The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Sunday at 6 p.m. on CBS the March Madness selection show will run in its usual spot, the second Sunday in March. With Championship Week ongoing, and to get you ready to attack the brackets, The Shadow League offers a projection of the No. 1 seeds heading into March Madness.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Chet Holmgren and Gonzaga (26-3) as the No. 1 overall seed of the tourney and Arizona (28-3) as the second top seed. Beyond that it’s pretty foggy as to who the other top two seeds will be. But there are four other teams in contention to land top seeds.
Kansas (25-6) and Baylor (26-5) from the Big 12 and Auburn (27-4) and Kentucky (25-6) from the SEC are all worthy, but only two can get the nod. The difference between a No. 1 and No. 2 seed is minimal, as the brackets are designed to put those top eight seeds as close to home as possible.
“I think you’ll see one of those two on the top line based on the results in those SEC and Big 12 tourneys going forward,” said Lunardi, from the ESPN “SportsCenter” “Bracket Bunker.”
While those four teams are battling for two spots, the Zags and Zona Cats have pretty much separated from the pack. Résumés for the tourney are about the entire body of work, and based on that criteria Gonzaga and Arizona are deserving of the top two seeds.
Baylor and Kansas split their two meetings in conference play. Auburn beat Kentucky in the SEC’s mix-and-match schedule that they play yearly. The Bluegrass State guys blew Kansas out at Allen Fieldhouse 80-62, which is a huge deal considering that The Jayhawks have only lost 15 games (277-15) at home during head coach Bill Self’s tenure.
Kansas struggled with having to play four games in seven days during the last week of the season. They went 2-2 and kept their No. 1 seed hopes alive with a huge 70-63 win over No. 21 Texas in overtime.
Special Dick Vitale "Best News of the Year" Edition! pic.twitter.com/X5fFoNroxs
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 8, 2022
Self discussed the importance of the win and what it meant to his team via Phog.net:
“I think if we lost this game, we would be going into Kansas City trying to recapture some momentum. And I don’t that’ll be the case now. I think we’ll go in there fine and everything. … And then today, obviously, not artistic at all. But in order to have great years, you got to win ugly some.”
Barring any unforeseen upsets, the winner of the Big 12 Tourney will grab the third No.1 seed in the NCAA Tourney.
Big Mondays featuring @CoachBillSelf and Allen Fieldhouse…
A collab we are here for 😏 pic.twitter.com/sSZldL0QHK
— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) February 16, 2022
The same probably holds true for Auburn and Kentucky, in the SEC. Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl understands what’s at stake and how quickly things can change. His team was once a lock for a top seed but hit a rough patch. The regular-season SEC champions have been good all season and have all the ingredients to make a deep tourney run.
“It’s all about our players. To be (15-3) in this league says they came to play every night,” Pearl told AuburnUndercover. “This is virtually impossible to do when you’re dealing with 18-, 19-year-old kids. Our guys came to play every single night. We took no team for granted.”
✅ SEC Regular Season Champs
✅ SEC Coach of the Year
✅ SEC Freshman of the Year
✅ SEC DPOY
— Auburn Basketball 🦚 (@AuburnMBB) March 8, 2022
These Six Teams Are Led By Some Great Players
Gonzaga is led by the aforementioned, 7-footer Chet Holmgren, who’s the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft. His unique skillset of athleticism, shot-blocking and ball-handling are rare for a guy his size.
His partner in crime is forward Drew Timme, and he possesses the best footwork of any big man in college basketball.
Arizona is probably the most complete team in the country, led by first-year coach Tommy Lloyd, the Cats have been a huge surprise. Their guard combo of Bennedict Mathurin and Kerr Kriisa blend elite athleticism and rim attacking with sweet shooting to form a lethal duo.
For Kansas, it’s all about wing Ochai Agbaji, who was recently named Big 12 Player of the Year. His development has been amazing. When he arrived at KU four years ago, he was thought of as a nice rotation piece, not the team’s best player.
Junior guard Christian Braun and forward Jalen Wilson bring all-around floor games on both ends as scorers, rebounders, defenders and even assists.
The defending champion Baylor Bears are about as tough and gritty as you’ll find in the country. Led by guards James Akinjo and Adam Flagler, the Bears are a resilient bunch. Head coach Scott Drew is one of the elite coaches in the country.
Baylor wins 75-68 and is champs of the Big 12 back to back seasons!!! pic.twitter.com/S47jqqr5Ps
— BearsIllustrated (@BaylorBears247) March 6, 2022
Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers are led by another possible No. 1 pick in this NBA draft, Jabari Smith. The 6-foot-11 stretch four is a unique talent with a sweet jump shot and the ability to post up or put the ball on the deck. Center Walker Kessler a UNC transfer anchors the defense, as an elite shot blocker.
Coach Cal’s Kentucky Wildcats are led by West Virginia transfer center Oscar Tshiebwe, who’s a menace on the glass. The big man can also score, as evidenced by his productive games throughout the season.
These six teams have everything needed to win a national championship, along with some other talented contenders in Duke, Purdue, Illinois, Texas Tech, even Ohio State.
Let the madness begin, until someone has their “One Shining Moment.”
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