August 10, 2022

Here’s a look at the East Region of the NCAA Tournament as March Madness 2022 gets set to tip off Thursday:

No. 1 Baylor (26-6)

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Scott Drew

Post-ing up: The reigning national champs opened the season 15-0 — the last undefeated team — before injuries set in. Kendall Brown, a 6-foot-8 freshman guard, and freshman forward Jeremy Sochan, who does it all but stars defensively, have lived up to expectations, but they will need banged-up guard LJ Cryer healthy and contributing.

No. 16. Norfolk State (24-6)

Conference: MEAC

Coach: Robert Jones

Post-ing up: The Spartans have had one losing season in the last 11 years, and have their most wins since the 2011-12 campaign, when they stunned second-seeded Missouri in the NCAA Tournament. This team, which has won 15 of its last 17 games and is led by MEAC Player of the Year Joe Bryant Jr., could be a threat.

No. 8 North Carolina (24-9)

Conference: ACC

Coach: Hubert Davis

Post-ing up: In the tournament for the first time under Davis, who succeeded Roy Williams, the Tar Heels have one of the ACC’s best big men in 6-foot-10, double-double machine Armando Bacot. They knocked off Duke in the regular-season finale but were still only 2-7 against Quad 1 teams this season and had some brutal blowout losses along the way.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot dunks the ball.
AP

No. 9 Marquette (19-12)

Conference: Big East

Coach: Shaka Smart

Post-ing up: The Golden Eagles, who haven’t advanced past the first round since 2013, will give it a shot in their first season under Smart, the former Texas and VCU coach. They have a pair of wins over Villanova and another over Providence on their résumé, with 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Justin Lewis leading the team in scoring (17.1) and rebounding (7.9).

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No. 5 Saint Mary’s (25-7)

Conference: WCC

Coach: Randy Bennett

Post-ing up: The tiny Northern California hoops giant was too young last year, but rebounded and topped both Notre Dame and Oregon in November to announce it was back. The Gaels’ defense is ranked among the best in the country and better-regarded than powerhouse Gonzaga. Senior Matthias Tass, a 6-foot-10 forward from Estonia, is a force underneath.

No. 12 Wyoming (25-8)

Conference: Mountain West

Coach: Jeff Linder

Post-ing up: The Cowboys are in the tournament for just the second time since 2002. They got here on the backs of 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Graham Ike, a powerful presence in the paint who averages close to a double-double (19.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg), and senior guard Hunter Maldonado, who combines a scoring punch with playmaking ability.

No. 12 Indiana (20-13)

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Mike Woodson

Post-ing up: Woodson, the former Knicks head coach and assistant, has his alma mater back in the tournament for the first time since 2016 despite losing seven of its last nine regular-season games. The Hoosiers lean on their frontcourt duo of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson, with Jackson-Davis serving as a strong defensive presence around the rim.

NCAA
Mike Woodson leads Indiana into the NCAA Tournament
AP

No. 4 UCLA (25-7)

Conference: Pac-12

Coach: Mick Cronin

Post-ing up: The Bruins brought back most of the pieces that led them to a stunning Final Four run as a No. 11 seed last year. They still could not beat Gonzaga — losing in overtime last year and this season by 20 — but have returned a balanced group led by leading-scorer Johnny Juzang, a junior guard who averaged 22.8 points in last year’s tournament.

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No. 13 Akron (24-9)

Conference: Mid-American

Coach: John Groce

Posting-up: With an adjusted tempo ranked 351st-slowest in the country, few teams play slower than the Zips. It has worked for shooting-challenged Akron, in terms of keeping down the score — it allows just 63.1 points per game, a top-25 figure nationally — and limiting possessions. Forward Ali Ali — not a typo — leads the Zips with 14.2 ppg.

No. 6 Texas (21-11)

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Chris Beard

Post-ing up: In his first year, Beard has turned the Longhorns into one of the country’s best defenses. After knocking off Kansas earlier this season, Beard said his squad is “a Final Four contender.” Four of their top scorers — forward Timmy Allen and guards Andrew Jones, Marcus Carr and Courney Ramey — are seniors.

No. 10 Virginia Tech (23-12)

Conference: ACC

Coach: Mike Young

Post-ing up: The Hokies are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, ranking fourth with a 39.1 percentage, though that hasn’t necessarily translated to a high-scoring offense. But they also have a solid frontcourt duo of redshirt senior Keve Aluma and grad student Justyn Mutts, who helped them finish the season strong in a stunning run to the ACC Tournament title and an auto bid.

NCAA
Mason Gillis and Purdie loss to Iowa in the Big Ten championship game.
AP

No. 3 Purdue (27-6)

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Matt Painter

Post-ing up: The Boilermakers’ long-range shooting can keep them in any game, among the nation’s best from beyond the arc. Star guard Jaden Ivey has improved his jumper for his sophomore season, though he is better known for his explosiveness around the rim, while 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and 6-10 Trevion Williams are dangerous inside.

No. 14 Yale (19-11)

Coach: James Jones

Conference: Ivy League

Post-ing up: Yale is hot, winners of 11 of its last 13 games behind senior guard Azar Swain, the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer at 18.9 points per game. This is becoming a tradition under Jones for the Bulldogs, their third trip to the dance in their last five opportunities. They’re hoping for a repeat of 2016, when they took down fifth-seeded Baylor.

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No. 7 Murray State (30-2)

Conference: OVC

Coach: Matt McMahon

Post-ing up: The high-flying Racers beat Memphis but lost to Auburn as they sought tougher out-of-conference opponents. Sophomore point guard Justice Hill has emerged as one of the slickest passers in the country, often connecting with bruising junior forward KJ Williams, their leading scorer and a constant double-double threat.

NCAA
KJ Williams dunks the ball for Murray State.
USA Today Sports

No. 10 San Francisco (24-9)

Conference: West Coast

Coach: Todd Golden

Post-ing up: The Dons last reached the tournament way back in 1998, but they have been on upward trajectory over the last five years, first under Kyle Smith and now under Golden. It is a senior-laden group that was bolstered by the addition of two key transfers: Center Yauhen Massalski (San Diego) and shooting guard Gabe Stefanini (Columbia).

No. 2 Kentucky (26-7)

Conference: SEC

Coach: John Calipari

Post-ing up: After a rare down season, the powerhouse has been rebuilt. Led by Oscar Tshiebwe, the country’s best rebounder (15.1 per game), underneath and Sahvir Wheeler, one of the country’s best passers (6.9 assists per game), Kentucky can beat you in a lot of ways. Knicks fans should be on the watch for Jacob Toppin, Obi’s brother.

No. 15. Saint Peter’s (19-11)

Conference: MAAC

Coach: Shaheen Holloway

Post-ing up: The Peacocks held three MAAC Tournament opponents to 63 points or less, and allowed over 80 points just four times all year. Defense and depth — 10 players average at least 10 minutes per game, led by junior guard Daryl Banks III — are St. Peter’s calling cards under Holloway, the former Seton Hall star and assistant coach.