March 14, 2022
What you need to know about the 2022 NCAA Tournament bracket
Who got in, who got underseeded
For the first time in three years, we have a real NCAA Tournament bracket. No bubble, no realistic fear of COVID forfeits. Just good, old-fashioned March Madness (we can say that now).
With the field finally unveiled and games coming up, here’s a quick breakdown of how the bracket shook out:
Louisville grabs the last 1
When the Cardinals lost to Miami in the ACC Tournament, it opened some debate about whether Baylor should take that last 1 seed. The Bears had an argument – until Sunday, they’d lost just once since Jan. 16, picking off Iowa State twice, Texas twice, and Oklahoma twice along the way. It probably turns out, however, that the Bears’ loss on Sunday to the Longhorns kept them from climbing to the 1 line.
Ultimately, Louisville ended up with a better NET (5 vs. 6), a better strength of schedule (39 vs. 45), and more wins over top 25 NET teams (5 vs. 4). IT also doesn’t make much of a difference if we’re being honest. Both teams have reasonable paths to the Elite Eight and if they meet there, it’s simply a matter of which team wears the home jerseys.
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The Big East gets 4
UConn and Creighton were givens, but DePaul and Villanova entered the night squarely on the bubble. The Wildcats got into the field rather easily, while DePaul slipped into the First Four. It’s reasonable to suspect that Villanova’s win over a depleted UConn team probably made the difference. Other than that win over the Huskies, there’s really not much to the Wildcats’ resume. They didn’t beat any other top-30 NET teams and had an ugly loss at Providence. That, however, brings up another factor: That Providence loss came without superstar Maddie Siegrist. The committee takes injuries into account when assessing teams’ losses. It doesn’t wipe that Providence game off the books entirely, but it was a factor.
DePaul’s case is even weaker. They lost four times to teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament and did not beat a single team in the top 30 of the NET. The Blue Demons’ non-conference win over Kentucky probably did a lot of the heavy lifting for their resume, but if Kentucky didn’t get hot down the stretch and win the SEC…would DePaul have gotten a bid?
Beware the mid-major
For the most part, I think the committee did a good job. My only real gripes came with how Princeton and Florida Gulf Coast were seeded. I understand that mid-majors are difficult to seed – they don’t have the same quality wins that power conference schools have, but they also don’t have the opportunity. They’re also more susceptible to bad losses because they play 20-or-so bad teams a season. Put any other team outside of, say, the top 15 in the country in a bad conference, they probably take a loss somewhere too. But I digress.
Let’s start with the Tigers, seeded 11th and facing Kentucky in the First Round. This team went 24-4 and went 3-0 against other teams in the NCAA Tournament. They haven’t lost in this calendar year. They scheduled wisely out of conference, playing Villanova, FGCU, Seton Hall, Buffalo, and Fordham. Bigger names just aren’t willing to schedule a team like Princeton, simply because they risk taking what looks like a bad loss. Princeton did absolutely everything it needed to do. I understand losses have to matter, and dropping games to Seton Hall, Fordham, and Rhode Island – while not terrible – should be taken into account. But this is not the resume of an 11 seed. Not even close.
Then there’s FGCU, a 12 seed that’s 26-2 with a win over LSU. One of those losses was by three to Princeton. The only possible explanation here is that the Eagles were punished by multiple seed lines for one loss to Stetson (NET 150), in a game in which they did not even have Kierstan Bell, their best player and a realistic All-American candidate. There is no justification for this whatsoever. To make matters worse, not only is FGCU profoundly disrespected here, but it REALLY screws over Virginia Tech, a team that earned its way to the 5 line and now has to play a Top 25 team. This is bad for everyone involved.
The Greensboro Elite Eight
WHEEEEEEEEEEE! How excited are you for a potential Iowa vs. South Carolina Elite Eight? The Gamecocks are the No. 1 overall seed and a red-hot finish to the season bumped Iowa up to the 2 line. There’s no need to compare resumes here, though I think you can make a reasonable argument that Iowa should have been a 3. The most important part is that we very well might get Aliyah Boston vs. Caitlin Clark. The only downside is this means both players can’t make it to Minneapolis. You want to argue one Player of the Year candidate over the other? Have at it. But let’s all hope that we can watch them hash things out on the court.