2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: January 18 Projection of the Field of 68
The Baylor Bears became the first team in men's college basketball history to suffer two home losses in the same week while ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25, but even that wasn't enough to knock the national champions from the No. 1 seed line in our latest projection of the 2022 NCAA tournament.
It did, however, bump the Bears from the No. 1 overall spot, opening the door for a spirited debate as to whether Auburn or Gonzaga deserves that throne. And while it was a rough week for two of the Pac-12's top three teams (UCLA and USC), Arizona took care of its business to move up to the projected top-seed line.
For each of the four regions, we'll discuss one team in better shape than it was one week ago and another that—though still in position to dance—perhaps isn't as good as we once thought.
Before that, we'll start with the bubble, like we always do. And after the region-by-region breakdown, there will be an explanation of why the No. 1 seeds are ranked in the order that they are. At the end is a list of overall seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.
One quick "glossary" note before we dive in: When we take deeper looks at specific teams' resumes, you'll see NET, RES and QUAL. NET is the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the primary sorting metric used by the selection committee, and the metric from which the Quadrant records are derived. RES is the average of the team's Resume metrics (Kevin Pauga Index and Strength of Record). QUAL is the average of the Quality metrics (ESPN's BPI, KenPom and Sagarin).
Last 5 In
Last Team In: Belmont Bruins (13-4, NET: 40, RES: 44.0, QUAL: 51.0)
Belmont's case for an at-large bid took a major hit with Saturday's 22-point home loss to Murray State, but the Bruins still have a respectable resume with four wins against the top two Quadrants and no losses to the bottom two Quadrants. As a member of the OVC, though, Belmont will be filling up on Quadrant 4 games the rest of the way, with few chances at quality wins. The Bruins probably need to win every remaining game until the OVC championship to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid, but they might be able to do so.
Second-to-Last In: Oregon Ducks (11-6, NET: 60, RES: 55.5, QUAL: 45.0)
Oregon had no case for inclusion in the at-large conversation one week ago, but consecutive road wins over UCLA and USC sure changed that narrative in a hurry. Out of nowhere, the Ducks have two impressive Quadrant 1 wins and have climbed into the top 65 of all six metrics the selection committee uses. But to stay in the field, they'll need to avoid bad losses for the next month—eight of their next nine games are against teams outside the NET top 90.
Third-to-Last In: Miami (FL) Hurricanes (13-5, NET: 84, RES: 35.0, QUAL: 85.0)
The NET and Quality metrics still don't like Miami, and the 'Canes didn't do themselves any favors with a last-second loss at Florida State in their only game in the past week. But the Resume metrics all but demand Miami remain in the projected field after the recent road win over Duke. The 'Canes better at least win one of their home games against North Carolina and Florida State this week, though.
Fourth-to-Last In: St. Bonaventure Bonnies (10-3, NET: 92, RES: 45.0, QUAL: 61.0)
Welcome back to the projected field, Bonnies. A 39-point loss to Virginia Tech kicked this team to the curb a month ago, but a 20-point win over VCU pushed them back over the top. The NET is the only metric that doesn't view St. Bonaventure as a top 65 team, and I'm not sure why. The Bonnies have four wins over the NET top 80 and only one loss to a team outside the NET top 40.
Fifth-to-Last In: TCU Horned Frogs (12-2, NET: 53, RES: 37.0, QUAL: 55.7)
TCU barely won at Kansas State and then needed overtime to win at home against Oklahoma, but what a massive week for the bubble-y Horned Frogs, who were previously 1-2 against the top two Quadrants. I'm beyond skeptical they'll still be in the field two months from now, because life in the Big 12 is likely to saddle them with a bunch of losses. As things currently stand, though, TCU definitely belongs in the bracket.
First 5 Out
First Team Out: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-4, NET: 49, RES: 46.0, QUAL: 52.0)
The Deacs were unable to win their home game against Duke this past Wednesday, and now they might need to win their home game against North Carolina this coming Saturday to remain in the mix for a bid. Their only somewhat noteworthy nonconference win was an overtime game at home against Northwestern, so they have no wins against teams in the projected field.
Second Team Out: Florida Gators (10-6, NET: 46, RES: 72.0, QUAL: 33.7)
After blowing three straight opportunities for a big win against Alabama, Auburn and LSU, Florida now has work to do to get back into the projected field. The Quality metrics still love the Gators, but one neutral-site victory over Ohio State just isn't enough to make up for bad losses to Texas Southern and Maryland. The good news is they should win at least six of their next eight games, which might be enough to slide back into the field.
Third Team Out: Memphis Tigers (9-7, NET: 63, RES: 81.0, QUAL: 41.0)
Memphis is still in the mix thanks to Quadrant 1 wins over Alabama and Virginia Tech and a 5-5 record against the top two Quadrants. As of Sunday morning, there were only 20 teams in the country with at least five wins of that ilk. However, blowing a 19-point first half lead in a loss to East Carolina this past Saturday—even without three key players—was a back-breaker. The Tigers desperately need to stop losing games to AAC teams not named Houston.
Fourth Team Out: Arkansas Razorbacks (12-5, NET: 56, RES: 59.5, QUAL: 35.0)
One week ago, Arkansas was barely in the NET top 100, but a 44-point win over Missouri and a critical road win over LSU have revived the Hogs in a hurry. They still have the bad home losses to Hofstra and Vanderbilt weighing them down, but a road win over a currently projected No. 2 seed sure is swell. Per KenPom, Arkansas should win each of its next six games. Do that and the Razorbacks should make their way into the projected field with some room to spare.
Fifth Team Out: Texas A&M Aggies (15-2, NET: 51, RES: 48.0, QUAL: 58.3)
Texas A&M is 15-2 overall, but 0-2 against teams projected to dance. For better or worse, the schedule is about to intensify for the Aggies. Within the next month, they'll play road games against Auburn, Tennessee and Arkansas, home games against Kentucky and Florida and two games against LSU.
East Region (Philadelphia)
San Diego, California
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State
No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Texas
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Oakland
No. 5 Xavier vs. No. 12 UAB
Buffalo, New York
No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Toledo
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Creighton
Fort Worth, Texas
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 UC Irvine
No. 7 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 10 Murray State
On the Rise: Kentucky Wildcats (Up Three Seed Lines)
14-3, NET: 11, RES: 28.5, QUAL: 5.7
Knowing Big Blue Nation, they're still going to complain Kentucky isn't high enough on the projected seed list, but the Wildcats vaulted from the middle of the No. 6 line to the bottom of the No. 3 line as a result of Saturday's 107-79 shellacking of Tennessee.
The Quality metrics absolutely adore Kentucky, and it's not hard to see why. The two wins over North Carolina and Tennessee were by a combined margin of 57 points, and each of the 14 wins have been by double digits.
The problem from a seeding perspective is that the Wildcats only have three wins against the top two Quadrants to go along with a not-terrible-but-not-great neutral-court loss to Notre Dame. If they continue to thrive, those quality wins will come. In fact, they have a major opportunity at Auburn this Saturday. Win that one and the road game against Texas A&M on Wednesday, and Kentucky will officially enter the chat for a No. 1 seed.
Fading Fast: Texas Longhorns (Down Two Seed Lines)
13-4, NET: 14, RES: 44.5, QUAL: 14.7
Speaking of "lacking in quality wins," Texas is now 0-4 against Quadrant 1 following Saturday's loss at Iowa State.
The Longhorns are otherwise undefeated and do have Quadrant 2 victories over Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State and Stanford, so they are in no immediate danger of falling out of the projected field. All the same, they need to quit shooting themselves in the foot every time they face a quality opponent, or things could get ugly in a hurry.
Between the Big 12 losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State, Texas shot 14-of-44 (31.8 percent) from three-point range and allowed 18-of-40 (45.0 percent) while finishing minus-11 in turnover margin. The Longhorns have the talent and the depth to beat anyone, but it just has not come together for them yet.
Midwest Region (Chicago)
Greenville, South Carolina
No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 16 Nicholls State / Texas Southern
No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Marquette
No. 4 Iowa State vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
No. 5 Providence vs. No. 12 Iona
No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Vermont
No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Mississippi State
No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Liberty
No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
On the Rise: Mississippi State Bulldogs (New to the Field)
12-4, NET: 48, RES: 57.0, QUAL: 36.3
One week ago, Mississippi State had neither a Quadrant 1 nor a Quadrant 2 win to its credit, and I simply could not justify putting the Bulldogs in the field, even with respectable metrics.
But now they have one win in each category, following a 78-76 home win over Alabama, as well as a strong week from Arkansas that boosted MSU's December victory over the Hogs to a Quadrant 2 result. Combine that with disappointing weeks from the likes of Creighton, Minnesota, Memphis, Florida, Saint Louis and others, and Mississippi State jumps into the picture with some room to spare.
It's still not an impressive resume, though. None of the four losses (Louisville, Minnesota, Colorado State and Ole Miss) were all that forgivable, and the Bulldogs' only win away from home was a neutral-site game against Richmond in which they needed overtime to seal the deal.
However, either that is going to change or they are going to vanish from the conversation, because they have six road games scheduled in the next month against Florida, Kentucky, Texas Tech, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama, as well as a home game against Tennessee. A 2-5 record in those seven games would probably be enough to keep the Bulldogs hanging around the cut line.
Fading Fast: USC Trojans (Down Three Seed Lines)
14-2, NET: 28, RES: 25.0, QUAL: 25.3
After a 13-0 start, USC was the second-to-last team to suffer its first loss of the season. But the Trojans picked up two L's to Stanford and Oregon in the span of five days, bringing to light serious questions about the team that had climbed all the way to No. 5 in the AP poll.
The Trojans are still in great shape for a bid. They entered play on Sunday ranked in the Nos. 24-28 range in all six metrics, boasting a 2-0 record against Quadrant 1 with no terrible losses.
However, we would strongly advise the Trojans to stay away from the thin ice and quit losing games to Pac-12 teams not named Arizona or UCLA.
South Region (San Antonio)
Fort Worth, Texas
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Norfolk State / Winthrop
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Davidson
Buffalo, New York
No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Chattanooga
No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 Oregon / Belmont
No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Towson
No. 6 Connecticut vs. No. 11 TCU
Greenville, South Carolina
No. 2 LSU vs. No. 15 Texas State
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 San Francisco
On the Rise: Davidson Wildcats (Up Two Seed Lines)
14-2, NET: 36, RES: 28.5, QUAL: 50.3
It wasn't a noteworthy week for Davidson. The Wildcats merely added a Quadrant 4 win over Massachusetts and an 87-84 Quadrant 2 nail-biter against Richmond to their resume.
But did you know that Davidson and Auburn are currently tied for the longest winning streak in the nation?
Since early losses away from home against San Francisco and New Mexico State, the Wildcats have reeled off 13 in a row, including that marquee win over Alabama in Birmingham in late December. With a trio of long-range snipers (Michael Jones, Hyunjung Lee and Foster Loyer), they have one of the most potent offenses in the country and would be worthy of a single-digit seed if the tournament started today.
To climb any higher than this, they would just about need to go undefeated the rest of the way, considering the lack of marquee wins to be found in this year's A-10. But if Davidson does ultimately land in the Nos. 7-10 range, I would not want to be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed tasked with trying to shut down this offense in the second round.
Fading Fast: San Francisco Dons (Down Two Seed Lines)
15-3, NET: 37, RES: 39.0, QUAL: 47.0
San Francisco led BYU for almost the entire second half late Saturday night, but the Cougars bounced back from getting destroyed by Gonzaga to eke out a 71-69 road win.
San Francisco has now lost three consecutive games against teams in the KenPom top 100 and is starting to creep backward toward the bubble.
The Dons are still fine as things stand, but they darn well better win their road games against Portland and Pepperdine this week, and they would be advised to win at least one of their remaining games against Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary's. Early wins over Davidson, UAB and Fresno State were solid, but they can't afford to repeatedly lose these close games against tournament-caliber foes the rest of the way.
West Region (San Francisco)
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Navy
No. 8 San Diego State vs. No. 9 Iowa
San Diego, California
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Miami (FL) / St. Bonaventure
No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Wagner
No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 Minnesota
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Princeton
No. 7 Seton Hall vs. No. 10 Saint Mary's
On the Rise: Texas Tech Red Raiders (Up Two Seed Lines)
13-4, NET: 17, RES: 28.5, QUAL: 17.0
Thirteen games into the season, Texas Tech was 10-3 with a neutral-site (overtime) victory over Tennessee...and that's about it. The losses (away from home against Gonzaga, Iowa State and Providence) weren't bad, but the Red Raiders badly needed a quality win or two in order to have a resume on par with their Quality metrics.
Games 14 and 15 brought those victories in the form of a home game against Kansas and a road game against Baylor—about as good a two-game stretch as you can ask for. They now have three Quadrant 1 wins, and recently added a Quadrant 2 victory over Oklahoma State.
Even with the 11-point road loss to Kansas State this past weekend, Texas Tech's Resume metrics have improved dramatically. If the Red Raiders manage to go 2-0 in their homestand against Iowa State and West Virginia, they might climb another two or three seed lines in next week's projection.
Fading Fast: UCLA Bruins (Down Two Seed Lines)
11-2, NET: 21, RES: 18.5, QUAL: 13.3
The overtime loss to Oregon this past Thursday wasn't the end of the world, but UCLA was getting some serious benefit of the doubt as a No. 2 seed one week ago.
At the time, the Bruins were ranked 20th in the NET and were in the Nos. 12-14 range in each of the other five metrics. However, with a great win over Villanova, a pretty solid road win over Marquette and just the one neutral-court game against Gonzaga in their loss column, the Bruins were in great shape. They simply started sliding down the metrics a bit during their nearly month-long COVID-19 pause.
Now that they have a Quadrant 2 loss, though, it's time to actually seed them based on their resume and wait to see if they can play their way back up the list. UCLA is scheduled to host Arizona on Jan. 25 and will play at Arizona on Feb. 3. Its resume will more telling in about three weeks.
Ranking the No. 1 Seeds
No. 4: Arizona Wildcats (14-1, NET: 2, RES: 8.0, QUAL: 5.7)
I was torn between LSU and Arizona for the fourth No. 1 seed last week. The decision was not a difficult one this week.
Kansas does still have a compelling case after a 26-point win over West Virginia, but one-loss Arizona gets the nod.
For the most part, the Wildcats have smashed their would-be competition. Wins over Illinois and Wichita State were close, as was the loss at Tennessee. In the other 12 games, though, their average scoring margin is 29.8 points per game. And if they can keep winning by double digits throughout a mostly weak Pac-12 schedule, they could still give Gonzaga a run for its money for the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
No. 3: Baylor Bears (15-2, NET: 6, RES: 5.0, QUAL: 4.0)
I said last week that Baylor could lose the home games to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and probably still be in the mix for the No. 1 overall seed, and that's true. The Bears are still seventh or better in all six metrics, which is more than anyone else can say. But with Auburn the unanimous No. 1 in Resume metrics and Gonzaga the unanimous No. 1 in Quality metrics, those teams get the edge for now.
For the record, I'm not concerned about the two-game losing streak. Breakout freshman Jeremy Sochan missed both games with an ankle injury, James Akinjo (tailbone) was clearly not at 100 percent in the loss to the Cowboys, and both games still went right down to the wire. I believe full-strength Baylor is the best team in the country, and there's a very good chance it will get the No. 1 overall seed if it rallies from this swoon to win the loaded Big 12.
No. 2: Gonzaga Bulldogs (14-2, NET: 1, RES: 13.5, QUAL: 1.0)
You, a college basketball junkie: "This is the best season the West Coast Conference has ever had."
The Zags, a college basketball juggernaut: "Pardon us while we average 114.0 points per game in West Coast Conference play."
Gonzaga destroyed both BYU and Santa Clara this past week, storming back into the No. 1 spot in both the NET and the Quality metrics. The Bulldogs are averaging 91 points per game. All eight regulars shoot better than 52 percent from inside the arc, and most of them shoot better than 36 percent beyond the arc. Slowing this offense down isn't exactly an option, and I don't see this team losing again before the NCAA tournament.
No. 1: Auburn Tigers (16-1, NET: 5, RES: 1.0, QUAL: 10.3)
As a reminder, No. 1 overall seed doesn't necessarily mean "current favorite to win the national championship." Those two things often go hand-in-hand, but I don't think we're there with Auburn. This is clearly a very good team with a rock-solid resume—4-1 vs. Quadrant 1; 8-1 vs. top two Quadrants—however, it does still feel like Gonzaga, Baylor and a few other teams are more likely to win it all.
The Tigers could change that perception this Saturday when they take on Kentucky.
They have quality wins over LSU, Alabama and Loyola-Chicago during their 13-game winning streak, but a statement win over Big Blue Nation could be what pushes the Tigers over the top from "a candidate" to "the favorite."
Seeding by Conference
In case seeded regions aren't enough and you want to know where the "top" 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each team's overall seed, broken down by conference. First five out teams are included in italics.
ACC (3): 9. Duke; 30. North Carolina; 46. Miami (FL); 69. Wake Forest
Atlantic 10 (2): 36. Davidson; 45. St. Bonaventure
Big 12 (8): 3. Baylor; 5. Kansas; 16. Iowa State; 18. Texas Tech; 28. West Virginia; 33. Texas; 37. Oklahoma; 44. TCU
Big East (7): 10. Villanova; 17. Xavier; 20. Providence; 23. Connecticut; 25. Seton Hall; 34. Marquette; 42. Creighton
Big Ten (8): 6. Purdue; 8. Wisconsin; 13. Illinois; 14. Michigan State; 21. Ohio State; 31. Indiana; 35. Iowa; 43. Minnesota
Mountain West (2): 29. San Diego State; 32. Colorado State
Ohio Valley (2): 38. Murray State; 48. Belmont
Pac-12 (4): 4. Arizona; 15. UCLA; 24. USC; 47. Oregon
SEC (6): 1. Auburn; 7. LSU; 12. Kentucky; 19. Alabama; 22. Tennessee; 41. Mississippi State; 70. Florida; 72. Arkansas; 73. Texas A&M
West Coast (4): 2. Gonzaga; 26. BYU; 39. Saint Mary's; 40. San Francisco
Other (22): 11. Houston; 27. Loyola-Chicago; 49. UAB; 50. Iona; 51. Chattanooga; 52. Oakland; 53. New Mexico State; 54. South Dakota State; 55. Toledo; 56. Vermont; 57. Wagner; 58. Towson; 59. UC Irvine; 60. Liberty; 61. Texas State; 62. Princeton; 63. Navy; 64. Weber State; 65. Winthrop; 66. Norfolk State; 67. Texas Southern; 68. Nicholls State; 71. Memphis
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.