Michael Lazarus' Big Board
BIG BOARD is final: One team change in the hours before the bracket reveal as Princeton takes the Ivy League title. The Tigers are projected to play Tennessee as a 14 seed. Alabama's emphatic SEC Tournament win means I keep the Crimson Tide as the No. 1 overall seed. It's possible the committee will have Kansas overall No. 1 — the difference is negligible. Arizona State is the final team in the bracket while Nevada is the first team out.
No. 1 Seeds
Last 4 in
First 4 out
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Once we get past the actual selections in Sunday, you take everything that we base bracket predictions on and throw it all away. Here are a few of the things I will be looking at when making actual picks.
Early round Cinderellas
It's going to be hard to duplicate what St. Peter's did a year ago as a 15-seed. The obvious choice here is projected 12-seed Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles won two NCAA games in 2021, still have the same coach and star player Max Abnas is back. While Oral Roberts lost opportunities vs. Saint Mary's, Houston and Utah State during the regular season, it fits the profile of the always-dangerous 12-seed.
Other possible Cinderellas: VCU, Toledo, Iona, Furman.
Team to fade
It's probably an easy choice to fade Tennessee as the recent tournament history of Rick Barnes leaves a lot to be desired; he's reached just one Sweet 16 in 10 tournament appearances since 2008. A season-ending injury to point guard Zakai Zeigler makes the Volunteers susceptible as a low 3/high 4-seed.
Other fades: Kansas State, Saint Mary's, Marquette.
Tournament dark horse
Usually we know who the No. 1 overall team is and the likely 4 No. 1 seeds by Thursday of conference tournament week. That's not the case this year ahead of what figures to be a wide-open tournament. Among teams projected 3 or below, I'm looking at UConn to possibly make a big run. The Huskies had convincing nonconference wins over Alabama and Iowa State and have lost only once since January.
Other dark horses: Duke, Miami (Fla.), Texas A&M.
Who will win it all?
Looking purely at results on the court I'm going to go with Alabama. Kansas is more battle-tested but it's extremely difficult to repeat. Almost every NCAA champion has clear NBA-level talent. The Crimson Tide has that and resiliency in close games, with three second-half comeback wins in the last two weeks. If Alabama gets hot shooting on the perimeter, it will be the toughest team to knock out.
Other possibilities: Kansas, Arizona, Houston.