After the Baylor Bears defeated favourites Gonzaga in 2021, the much-anticipated NCAA March Madness men’s tournament will be the first ‘normal’ competition since 2019. Read on to get informed about how this year’s tournament this will work, as well as which teams to keep an eye out for.
What is March Madness?
March Madness, or the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament to give it its official title, is an annual competition responsible for crowning the best US college basketball team. The tournament, which has been held since 1939, is eagerly anticipated by basketball fans every year and is renowned for producing high drama, memorable moments, and plenty of upsets across 67 games in three weeks.
It is contested by 68 teams: the 32 ‘automatic’ champions from each Division I conference and 36 ‘at-large’ teams, who bid to participate and are chosen by the NCAA selection committee. The latter are announced on the Sunday before the tournament commences at an event known as Selection Sunday, at which all 68 teams are divided into four geographic groups and seeded.
The four lowest-seeded automatic teams and four lowest-seeded at-large teams then play off against each other in games referred to as the First Four, in order to qualify for the main tournament bracket. The main tournament bracket is comprised of single-elimination games whereby the 64 teams play against others from the same region for the first round, second round, Sweet Sixteen (Round of 16) and Elite Eight (quarter-finals).
The last remaining team from each of the four regions then face off in the semi-finals, known as the Final Four, with the two winners going on to contest the NCAA Championship game.
March Madness 2021 schedule
March 13: Selection Sunday
March 15-16: First Four
March 17-18: First round
March 19-20: Second round
March 24-25: Sweet 16
March 26-27: Elite Eight
April 2: Final Four
April 4: NCAA Championship game
Who are the March Madness 2022 favourites?
Having made the final in two of the last four seasons, the Gonzaga Bulldogs [3.820]* look to be the front-runners to be crowned NCAA champions at the third time of asking. The Zags, as they are affectionately known by fans, are a statistical anomaly. At the time of writing, they sit second for adjusted offensive efficiency and sixth for adjusted defence efficiency (source: KenPom.com).
Despite their recent loss, Gonzaga should still hold top-two billing come Selection Sunday. Their threat comes from all angles with potential No.1 pick Chet Holmgren and All-American candidate Drew Timme playing alongside Julian Strawther, Andrew Nembhard, and Rasir Bolton.
Gonzaga's eight Quadrant 1 wins are enough to back up the predictive metrics.
The Arizona Wildcats [8.100]* are enjoying a prolific season too and sit eighth for adjusted offensive efficiency and 14th for adjusted defence efficiency. The offensive success comes in spite of playing a perimeter game, instead opting to use their size, length, and athleticism to outscore teams. Their top three scorers - Bennedict Mathurin, Azuolas Tubelis, and Christian Koloko - all stand between 6’6 and 7’1. The Wildcats are built to dominate the paint and often win by wide margins.
How far this rangy prowess can take them is still to be seen. Their recent 16-point loss to the Colorado Buffaloes shows they may need to improve their defensive capabilities if they want to find themselves in the Final Four in April.
Another viable championship contender could be the Kansas Jayhawks [9.950]*. They are by no means the deepest team, in terms of talent, that coach Bill Self has ever had but they have been consistent to this point. The roster is being propped up by senior Ochai Agbaji, the 2021-22 Big 12 Player of the Year winner, and Junior player Christian Braun is also excelling in his second season as shooting guard.
The Kansas Jayhawks roster includes senior Ochai Agbaji, the 2021-22 Big 12 Player of the Year winner.
Statistically, there’s a real disparity between their adjusted offense efficiency (ranked seventh) and their adjusted defence efficiency, coming in at 31st on KenPom.com. Their weaker rear-guard could leave them exposed the further they get in the tournament but they have been strengthened by the return of Remy Martin from injury, who has averaged 19.1 points per outing in each of the previous two campaigns.
The final team we’re profiling are reigning champions, the Baylor Bears [15.980]*. This year, the Big 12 has been a challenge as they have been trying to hold off the aforementioned Kansas. The Bears have been built to take down opponents on both ends of the court, with their points coming from the perimeter with a clutch of guards including Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer, and James Akinjo.
The KenPom ratings has them at ninth for offensive efficiency but currently in P15 for defensive efficiency. They are coming good at just the right time and coach Scott Drew proved in 2021 that he has the mental strength to outlast the rest and mastermind his team’s road to victory.
How to predict the March Madness winner
Predicting a perfect March Madness bracket is widely rated as one of the most notoriously difficult tasks in sports betting, which numerous models try and fail to do every year. However, there are a few trends which have served as somewhat reliable indicators for identifying potential March Madness winners.
March Madness has a tendency to produce low-scoring finals.
As the tournament features single-elimination games, a well-balanced line-up is an inherent benefit. Since 2002, 12 of the 19 March Madness winners entered the tournament among the top 20 NCAA teams for both offence and defence according to the KenPom ratings, whereas 15 were among the top 30. All of the teams mentioned above share this trait this season.
Regional number one seeds have also enjoyed a trophy-laden spell in recent years. Of the last 10 winners, seven were also the number one seeds for their region, although notably, only two were the overall number one seeds. Accurate seeding predictions can reap huge benefits for March Madness betting and can potentially assist you in identifying value ahead of other bettors.
It is also worth noting that March Madness has a tendency to produce low-scoring finals. Between 2008 and 2018, NCAA basketball teams averaged 67.8 points per game during the regular season and March Madness tournament. However, 13 of the 20 most recent finalists fell short of this, while seven of the last 10 finals witnessed 136 points or fewer.
You can bet on both on the outright winners and result of every game of March Madness 2022 with Pinnacle.