2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: January 25 Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 25, 2022

2022 Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: January 25 Projection of the Field of 68

0 of 8

    Gonzaga's Drew Timme
    Gonzaga's Drew TimmeYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    It might be the calm before the storm or it might be the wheat starting to separate from the chaff, but our four projected No. 1 seeds for the 2022 men's NCAA tournament remain unchanged from seven days ago. Auburn, Gonzaga, Baylor and Arizona went a combined 7-0 this past week, with the closest of those games decided by nine points.

    At the other end of the spectrum, North Carolina is dropping like a lead balloon, both the AAC and A-10 are looking like one-bid leagues and it's time to discuss the possibility of a four-bid Mountain West (to go along with the four-bid WCC).

    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 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).

    NET rankings update daily and can be found here. The others can be found individually at their various sources, or masterfully aggregated by Bart Torvik.

Last Five In

1 of 8

    Arkansas' JD Notae
    Arkansas' JD NotaeWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Last Team In: Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-6, NET: 45, RES: 58.5, QUAL: 37.0)

    Mississippi State ranks top-50 in five of the six metrics, but should it? The Bulldogs have three not-good losses (Louisville, Ole Miss and Minnesota) and just the 78-76 home win over Alabama on the plus side of the Quadrant 1 ledger. That said, they could prove they belong in the field and then some with a road win over Kentucky or Texas Tech this week.


    Second-to-Last In: Arkansas Razorbacks (14-5, NET: 55, RES: 46.0, QUAL: 35.0)

    Home victories over South Carolina and Texas A&M (the latter in overtime) didn't do anything to improve Arkansas' resume in the past week, but at least the Hogs kept the status quo while Belmont, North Carolina and St. Bonaventure played their way out of the projected field. They have now won four in a row, including a massive road win over LSU. The home game against West Virginia this coming Saturday looms large.


    Third-to-Last In: Boise State Broncos (15-4, NET: 43, RES: 42.5, QUAL: 47.7)

    Broncos? More like Cardiac Colts. Despite playing five games in a span of 11 days, Boise State had the resolve to erase late deficits by scoring the final six points at Utah State and the final seven points at San Diego State. The 42-37 win over the Aztecs pushed Boise State's winning streak to 12 games, and was the first time since Nov. 2018 that a team won a game in which it scored 42 points or fewer.


    Fourth-to-Last In: Oregon Ducks (12-6, NET: 49, RES: 55.5, QUAL: 40.0)

    The home win over Washington on Sunday night pushed Oregon's winning streak to six games, but the Ducks might need to extend that to 13 games in order to stay in the projected field. Their next game against a quality opponent won't come until they draw Arizona, UCLA and USC in succession in late February.


    Fifth-to-Last In: Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-5, NET: 79, RES: 44.0, QUAL: 84.7)

    The predictive metrics hate the Gophers, but they have two Quadrant 1 wins (at Mississippi State; at Michigan) and have yet to lose to a team outside the top 35 in the NET rankings. Hard to argue with that. But it's now or never to prove they belong in the field. Minnesota's next four games are: vs. Ohio State, at Wisconsin, vs. Purdue, at Iowa.

First Five Out

2 of 8

    Wyoming's Graham Ike
    Wyoming's Graham IkeMarco Garcia/Associated Press

    First Team Out: Wyoming Cowboys (15-2, NET: 31, RES: 32.5, QUAL: 78.7)

    Wyoming has only played one game against a tournament-caliber opponent, and it got drilled 94-65 by Arizona in that game. But the Cowboys are 15-1 aside from that forgivable road loss to a projected No. 1 seed, and they could make a big statement at Boise State on Tuesday night. They'll also draw Colorado State at home this coming Monday.


    Second Team Out: North Carolina Tar Heels (13-6, NET: 51, RES: 52.5, QUAL: 37.7)

    Can't imagine I've ever dropped a major-conference team straight from a No. 8 seed to the wrong side of the bubble in one week this late in the season, but that'll happen when you lose back-to-back games to bubble teams by a combined margin of 50 points. The Tar Heels are now 0-6 vs. Quadrant 1, and their only Quadrant 2 wins were home games against Michigan and Virginia Tech. They better win that home game against Duke on Feb. 5.


    Third Team Out: Florida Gators (12-7, NET: 34, RES: 55.5, QUAL: 26.3)

    Well, Florida was going to be on the correct side of the projected cut line, right up until it no-showed in a 16-point Monday night loss to Ole Miss. The Gators already had a questionable resume with a Quadrant 4 loss to Texas Southern and just the one Quadrant 1 win over Ohio State more than two months ago, but the Quality metrics were keeping them afloat. That's no longer going to be the case after getting smashed by the Rebels.


    Fourth Team Out: Florida State Seminoles (13-5, NET: 58, RES: 33.5, QUAL: 49.0)

    The Seminoles have won six consecutive games, including a pair of one-point victories over Miami, as well as a one-point overtime victory over Duke. Because the games have been so close, Florida State has actually slipped a little bit in the predictive metrics over the past three weeks. However, adding two Quadrant 1 and two Quadrant 2 victories in less than a month is a fine way to get noticed. Take care of business against the Techs (Georgia on Wednesday; Virginia on Saturday) and they might slide into next week's projected field.


    Fifth Team Out: Texas A&M Aggies (15-4, NET: 61, RES: 56.0, QUAL: 56.7)

    It was a "show us what you're made of" week for the Aggies, and while they didn't get a W, they did impress. They had Kentucky on upset alert right up until the final 10 seconds, and they battled back from an early 20-4 hole at Arkansas, forcing overtime before falling just short in that one. An 0-4 Quadrant 1 record and mediocre metrics keep A&M out of the field for now, but a road win over LSU on Wednesday could certainly change that.


    Also Out: Michigan Wolverines (9-7, NET: 38, RES: 72.5, QUAL: 24.3)

    Is Michigan finally waking up? After a 7-7 start with only one respectable win (vs. San Diego State), the Wolverines smoked Maryland by 19 and then picked up a huge 18-point road win over Indiana to at least get back into the at-large conversation. They'll need at least one more big win before they get a serious look, though there are plenty to be found in the Big Ten. Michigan is at Michigan State this Saturday and at Purdue the following Saturday.

East Region (Philadelphia)

3 of 8

    Michigan State's Marcus Bingham (30) and Max Christie (5)
    Michigan State's Marcus Bingham (30) and Max Christie (5)Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    San Diego, California

    No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Navy
    No. 8 Texas vs. No. 9 Murray State

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Providence vs. No. 13 Vermont
    No. 5 Illinois vs. No. 12 Oregon / Arkansas

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 New Mexico State
    No. 6 Connecticut vs. No. 11 TCU

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 UC Irvine
    No. 7 Colorado State vs. No. 10 San Francisco


    On the Rise: Michigan State Spartans (Up One Seed Line)
    15-3, NET: 18, RES: 6.5, QUAL: 20.7

    Less than one week removed from a disappointing home loss to short-handed Northwestern, Michigan State turned around and picked up its best victory of the season, waltzing out of the Kohl Center with a 12-point road win over Wisconsin.

    Though still slightly behind both Wisconsin (more and better quality wins) and Purdue (better overall resume), the Spartans are currently alone in first place in the Big Ten standings and are not far removed from the No. 1 seed conversation. A Tuesday night road win over Illinois would maybe be enough to push Michigan State ahead of both the Badgers and the Boilermakers.


    Fading Fast: Illinois Fighting Illini (Down One Seed Line)
    13-5, NET: 13, RES: 30.5, QUAL: 14.0

    I don't feel great about penalizing Illinois for losing to Maryland without Kofi Cockburn. However, if we try to only evaluate the Illini based on the games when they've been at full strength, we'd be looking at a blank resume.

    I do believe Illinois will be a top-10 title contender if it enters the dance at anything close to 100 percent. But with just one Quadrant 1 win (at Iowa) and a pair of blowout losses to Cincinnati and Maryland, a No. 5 seed might still be better than Illinois deserves.

Midwest Region (Chicago)

4 of 8

    Wake Forest's Alondes Williams
    Wake Forest's Alondes WilliamsMatt Kelley/Associated Press

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 16 Nicholls State / Norfolk State
    No. 8 Indiana vs. No. 9 Saint Mary's

    San Diego, California

    No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Chattanooga
    No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Boise State / Mississippi State

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 3 Villanova vs. No. 14 Towson
    No. 6 Iowa State vs. No. 11 Wake Forest

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Princeton
    No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 Creighton


    On the Rise: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (New to the Field)
    17-4, NET: 40, RES: 36.5, QUAL: 41.0

    It doesn't seem like we're ever going to figure out who the second-best team in the ACC is, but it looks like Wake Forest at least temporarily holds that crown after a week in which it destroyed each of Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Boston College. 

    The Demon Deacons are now 7-3 in league play with 22-point victories over Florida State and North Carolina, as well as a 19-point road win over Virginia Tech. None of those teams is currently projected to dance, but they're all in the bubble mix. Those blowouts have enabled Wake Forest to climb into the top 40, both in the NET and on KenPom.


    Fading Fast: Iowa State Cyclones (Down Two Seed Lines)
    14-5, NET: 30, RES: 30.5, QUAL: 39.7

    There's no such thing as a bad loss in the Big 12 this year, although getting trounced at home by TCUjust four days after a 12-point loss at Texas Tech—certainly wasn't a good outcome for the Cyclones.

    They almost beat Baylor back on New Year's Day, and they almost won at Kansas 10 days later. But since opening the season 12-0 with solid wins over Xavier, Iowa, Creighton and Memphis, Iowa State has lost five of its past seven.

    The Cyclones still have five Quadrant 1 wins and no terrible losses, so they should be fine as long as they avoid losing to Missouri this coming Saturday. But they're going to need to win at least four or five more Big 12 games at some point.

South Region (San Antonio)

5 of 8

    Houston's Kyler Edwards
    Houston's Kyler EdwardsJustin Rex/Associated Press

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Winthrop / Texas Southern
    No. 8 Davidson vs. No. 9 Loyola-Chicago

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 Toledo
    No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 12 UAB

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 3 Kentucky vs. No. 14 Wagner
    No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 11 Minnesota

    Fort Worth, Texas

    No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 South Alabama
    No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 Oklahoma


    On the Rise: Houston Cougars (Up One Seed Line)
    17-2, NET: 3, RES: 16.5, QUAL: 4.0

    Ah, the Curious Case of the Cougars.

    Houston doesn't have any great wins, and it only has two decent ones (Oklahoma State and Oregon on neutral courts). However, it does have great metrics, two quality near-wins (65-63 vs. Wisconsin on a neutral court; 83-82 at Alabama) and nothing remotely close to a bad loss.

    If the Cougars continue kicking butt and taking names in the (likely one-bid) AAC, they could end up being a 31-2 No. 1 seed without so much as one win over a tournament team. They're at the mercy of the other top teams, though. They were able to climb four spots this week, thanks to recent losses by Duke, LSU, Purdue and Villanova while they smashed South Florida and East Carolina.


    Fading Fast: Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (Down Two Seed Lines)
    14-3, NET: 26, RES: 49.0, QUAL: 31.7

    Houston can ask Loyola-Chicago about what is liable to happen to its projected seed if it lays an egg at any point the rest of the way.

    The Ramblers entered Saturday's home game against Missouri State on a 10-game winning streak in which nine of those victories were against KenPom top 200 opponents. But with no marquee victories, all it took was a 10-point home loss to the second-best team in the Missouri Valley Conference to put a serious dent in their resume.

    They're still in excellent shape to dance, but they have difficult road games against Drake, Missouri State and Bradley coming up in the next 16 days. Lose one of those tests and fail to win Arch Madness, and the Ramblers would be in bubble trouble.

West Region (San Francisco)

6 of 8

    Marquette's Justin Lewis
    Marquette's Justin LewisIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Weber State
    No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 Iowa

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 4 Texas Tech vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
    No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Iona

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 3 LSU vs. No. 14 Oakland
    No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Miami

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Liberty
    No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 San Diego State


    On the Rise: Marquette Golden Eagles (Up Four Seed Lines)
    14-6, NET: 32, RES: 26.0, QUAL: 44.3

    Have a week, Marquette.

    Not only did the Golden Eagles become the first team to win at Villanova since February 2020, but they came back home a few days later and picked up an 11-point victory over then-AP No. 20 Xavier. They also beat Seton Hall the previous weekend and started their current six-game winning streak with a quality victory over Providence.

    Marquette now has six Quadrant 1 wins, which is more than any team in the country not named Baylor. And the schedule is loaded with more opportunities in the immediate future. The Golden Eagles' next four games are: at Seton Hall, at Providence, vs. Villanova, at Connecticut. But at this point, they could go 0-4 in those games and still be in good shape to dance.


    Fading Fast: LSU Tigers (Down One Seed Line)
    15-4, NET: 10, RES: 8.0, QUAL: 11.0

    It appears I may owe LSU an apology, because the Tigers have been in quite the tailspin since I anointed them as the projected fourth No. 1 seed two weeks ago. They have now lost three straight, and they were barely even competitive in the loss at Tennessee this past Saturday.

    The metrics still like LSU a lot, thanks to four Quadrant 1 wins, seven total wins against the top 2 Quadrants and a defense that ranks No. 1 in adjusted efficiency by an absurd margin. But they need to get veteran point guard Xavier Pinson back from his MCL injury before this mediocre offense starts producing some bad losses.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

7 of 8

    Auburn's Jabari Smith
    Auburn's Jabari SmithButch Dill/Associated Press

    No. 4: Arizona Wildcats (16-1, NET: 1, RES: 7.0, QUAL: 2.3)

    Say this much for the Wildcats: They don't mess around. Fourteen of their 16 wins have come by at least 16 points, including all five games played thus far in January. If they happen to stretch that streak to six games Tuesday night at UCLA, we'll need to seriously discuss vaulting Arizona ahead of Gonzaga into pole position for the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Conversely, if the Wildcats lose at Pauley Pavilion, you can take it to the bank that people will start asking questions about the legitimacy of a team with just one win over a surefire NCAA tournament squad (83-79 at Illinois).


    No. 3: Baylor Bears (17-2, NET: 4, RES: 2.5, QUAL: 4.3)

    Jeremy Sochan has missed the past four games and James Akinjo still didn't look right on Saturday, but Baylor bounced back from its home losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State with road wins over West Virginia and Oklahomaboth in relatively convincing fashion. Against the Mountaineers, it was the three-point shooting (12-of-27). Against the Sooners, it was the ball-hawking defense (16 steals). The offensive rebounding was on point in both contests. The Bears are still very, very good, even when playing with less than a full deck.


    No. 2: Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-2, NET: 2, RES: 11.5, QUAL: 1.0)

    The three-game streak of 110-point performances came to an end, but Gonzaga still flexed its muscles in a 78-62 victory over San Francisco. Don't expect any close calls soon, either. The Zags' next three games are against Loyola Marymount, Portland and Pepperdine, which certainly should be three consecutive blowouts.


    No. 1: Auburn Tigers (18-1, NET: 5, RES: 1.5, QUAL: 7.3)

    Put a "TyTy Washington missed the second half with an ankle injury" asterisk on it if you so choose, but Auburn's win over Kentucky cemented the Tigers as the No. 1 overall seed until further notice. They now have five Quadrant 1 wins and six total victories against the NET top 35 with just the one neutral-court, double-overtime loss to Connecticut a full two months ago. And it wouldn't be a surprise if they go another month without suffering a loss, considering their next game against Kentucky, LSU or Tennessee isn't until Feb. 26 (at Tennessee).

Seeding by Conference

8 of 8

    Wisconsin's Johnny Davis
    Wisconsin's Johnny DavisRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    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): 13. Duke; 41. Miami; 42. Wake Forest; 70. North Carolina; 72. Florida State

    Big 12 (8): 3. Baylor; 5. Kansas; 14. Texas Tech; 24. Iowa State; 28. West Virginia; 30. Texas; 37. Oklahoma; 43. TCU

    Big East (7): 10. Villanova; 16. Providence; 20. Marquette; 21. Xavier; 23. Connecticut; 32. Seton Hall; 40. Creighton

    Big Ten (8): 6. Wisconsin; 8. Purdue; 9. Michigan State; 18. Illinois; 22. Ohio State; 29. Indiana; 35. Iowa; 44. Minnesota

    Mountain West (3): 27. Colorado State; 38. San Diego State; 46. Boise State; 69. Wyoming

    Pac-12 (4): 4. Arizona; 15. UCLA; 26. USC; 45. Oregon

    SEC (7): 1. Auburn; 11. Kentucky; 12. LSU; 17. Alabama; 19. Tennessee; 47. Arkansas; 48. Mississippi State; 71. Florida; 73. Texas A&M

    West Coast (4): 2. Gonzaga; 25. BYU; 34. Saint Mary's; 39. San Francisco

    Other (24): 7. Houston; 31. Davidson; 33. Loyola-Chicago; 36. Murray State; 49. UAB; 50. Iona; 51. Chattanooga; 52. Toledo; 53. South Dakota State; 54. Vermont; 55. New Mexico State; 56. Oakland; 57. Wagner; 58. Towson; 59. Princeton; 60. Liberty; 61. UC Irvine; 62. South Alabama; 63. Weber State; 64. Navy; 65. Texas Southern; 66. Winthrop; 67. Norfolk State; 68. Nicholls State


    Statistics courtesy of Sports ReferenceKenPom and BartTorvik.com and are current through the start of play on Monday, Jan. 24, unless otherwise noted.

    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.