It’s almost that time of year again as the NCAA gets ready to discover its Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament champions for 2022. We are, of course, talking about March Madness – one of the most frenetic and intense tournaments in all of the sports.
On March 13, there will be 68 teams in contention to win the championship but come April 2 there will only be four remaining. The famed Final Four is notoriously difficult to predict; of course, we can expect at least a couple of pre-tournament favorites to still be in contention but there are usually one or two teams that embark on an unexpectedly deep run to occupy one of the semi-final spots.
So, which teams are leading the final four odds for March Madness 2022? Here is a look at the leading contenders.
Last year’s finalist, this season’s title favorites, and the projected No 1 seeds for March Madness, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will surely take their place in the Final Four, barring any unexpected catastrophe or shock result.
Of course, the single-game elimination format of the tournament makes it a challenge for any team to reach the Final Four and beyond, but Gonzaga looks among the best equipped to navigate through the field. After a couple of early losses to Duke and Alabama, the Bulldogs embarked on a 17-game winning run until a surprise 10-point loss to Saint Mary’s. Fortunately for Gonzaga, many of their rivals for the top seed also lost that same week, so their predicted status as the No 1 team for March Madness has been unaffected.
The West Coast Conference leaders are arguably the most complete team in the NCAA. They have managed to build on last season’s offense and improved their defense, thanks in no small part to the arrival of freshman center Chet Holmgren.
The chief concern facing the Bulldogs is their athleticism. They struggled against elite athleticism against Baylor Bears in last year’s final and faced similar trouble in the defeat to Duke earlier this season. How well they handle a fit and fast elite team should they run into Duke, Baylor, or Arizona at the tournament could decide their March Madness fate.
Duke Blue Devils
In terms of sheer talent on the floor, Duke has the players more than capable of guiding the team to the March Madness Final Four and beyond. The Blue Devils have the size, athleticism, and offensive and defensive talent to come out on top against any team in the NCAA.
Led by freshman forward Paulo Banchero, Duke has a pro-level scorer who can carry the team down the stretch, while the emergence of fellow rookie AJ Griffin following his long-term injury troubles has been a welcome addition. On the defensive side of the floor, Duke is well protected by Mark Williams and Theo John, two elite-level college rim enforcers.
The Blue Devils sit top of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and it has felt at times this season like the team has been in cruise control in a weakened ACC. They are also aided by having an experienced coach who has been to the depths of March Madness before; Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to five NCAA titles and 12 Final Fours during a remarkable 42-year career at the helm.
Now in his final season, there is added motivation for Duke to sign off its legendary coach with one more championship.
There is no denying the talent the Auburn Tigers have at their disposal. Auburn has probably the best frontcourt pairing in the NCAA, with Walker Kessler providing the presence and rim-protecting abilities to lead the defense, and Jabari Smith a generational player and shooter to lead the offense.
The pair are well supported by the likes of KD Johnson, Wendell Green, and Zepp Jasper to form one of the most intimidating teams in the tournament. Auburn has looked impressive for most of the regular season to take top spot in the Southeastern Conference and will hope the two losses in the past four games are little more than a blip before March Madness.
Few teams in the NCAA can match the Arizona Wildcats for athleticism and intensity, and their style has led the team to the top of the Pac-12 Conference and among the favorites for the March Madness championship.
With future NBA lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin leading the Wildcats offense and Christian Koloko dominating the paint on both ends of the court, Arizona has the team to make it to the Final Four.
There are questions around the inconsistency and volatility of point guard Kerr Kriisa, who has blown hot and cold all season. Kriisa has been at times outstanding for the Wildcats but at others has been a weak spot for the team. If the sophomore can find the consistency his talent is capable of, then Arizona can go all the way at March Madness.