SJC Alumni in March Madness, Men’s Tournament Preview

SJC alumni in Women’s Tournament 

The First round of the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament begins on March 18th. For the first time ever the tournament is using a similar 68 team field that the Men’s tournament uses as it implements the First Four play in games. SJC has two recent alumni who will be big parts of their teams path to the national championships Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo a forward for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels apart of SJC’s class of 2019 and Azzi Fudd a guard for the UConn Huskies considered the best Freshman in the country who was apart of SJC’s most recent graduating class in 2021. The Tar Heels have had a very successful season earning a 5 seed in the first round where they will play Stephen F. Austin. They fell in their Conference tournament to the Virginia Tech Hokies who also feature an SJC alumni in Aisha Sheppard from the class of 2017. Malu has been a key contributor for the Tar Heels off the bench this season. The Huskies also had a very successful season continuing their dominance as they won the Big East conference over Villanova University giving them a chance to receive a 2 seed in the National Tournament. Fudd has been a key contributor both starting and off the bench as she was the team’s third leading scorer during the regular season. Fudd should help lead UConn to another title. Good luck to alumni and congrats to them for their respective seasons.

March Madness Preview 

It’s March again, which means it’s time to bring on the madness. The 2022 NCAA Tournament is set to begin a full round of 68 play on Tuesday March 15th in full force with the First Four play-in games taking place on Tuesday March 15th and Wednesday March 16th while the First Round games will start Thursday March 17th with the first group of games being played around noon. A year after last year’s tournament which was full of Covid precautions such as a limited number of fans at games and the entire tournament being played in the state of Indiana, the tournament has reverted back to its usual form with games being played around the country.

The number one overall seed in the tournament for the second year in the row is the Gonzaga Bulldogs who were the runner up of last year’s tournament after falling to the Baylor Bears 86-70 who also ended Gonzaga’s bid of an undefeated season with a Championship. While last year’s Star Freshman Jalen Suggs left for the NBA, the Bulldogs reloaded by getting a commitment from Suggs High School teammate Chet Holmgren, the consensus Number 1 prospect of the 2021 class. Holmgren added to the talent returned from last year’s team such as Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard who are hungry to end the Tournament as champions after last year’s defeat. They are the Number 1 seed of the West Region.

The number two overall seed will be the Arizona Wildcats who were winners of both the Pac-12 Regular Season and Pac-12 Tournament champions. Nobody knew what to make of the Wildcats coming into the season. Needing a fresh start after allegations of bribery had rattled the program, they hired Tommy Lloyd, a former assistant coach at Gonzaga. He led the team to a 31-3 record overall and an 18-2 record for the conference. A team with multiple NBA prospects such as Sophomore Guards Dalen Terry and Bennedict Mathurin , this is the most talented Wildcats team since 2018. The team has been placed at the 1 seed of the South region.

The number three overall seed will be the Kansas Jayhawks winners who at 28-6 Overall and 14-4 for the Big 12 swept the Big 12’s Regular Season plus Tournament. Kansas has been successful in their conference but at times they seem to fall short. A team with talented Guard play, led by Ochai Agbaji a Senior who has been through it all during his time as a Jayhawks. This team might have the toughest quadrant of the bracket as it contains the Auburn Tigers, Wisconsin Badgers, and Iowa Hawkeyes. This team was placed as the 1 seed of the Midwest region. 

The number four overall seed will be the Defending National Champions Baylor Bears who have been struggling of late. The team had finished the regular season at 26-6 with a 14-4 record in the Big 12 but lost their first round Conference tournament to Texas A&M. The Bears have been dealing with injuries including to senior Big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and LJ Cryer who is considered the best shooter. A not as experienced team as they were last year Baylor could possibly heat up and make another run at a National Championship. They were given the Number 1 seed of the East region. 

The tournament is loaded with talent even with teams that aren’t Number 1 seeds but there are two that specifically stand out to me. The Number 11 seed of the East Region, the Virginia Tech Hokies have been in a hot streak. They won 4 games in 4 nights to win the ACC tournament championship upsetting the Duke Blue Devils. Former Cadet Darius Maddox has been instrumental in the streak as he started it with a buzzer beater 3 pointer that gave the Hokies the win vs the Clemson Tigers. The UAB Blazers of Conference USA might have one of the most unknown electrifying guards Jordan “Jelly” Walker. Apart from the Famous High School Basketball sensation of Jellyfam, Walker has run the show for the Blazers averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game. UAB is a dangerous 12 seed and matches up the 5th seeded Houston Cougars in round 1.

My prediction for this year’s final four will be Gonzaga, the Kentucky Wildcats making a return to the tournament after a year absent, Arizona and Wisconsin. Each team is led by players who are firmly in the Wooden National Player of the Year conversation but the depth of Gonzaga and Arizona should get them to the National Championship game where I think Arizona will prevail and cut down the nets on April 4th. Regardless of who’s playing in each game of this tournament, they should be action packed. A link to the bracket can be found below here.


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