March Madness 2022: Tournament Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Bubble TeamsMarch 2, 2022
March Madness 2022: Tournament Schedule and Bracket Predictions for Bubble Teams
March has only just arrived, but there's already been madness during the 2021-22 men's college basketball season. Need an example? Look no further back than Saturday's slate of games, which featured each of the top six teams in the AP Top 25 poll losing.
Now, conference tournaments are underway, and teams are trying to battle their way into the NCAA tourney. There are 32 automatic bids that will go to the winners of those conference tournaments, while the other 36 spots will go to at-large teams chosen by the selection committee. The 68-team field won't be unveiled until Selection Sunday on March 13.
A lot could change between now and then, especially if big upsets continue to take place. So it's imperative for bubble teams to finish the regular season strong and to have impressive showings in their conference tournaments.
Here's a look at the schedule for the men's 2022 NCAA Tournament, followed by predictions for the four bubble teams that will be the last ones to make it to March Madness this year.
2022 NCAA Tournament Schedule
Selection Sunday: March 13
First Four: March 15-16
First Round: March 17-18
Second Round: March 19-20
Sweet 16: March 24-25
Elite Eight: March 26-27
Final Four: April 2
National Championship: April 4
On Jan. 20, Memphis dropped to 9-8 and had a 3-4 record in AAC play. The Tigers needed to turn things around immediately if they hoped to reach the men's NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014, which is exactly what they have done.
Memphis has won eight of its past nine games, a stretch that includes an impressive road victory on Feb. 12 at Houston, which was ranked No. 6 in the country at the time. The Tigers have two regular-season matchups to play—Thursday at South Florida and Sunday against Houston—before they try to win the AAC tournament.
While it's possible that Memphis will win its conference tournament to secure an automatic bid to March Madness, it may still make it even if that doesn't happen. The Tigers would strengthen their resume if they secure a second win over the Cougars on Sunday.
Not only is Memphis playing well, but it's also among the top offensive teams in the AAC, ranking first in the conference in points per game (76) and field-goal percentage (47.4) and second in three-point percentage (36.3).
Expect the Tigers to stay hot over the coming weeks to shoot their way into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team.
San Diego State (19-7)
Another bubble team that has been on a hot streak of late is San Diego State. After enduring some midseason struggles, the Aztecs have won seven of their past eight games and appear poised to have a strong showing in the Mountain West tournament.
Boise State is the favorite to win the conference tourney, and it already owns two wins over San Diego State this season. However, it can be difficult to beat the same team three times, especially considering both of the previous meetings were determined by five or fewer points.
If the Aztecs are unsuccessful in getting revenge against the Mustangs (or lose to another team late in the Mountain West tournament), they should still get in as an at-large team. But in order for that to happen, they likely need to win their last two regular-season games (Thursday against Fresno State and Saturday at Nevada) and make it to their conference tourney final.
San Diego State should have no trouble making that happen. Senior guard Matt Bradley is averaging 17.2 points per game, and he put up 30 in a win at Wyoming on Monday. Expect him to keep leading the Aztecs to success and into the March Madness field.
It's been an inconsistent 2021-22 season for Indiana. Although the Hoosiers own impressive victories over then-No. 4 Purdue and then-No. 13 Ohio State, they have also had their share of struggles, such as February's five-game losing streak.
Indiana has gotten back on track of late, though, notching back-to-back wins over Maryland and Minnesota. Consequently, the Hoosiers are still on the March Madness bubble despite being 9-9 in Big Ten play this season.
They have a pair of important games before the regular season concludes. Indiana will face Rutgers (another bubble team) at home Wednesday before going on the road Saturday to take on No. 8 Purdue. Those matchups could determine whether the Hoosiers will be playing for an at-large bid during the Big Ten tournament.
The prediction here is that Indiana will fare well enough over the next two weeks to reach March Madness. Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis (17.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) is an exciting player capable of putting up big numbers, and he will rise to the occasion when the Hoosiers need him most.
Virginia Tech (19-11)
Virginia Tech is likely on the outside looking in for March Madness. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Hokies among his "next four out," the group of teams that follows the "first four out." So Virginia Tech has some work to do before Selection Sunday.
But the Hokies could play their way into the NCAA tournament if they can keep their recent momentum going. They have won nine of their past 10 games after a Jan. 26 loss to Miami had them at 10-10 and 2-7 in ACC play. Virginia Tech is now 19-11, with an 11-8 conference record.
The Hokies cruised to a 75-43 win over Louisville on Tuesday, and they should win at Clemson on Saturday to close out the regular season. But they will likely need to make a deep run through the ACC tournament in order to reach the NCAA tourney.
Virginia Tech is capable of that, especially if it's dialed in from long range. It leads the ACC with a three-point percentage of 39.2, and that outside shooting should carry the Hokies to more success. So don't be surprised if they reach at least the semifinals of the ACC tournament, which will land them an at-large bid for March Madness.