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, Duke's Paolo Banchero or Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe.

4. There won't be two teams from the same conference on the No. 1 seed line.

5. Two No. 1 seeds will make the Final Four.

6. Collectively, No. 2 seeds will be picked to win the national championship by at least 30 percent of Bracket Challenge Game users.

With the potential of some combination of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Villanova to be on the No. 2 seed line, some of the biggest names in the sport, especially for casual fans, could be No. 2 seeds, not No. 1 seeds.

7. One No. 3 seed will make the Elite Eight.

8. One No. 4 seeds will make the Elite Eight.

9. One No. 5 seed will make the Sweet 16.

10. At least one No. 6 seed will make the Sweet 16.

11. One No. 7 seed will advance to the Sweet 16.

12. The No. 8 seed in the East Region will prove to be the most competitive against a No. 1 seed in the second round.

13. No. 9 seeds will be eliminated from the tournament by the end of the second round.

14. No. 10 seeds will go 1-3 in the first round.

15. A No. 11 seed will make the Sweet 16.

16. No. 12 seeds will go 2-2 in the first round.

17. One No. 13 seed will upset a No. 4 seed.

Who will it be? Rick Pitino's Iona? New March darling Chattanooga, which won the Southern Conference tournament on an epic buzzer-beater?

18. No. 14 seeds will get shut out in the first round by No. 3 seeds.

19. A No. 15 seed will hold a lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the second half against a No. 2 seed, but there won't be a repeat of last season's Oral Roberts upset of Ohio State.

20. One of the No. 16 seeds will trail by 10 points or less at halftime of its first-round game.

But other than that, there won't be much suspense for the No. 1 seeds in this season's bracket. UMBC's one-member club won't double in size this year.

21. Rutgers, winner of games against Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State and loser of games against Lafayette, UMass, DePaul and Minnesota, will be among the final four at-large teams in the field.

Welcome to Dayton, Scarlet Knights.

22. The Mountain West Conference will be responsible for two wins in the NCAA tournament.

It's shaping up to be a potential four-bid league.

23. The ACC, a potential five-bid league, will be responsible for five wins in the NCAA tournament.

Duke, the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, seems fairly sturdy on the No. 2 seed line, according to most bracket projections, but the conference's next four strongest at-large candidates — North Carolina, Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Miami — will likely receive seeds in the No. 8 to No. 12 seed range, which means first-round matchups that are pretty close to a toss-up.

24. Go ahead and pencil in — actually, Sharpie in — Gonzaga to the Sweet 16.

Then get ready to potentially keep writing, or clicking, "Gonzaga."

The Zags have advanced at least that far in the last six NCAA tournaments, including two national runner-up finishes and two Elite Eight exits. With Gonzaga in contention for the No. 1 overall seed, you should feel comfortable with the Bulldogs' chances to beat a No. 16 seed and then a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

How far you take the Zags in your bracket is up to you, but you should at least consider advancing them halfway.

25. Providence and Wisconsin — two of the teams most divergent in their regular-season records (24-4 and 24-6, respectively) and predictive metrics (No. 36 and No. 30 on, as of Tuesday afternoon) — will not make it past the Sweet 16.

Hopefully, the injury that Wisconsin's first-team All-Big Ten performer Johnny Davis suffered in the team's regular-season finale doesn't require him to miss any more time.

26. Loyola Chicago will earn a No. 11 seed, just as it did when it made the Final Four in 2018.

Those Ramblers made clutch shot after clutch shot. You can watch a deep dive into all of them here.

But this will be a shorter stay in the NCAA tournament for Loyola Chicago compared to 2018 and 2021.

27. Houston, which won the AAC regular-season title by 1.5 games after losing two of its top players for the season, will make the Sweet 16.

It might be slow-paced, there might be low shooting percentages and the final scores might be low, but the Cougars, perhaps perplexing to many in the dichotomy of their record versus their resume, will have a fine season, all things considered.

28. Iowa, coached by 26-year DI head coaching veteran Fran McCaffery, will reach the Sweet 16, marking the first time the Hawkeyes' coach has been there as the man in charge.

From Feb. 1 through March 6, the last day of the Big Ten regular season, Iowa ranks second nationally on the popular predictive metrics site, behind only Gonzaga. McCaffery has six Round of 32 exits in his career, plus three in the Round of 64 and one in the First Four.

TALKING TITLES: 7 programs that could be the next first-time champion

29. After a rare gap year, Duke and Kentucky will combine for *at least* seven combined wins in the NCAA tournament.

They combined for 22 wins — total — all of last season.

30. A team will go from the First Four in Dayton to the Round of 32.

But it won't go any further, no VCU or UCLA-esque run this year.

A first-round win by a team from the First Four has happened almost every season since the field expanded.

31. Iowa State, a 2-win team a season ago, will finish one game shy of a 20-game improvement in the win column.

The Cyclones entered the Big 12 tournament at 20-11.

32. Two schools from Indiana — Indiana and Notre Dame — will end their NCAA tournament droughts.

33. Memphis will make the NCAA tournament for the first time in coach Penny Hardaway's tenure and the Tigers will bow out in the Round of 32, just as they did in their previous four appearances in the Big Dance, from 2011 through 2014.

34. For its sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Ohio State will fail to make the Sweet 16.

The Buckeyes are likely to earn a No. 6 or No. 7 seed, so a trip to the second weekend isn't necessarily to be expected. Prior to its first-round upset at the hands of No. 15 seed Oral Roberts last March, Ohio State was bounced in the Round of 32 as a No. 11, No. 5, No. 10 and No. 6 seed — a seed range where one win in the tournament may be all that's expected.

35. Michigan and Michigan State will exit the NCAA tournament in the same round.

36. Three Big Ten schools will make the Sweet 16.

37. But just one will make the Elite Eight.

38. The teams in the Elite Eight will come from six different conferences.

39. Auburn will be the first No. 1 seed to lose in the NCAA tournament.

40. The four schools involved in the Champions Classic — Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State — will combine to win 10 or 11 games in the NCAA tournament.

BRACKET TIPS: Why the AP No. 1 team is far from a lock in March

41. A team that is currently unranked in the AP poll will make the Sweet 16.

The final five teams in the latest poll are No. 21 Southern California, No. 22 Texas, No. 23 Colorado State, No. 24 Iowa and No. 25 North Carolina. The first five teams that also received votes are Boise State, South Dakota State, Memphis, San Diego State and LSU.

42. Only two of the four most recent College Football Playoff participants will appear in the men's basketball tournament, Alabama and Michigan, and they'll be sent home by the end of the first weekend.

43. At least half of the teams that advance to the Elite Eight will be among the 13 active programs with the highest all-time winning percentages.

That's Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, North Dakota State, UCLA, UNLV, Syracuse, College of Charleston, Belmont, Memphis, South Dakota State and Gonzaga.

44. At least two Final Four teams will come from that group.

45. Villanova will get knocked out one round shy of the Final Four, where fifth-year seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels played as freshman reserves on the Wildcats' 2018 national championship team.

Gillespie has been unable to play in the NCAA tournament in the last two years — in 2020 due to the tournament being canceled and due to an injury last season.

46. The SEC will be the conference responsible for the most wins in the NCAA tournament, just edging out the Big 12.

47. The team coached by Shaka Smart, Marquette, will advance one round further than last year's NCAA tournament team that was coached by Smart.

No. 3 seed Texas fell to No. 14 seed Abilene Christian in the first round.

48. There will be a second-round matchup where the two schools' seeds add up to at least 20.

It could be a No. 6 seed versus a No. 14 seed. Maybe a No. 12 seed facing a No. 13 seed. A No. 7 or No. 10 seed squaring off against a No. 15 seed? We don't want to limit ourselves here.

49. There will be at least two matchups in the Sweet 16 where the two schools' seeds add up to at least 13.

There were five last year, but just one in 2019, and four in 2018, but just one in 2017, so it's probably not a matter of if we get one, but just how many we get in this year's bracket.

50. Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd will have the deepest NCAA tournament run among head coaches who are in their first year at their current school.

Other options include: Texas Tech's Mark Adams, Texas' Chris Beard, Marquette's Shaka Smart, Iowa State's T.J. Otzelberger, North Carolina's Hubert Davis and Loyola Chicago's Drew Valentine. Notably, Lloyd, Adams, Davis and Valentine are also in their first season, period, as a Division I head coach.

51. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's coaching career will end sometime between March 24 and April 2.

Consult the complete 2022 NCAA Tournament schedule for more details.

52. For the second year in a row, North Texas will win its first-round matchup.

Last season the Mean Green upset No. 4 seed Purdue in overtime.

53. At least one school assigned to the First Four in Dayton will be located within a one-state radius of Ohio.

Xavier? Notre Dame? Bueller?

54. The last perfect NCAA tournament bracket, submitted to one of the major contests, including the official Bracket Challenge Game, will stay flawless through at least 30 games.

Last season, the final perfect brackets were busted after 28 games. Gregg Nigl's 49-for-49 start to the 2019 NCAA tournament remains the standard-bearer.

55. Three of the 20 programs that have most underpeformed in the NCAA tournament relative to their respective seeds, since 2010, will lose in the first weekend.

56. The American Athletic Conference won't have any schools left in the Big Dance after the Sweet 16.

57. At least one West Coast Conference school not named Gonzaga will win at least one game in the NCAA tournament.

58. The biggest Cinderella of the 2022 NCAA tournament will be a school whose name is three syllables long.

North Tex–as. U–A–B. Del–a–ware. Saint Pe–ter's. Wy–o–ming. Da–vid–son. There's lots of options.

59. One of the 13 most-common NCAA tournament matchups between schools will happen again this season.

60. There will be one true buzzer-beater by the end of the first weekend.

"True" means there's no time left on the clock, like the one Chattanooga's David Jean-Baptiste hit to send the Mocs to the Big Dance.

61. Two schools that make the Final Four will have a name that's also the name of a state.

62. Schools from the Big East will be eliminated by the end of the Elite Eight.

63. A school that ended an NCAA tournament drought of at least seven years will also win at least one game in the tournament.

64. Kansas or Kentucky will make the Final Four in New Orleans, reminiscent of how both did 10 years ago in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

65. There will be at least one rematch of a previous national championship game in this year's tournament.

Baylor versus Gonzaga? Kentucky against Kansas? Arizona and Kentucky? There's lots of possibilities.

66. The combined total of the seeds of the Final Four teams will be at least 11.

67. At least five teams in the Elite Eight will be schools that were ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll.

To jog your memory, that includes Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas, Villanova, Texas, Michigan, Purdue, Baylor, Duke and Kentucky.

68. Your bracket will be busted.

But if you're looking for a new type of bracket game where you can exchange what teams you picked after each round, try the new March Madness Men's Starting Lineup Challenge.

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