For basketball fans, March Madness is arguably the greatest time of year, with 64 teams battling for three weekends until a champion is crowned. Round of 64, Round of 32, Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four and Final Two.
New Orleans is the host city for the sixth time and it’s been a place of many memorable moments. Expect the unexpected and watch your brackets go up in smoke.
But if you like that kind of emotional roller coaster, here are the five best bets to cut down the nets and have that “One Shining Moment” in New Orleans.
The Prohibitive Favorite: Gonzaga Bulldogs
The 2017 and 2021 national runner-up has been the groomsman a few times but never the groom. Last season was undoubtedly their year, but the Baylor Bears didn’t get the memo. Led by head coach Mark Few, who’s built a powerhouse in Spokane, Washington, the Zags believe this is the year to cut down the nets and take that elusive title back to “The Kennel.” With the dynamic front-court duo of Drew Timme and future top-three pick Chet Holmgren, the Zags have an identity and plenty of talent.
These three put on a show for the Zags against UCLA 🔥
⭐ Andrew Nembhard ▸ 24 Pts, 6 Ast
⭐ Chet Holmgren ▸ 15 Pts, 4 Blk
⭐ Drew Timme ▸ 18 Pts, 8 Reb pic.twitter.com/0hndI2IMlK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 24, 2021
Rock Steady And Ready: Arizona Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats surprised all of college basketball with their meteoric rise from unranked to the No. 2 team in the country. The Cats won the Pac-12 regular season and conference tournament championship. They’re led by Conference Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin, who went for 27 points and had his full two-way skill set on display in the team’s 84-76 win over the UCLA Bruins in the title game.
The loss of sniper Kerr Kriisa is huge, and without him the Wildcats could struggle to shoot from deep.
I’m a champ 🏆 pic.twitter.com/gGvGLRcIew
— Bennedict Mathurin (@BennMathurin) March 13, 2022
Old Faithful: Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks shared the regular season Big 12 title with Baylor, but then doubled up and won the Big 12 tourney. Now Bill Self’s group will look to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2018. It would be the fourth FF appearance for Kansas in the Bill Self era.
Led by First Team All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, the Jayhawks are more than capable of winning six games to become champions. The play of Remy Martin will determine a lot for this team.
Remy Martin bringing that ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/ATvdLaOfvr
— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) March 14, 2022
Cal’s Crew Is Experienced: Kentucky Wildcats
For the first time in years John Calipari actually has an experienced roster capable of making a title run. So many times over the years the Wildcats have been talented but loaded with inexperienced one-and-done players. Not this season, as Cal hit the transfer portal to land star big man Oscar Schiebwe, who was named SEC Player of the Year, and knockdown shooter Kellen Grady.
Pearl’s Crew Can Go: Auburn Tigers
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl is no stranger to the Final Four. He led the Tigers there in 2019. They were a foul call away from playing for the national title. This team was ranked No. 1 for a heavy stretch of the season and even had a 19-game winning streak. The regular season SEC champions are led by future NBA lottery pick and SEC Freshman of the Year Jabari Smith, a smooth-shooting 6-foot-10 freak of nature. The UNC transfer is the key to a deep run for the Tigers.
Other Potential World-Beaters
Duke Blue Devils – Coach K’s last hurrah
UCLA Bruins – Can Johnny Juzang repeat last year’s run?
Purdue Boilermakers – Jaden Ivey can carry them
Baylor Bears – Which James Akinjo shows up?
Tennessee Volunteers – A team built for March