March Madness Roundtable: Discussing SEC draws, bracket busters, teams to avoid in 2022 NCAA Tournament
March Madness is finally here, y’all! Yes, there were games on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the First Four, while entertaining, isn’t where the money is at.
The best part of March Madness is the first weekend, when 48 games will be contested between Thursday afternoon and Sunday night.
It’s going to be a weekend of utter chaos, if this year’s disparity in men’s college hoops is any indication.
So, we brought in resident hoops experts Adam Spencer and Joe Cox to break down some of the biggest SEC storylines, name some bracket busters, and much more.
Check out their conversation below:
1. Which SEC team do you have making it farthest?
Joe Cox: Kentucky. If the Wildcats can get past Purdue in the Sweet 16, the region final doesn’t look that rough, even if Baylor (who is a popular upset target) does get there. And of course, in the Final Four, who knows? I don’t think the Wildcats are necessarily the best SEC team, but they’ve got the relatively cleanest path.
Adam Spencer: I’m going to agree with you right off the bat here. I love Kentucky’s draw. The next time Purdue plays defense will be the first time. Baylor is banged up. UCLA is the team that scares me most in the East region, but Kentucky will have the advantage in Philadelphia. I think it would be a disappointment if the Wildcats didn’t get to the Final Four (at least).
2. Which SEC team got the toughest draw in its quest for the Final Four?
JC: Texas A&M (ducks). Arkansas is the answer. They got a tough 4/13 matchup with Vermont, they’re in Gonzaga’s bracket, it’s just a rough draw for the Razorbacks. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t do this, just that the Selection Committee didn’t do them any favors.
AS: You’re not wrong about Texas A&M getting hosed! I’m still not over it, myself. But, I’ll go with Tennessee here. The Vols not only shouldn’t have been a No. 3 seed, they should have been the top No. 2 seed. That would put them in Kentucky’s spot, sharing a region with No. 1 seed Baylor. I think the Bears are the most vulnerable No. 1 seed, while Arizona is an incredible basketball team. Brutal draw for the Vols, who should never have been put in that position.
3. Who is your top bracket buster?
JC: This year, everybody could be it. Literally.
AS: I agree it could be one of the more wide-open first 2 rounds we’ve seen in a long time.
JC: Here are 2 higher seeds that I like to reach the Sweet 16 — Loyola-Chicago and Iowa State. The Ramblers are experienced and draw an Ohio State team that literally can’t stop tripping over its own feet right now. They win that one and they get a Villanova team that feels over-seeded. Meanwhile, Iowa State will play the train wreck of LSU’s postseason. The Tigers are a great boom-or-bust story, but the guess here is that the NCAA hammer finally caught up with the Tigers. Which would leave Iowa State playing Wisconsin, which also feels primed for an upset. Iowa State is not particularly athletic, but the Cyclones ran into a perfect draw.
AS: I disagree with you about Iowa State. I have them getting bounced in Round 1 by LSU, even without a head coach. The Cyclones scored 41 points in a Big 12 Tournament loss to Texas Tech. They scored 36 points (not a typo) in a regulation college basketball game against Oklahoma State just a couple of weeks ago. They’re wildly inconsistent offensively, and I think that’ll lead to LSU’s smothering defense pulling off the win.
My top bracket buster is No. 12 seed UAB. Coach Andy Kennedy is doing an incredible job with the Blazers. Jordan “Jelly” Walker not only has a great name — he averages 20.4 points per game. The Blazers face No. 5 seed Houston in the opener. I think the Cougars are vulnerable based on their injury situation. No. 4 seed Illinois is a streaky squad, as well. The Blazers could blaze their way to the Sweet 16 this year.
4. What team are you staying away from at all costs?
JC: Duke. The Blue Devils just have not shown it all year and the pressure of winning one for Coach K will bury them again. There are probably worse picks, but none with a bigger name.
AS: I hinted at this earlier while discussing how Tennessee got hosed, but I’m staying away from Baylor. I love the Bears when they’re healthy, but they aren’t healthy right now and haven’t been for a while. I actually have Scott Drew’s squad falling in Round 2 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. If healthy, the Bears are at least an Elite Eight team, but I’m staying far away from them this year.
5. Which player are you most excited to watch?
JC: I love the mid-major guys and I’m always a sucker for weird looking players. Part of me still judges guys off of how they’d escape detection as killer ballers at a random pick-up game. So I am excited to see David Roddy, the Colorado State forward who is too small, kind of squat, and also a great, great player. Another one — I mentioned his team earlier, but Lucas Williamson from Loyola-Chicago is exactly the kind of savvy, tough guard who can steal the month of March and make it his own.
AS: As I just mentioned, Jordan “Jelly” Walker of UAB is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. But, I’ll say I can’t get enough of Kennedy Chandler. I was hard on him earlier this year, saying he needed to develop a killer instinct and take over games when the Vols’ offense was struggling. It’s clear Rick Barnes has been giving him that same message, as he’s been magnificent down the stretch and in the SEC Tournament. If he can keep playing the way he’s been playing lately (like a lottery pick), the Vols might not be done cutting down nets just yet.
6. Who’s in your Final Four?
JC: (deep breath) Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas. I think we have crazy early upsets, and then chalk rules the tournament late.
AS: I agree with 3 of your picks, which probably means we’re both doomed! I also have Gonzaga, Kentucky and Arizona in my Final Four. My other finalist? Auburn. Yes, I know the Tigers have looked vulnerable lately, but I believe in Jabari Smith Jr. I hope Bruce Pearl lets him do more with the ball in his hands during this tournament run, but I’m confident Wendell Green Jr. and KD Johnson will rise to the occasion, Walker Kessler will be a menace on defense and Smith will continue to prove he should be the No. 1 overall pick. Give me the Tigers over Iowa to claim that last Final Four spot.