This is the time of the year that college basketball fans absolutely love. The NCCA Division I Basketball Tournament dominates the airwaves and provides an entire month of hoops action to enjoy.
Baylor won its first ever championship last season but that was not really a surprise in the grand scheme of things. There were more than a few shocks and surprises throughout the tournament though. Sleepers are always worth considering when it comes to studying the March Madness Final Four odds – and we think these five should be in your thoughts when you are filling out your bracket.
Everyone knows about Loyola-Chicago these days. It was the 2018 tournament where the Ramblers made a name for themselves, as they made a Cinderella run all the way to the Final Four as a number 11 seed. Michigan dashed their hopes then but 2022 could be another good year.
A number 10 seeding now pits Loyola-Chicago against Ohio State before a potential match-up with Villanova. Lucas Williamson will be the main focus on the court – but it is Sister Jean, the 102-year old team chaplain, that will be attracting just as much attention off it.
The Hawkeyes are seeded number five this year, so it is questionable whether they can even be considered as a sleeper at March Madness. But if we are looking at a team out of the top seeds to possibly come through and win the whole thing, then Iowa has to be part of the conversation.
If it makes it that far, Iowa will probably face Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen and will be confident that it has the players to cause an upset. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray is one of the best in the country and the whole team can make more of a contribution than last year’s effort.
UCLA was undoubtedly the star sleeper of last year’s tournament, making it all the way to the Final Four as a number 11 seed. This year there is more expected of the Bruins and their higher seeding reflects that. But with Baylor, Kentucky and Purdue seeded higher in the East, there will still be some work to do.
This is an older team compared to some of the others in the tournament and Coach Mick Cronin will be used to the way his players perform – and what they are able to achieve. The quartet of guards on the roster is particularly strong and its defense could be the catalyst for another trip to the Final Four for UCLA.
The Red Raiders are the number three seeded team in a tough West region and will need to come through the likes of Alabama, Duke and Gonzaga if they are to make the Final Four. But Texas Tech will fear no one after playing many of the top teams already this season.
This is a deep roster with a bench that contributes more than most. Head coach Mark Adams is regarded as one of the best in the game and this defense can do a good job against virtually any opponent. If there are upsets in any other parts of the West region, Texas Tech could well take advantage and make a play for the championship itself.
Another team from the West region that should be considered – once you get past backing Gonzaga to go all the way – is UConn. The Huskies have not been included in Final Four talk for a while now but has been making a lot of noise with their defense and might be worth a second look this year.
RJ Cole is the main man for UConn but it is the whole team that might ensure progress through the bracket. It could well be a meeting with Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen that really announces the Huskies as a Final Four contender.