2021-2022 Preseason Bracketology: Matchups and First Four Out
Last week, I released the 68 teams in my preseason field, but it’s always fun to look at the actual matchups as well. In addition, it’s useful for me to get a little practice in following the bracketing principles as well, so let’s consider this the bracketology equivalent of an exhibition game.
Following the bracket, I wrote up the four teams I had just outside of the field and gave a breakdown by conference.
|SAN FRANCISCO||SAN ANTONIO|
|Portland – March 17/19||Fort Worth – March 17/19|
|1) Gonzaga||1) Kansas|
|16) Morgan St. / Texas Southern||16) Bryant / Nicholls St.|
|9) Xavier||9) Florida|
|Buffalo – March 17/19||Pittsburgh – March 18/20|
|5) Florida St.
||5) North Carolina|
|12) Loyola Chicago / Oklahoma||12) Buffalo
|4) Memphis||4) Ohio St.|
|13) Liberty||13) UC Santa Barbara|
|Milwaukee – March 18/20||Greenville – March 18/20|
|6) Connecticut||6) St. Bonaventure|
|11) Richmond||11) Syracuse / St. John’s|
|3) Illinois||3) Alabama|
|14) Chattanooga||14) Vermont|
|Milwaukee – March 18/20||Buffalo – March 17/19|
|7) Virginia||7) Texas Tech|
|10) Colorado St.||10) BYU|
|2) Kentucky||2) Villanova|
|Indianapolis – March 17/19||San Diego – March 18/20|
|1) Michigan||1) UCLA|
|16) Winthrop||16) James Madison|
|8) Arizona||8) Indiana|
|9) San Diego St.||9) West Virginia|
|Portland – March 17/19||Pittsburgh – March 18/20|
|5) Tennessee||5) Maryland|
|12) Drake||12) UAB|
|4) Oregon||4) Houston|
|13) New Mexico St.||13) South Dakota St.|
|Greenville – March 18/20||San Diego – March 18/20|
|6) Arkansas||6) Auburn|
|3) Duke||3) Baylor|
|14) Wright St.||14) Colgate|
|Fort Worth – March 17/19||Indianapolis – March 17/19|
|7) Michigan St.||7) Virginia Tech|
|10) LSU||10) Mississippi St.|
|2) Texas||2) Purdue|
|15) Weber St.||15) Georgia St.|
Last Four In:
Note: The first three teams listed below were included with the 9-12 seeds, but with Oklahoma State’s postseason ban, the fourth moved into the projected field.
Oklahoma – As Porter Moser steps into the head role in Norman, he inherits a roster with just two returning players who scored more than 4.4 points per game. Guard Umoja Gibson (9.1 ppg) knocked down 41.1 percent from long range, while backcourt mate Elijah Harkless (8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) gives Moser a solid defender to build around on that end of the floor. Five transfers will fill out the rotation, led by Tanner Groves (17.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and his brother Jacob Groves (9.3 ppg) of Eastern Washington, Marvin Johnson (15.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.7 apg) of Eastern Illinois, Ethan Chargois (8.8 ppg) of SMU, and Jordan Goldwire (5.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.2 spg) of Duke. With a new coach and so many new players, the Sooners may not get off to a hot start, but I like Moser’s chances to have them in contention for an at-large when it’s all said and done.
First Four Out:
Seton Hall – Last season, the Pirates got out of the gate slow with a 1-3 start and finished with a 1-5 stretch over the final six. Coach Kevin Willard must replace leading scorer and rebounder Sandro Mamukelashvili, who also finished second on the team in assists. A few key pieces do return though, led by Jared Rhoden (14.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Myles Cale (11.6 ppg). Rhoden struggled with his long-range shot, but is adept at getting to the rim and drawing fouls, while Cale provides decent 3-point shooting and hit over 50 percent of his 2-pointers as well. Willard will be counting on transfers Kadary Richmond (Syracuse), Alexis Yetna (South Florida), and Jamir Harris (American) to be key contributors. In what should be a wide-open and jumbled Big East (once you get past Villanova), the Pirates could wind up grabbing an at-large bid if the new pieces can integrate quickly into the system.
Notre Dame – The good news is that five of the top six scorers return from an offense that ranked 21st in adjusted efficiency last season. The bad news is they were also a part of a defense that ranked outside the top 200 in adjusted efficiency. Prentiss Hubb (14.6 ppg, 5.8 apg) led the team in points and assists, but he was more of a volume shooter than an efficient one. The backcourt is relatively deep, but a thin frontcourt will be relying heavily on Nate Laszewski (13.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg), who made nearly 70 percent of his 2s and over 40 percent of his 3s, and Yale transfer Paul Atkinson (17.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Notre Dame should be solid on the offensive end once again, but their ability to challenge for an at-large bid will hinge on just how much the Irish can improve defensively.
Wichita State – The Shockers won the regular season title in the AAC despite playing just 13 league games, and they were a relatively surprising at-large team when the bracket was revealed in March. Four of the top five scorers return, led by Tyson Etienne (16.3 ppg), who earned Co-AAC player of the year honors after knocking down 39.4 percent from 3-point range and posting a 114.7 offensive rating. Forward Morris Udeze (10.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg) made over 59 percent of his 2-point shots, while Dexter Dennis (9.6 ppg) shot more 3s than 2s but hit only 33.3 percent from deep. The only newcomers expected to crack the rotation are Abilene Christian transfer Joe Pleasant (10.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Qua Grant, who scored over 20 points per games as a D-II All-American last season. Ultimately there’s a lot to like about the Shockers on the offensive end, but the defense ranked 84th in adjusted efficiency last season and may not be markedly better this year. Still, in a top-heavy AAC, there are plenty of wins to be had for the team predicted to finish third behind Houston and Memphis.
Washington State – With only four Pac-12 teams in the field, I’m inclined to think a fifth will at least be in the mix, but the middle of the league is pretty muddy with Arizona State, Colorado, and Oregon State joining Wazzu in that range. Coach Kyle Smith improved the team’s defense substantially from year one to year two, as the Cougars finished in the top 25 in adjusted efficiency. The offense, however, is still a work in progress. Noah Williams (14.1 ppg) is the top returnee, and while he hit nearly 38 percent from long range, he struggled inside the arc at just 42.4 percent. A pair of transfers will join Williams in the backcourt, as Michael Flowers (21.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.6 apg) joins from South Alabama and Tyrell Roberts (19.2 ppg, 3.1 apg) moves north from San Diego. Sophomores Efe Abogidi (8.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Dishon Jackson (7.2 ppg) were both productive as freshmen, with Abogidi posting solid rebounding rates on both ends and converting on nearly 60 percent of his 2-pointers. After starting just 2-7 in Pac-12 play last season, Wazzu went 5-5 the rest of the way with three of those losses coming by three points or less, which seems to suggest Smith has things going in the right direction.
Others Considered (Alphabetical): Iowa, Oregon State, SMU, Wisconsin
Big Ten (8): Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers
SEC (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee
ACC (7): Duke, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Big East (4): Connecticut, St. John’s, Villanova, Xavier
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, USC
American (2): Houston, Memphis
Atlantic 10 (2): Richmond, St. Bonaventure
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Loyola Chicago
Mountain West (2): Colorado State, San Diego State
West Coast (2): BYU, Gonzaga
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: James Madison
Conference USA: UAB
Horizon: Wright State
MEAC: Morgan State
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southland: Nicholls State
SWAC: Texas Southern
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: New Mexico State
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Filed to: 2021-2022 Bracketology