Here’s a look at the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament as March Madness 2022 gets set to tip off with the First Four Tuesday:
No. 1 Kansas (28-6)
Conference: Big 12
Coach: Bill Self
Post-ing up: Guard Ochai Agbaji has taken a huge leap in his senior season, passing Wilt Chamberlain on Kansas’ all-time scoring list while averaging 19.7 per game. Not many can match Kansas’ backcourt, which also features sophomore Dajuan Harris Jr., a great passer, and junior Christian Braun, a quality scorer.
No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (23-11)
Coach: Steve Lutz
Post-ing up: After over two-and-a-half decades as an assistant coach, Lutz got his shot as a head coach, and has proven to be a quick study. In his first season, he has the Islanders in their first tournament in 15 years, and it’s a relatively new team. The top three scorers, forward Isaac Mushila, guard Trevian Tennyson and guard Terrion Murdix, all come from the junior college ranks.
No. 16 Texas Southern (18-12)
Conference: Southwestern Athletic
Coach: Johnny Jones
Post-ing up: There is no go-to guy for the Tigers — there are several of them. Texas Southern features eight players who average at least six points, and this group is battle-tested, having faced the 30th-toughest non-conference schedule in the country, which includes a 69-54 win at then-No. 20 Florida on Dec. 6 and narrow loss to St. Mary’s.
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No. 8 San Diego State (23-8)
Conference: Mountain West
Coach: Brian Dutcher
Post-ing up: Offense is hard to come by for the Aztecs, who scored just 66.3 points per game, with only senior guard Matt Bradley (17.0 ppg) averaging double-digit points. But they make up for it with their defense, which limited opponents to 38.2 percent shooting from the field (No. 4 in the country) and 57.8 points per game (No. 2 in the country).
No. 9 Creighton (22-11)
Conference: Big East
Coach: Greg McDermott
Post-ing up: The Bluejays reached the Sweet 16 last year but returned just 15.8 percent of their scoring from that roster. To fill the void, senior forward Ryan Hawkins — who led Northwest Missouri State to a Division II national title last year — paces four scorers averaging double-digit points and leads the team in rebounding and 3-pointers made.
No. 5 Iowa (26-9)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Fran McCaffery
Post-ing up: After losing Luka Garza, this season might have been a rebuilding one for McCaffery. Instead, the Hawkeyes unleashed superstar sophomore forward Keegan Murray and gave him the keys to the offense. The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the country’s most prolific scorers (23.7 ppg) and has had to do everything for Iowa.
No. 12 Richmond (23-12)
Conference: Atlantic 10
Coach: Chris Mooney
Post-ing up: Eleven years later, Richmond is in the tournament again, and it is an unexpected development after an uneven regular season. But the Spiders — led by forwards Tyler Burton and Grant Golden — won four games in as many days in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, upsetting VCU, Dayton and Davidson in their surprising run to steal a bid.
No. 4 Providence (25-5)
Conference: Big East
Coach: Ed Cooley
Post-ing up: The experienced Friars already have shown they have the composure and savvy needed to rally out of a 19-point hole against Butler and survive a triple-overtime matchup with Xavier. The Friars have a team-record five graduate students, and the average age of their top seven players is 23. They rely on their balance and their smarts.
No. 13 South Dakota State (30-4)
Conference: Summit League
Coach: Eric Henderson
Post-ing up: You had better guard the 3-point line against these guys. The Jackrabbits are the nation’s most accurate long-distance shooting team (44.9 percent). Their top four scorers — Douglas Wilson, Baylor Scheierman, Noah Freidel and Zeke Mayo — all shoot at least 39.7 percent from beyond the arc.
No. 6 LSU (22-11)
Coach: Kevin Nickelberry
Post-ing up: LSU isn’t just entering the NCAA Tournament struggling, after losing four of its last seven games, but also the Tigers will do so with a new coach. Will Wade was let go the day before Selection Sunday, after the school received a notice of allegations related to potential violations in Wade’s star-crossed program. He was replaced by his assistant, Nickelberry.
No. 11 Iowa State (20-12)
Conference: Big 12
Coach: T.J. Otzelberger
Post-ing up: After Otzelberger had two NCAA Tournament teams at South Dakota State, he’s got Iowa State in the field in his initial season in Ames. The Cyclones, who own the third-most Quad 1 wins (nine) in the country, go through 6-foot-4 senior guard Izaiah Brockington, a Penn State transfer who leads the team in scoring (17.2) and rebounds (7.1).
No. 3 Wisconsin (24-7)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Greg Gard
Post-ing up: The Badgers have nice complementary pieces, but their title hopes reside with Johnny Davis. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard should be a top-10 draft pick and has carried a team that lost four of its top five leading scorers from last season. He’s strong, quick and gets to the rim with ease, as well as being a sturdy defender.
No. 14 Colgate (23-11)
Conference: Patriot League
Coach: Matt Langel
Post-ing up: The Raiders, in their third straight NCAA Tournament after a 23-year drought, are elite shooters; They make 40.3 percent of their 3-point attempts, the second-highest mark in the country. Colgate isn’t overreliant on one player; its entire starting five averages in double figures.
No. 7 USC (26-7)
Coach: Andy Enfield
Post-ing up: After an Elite Eight run last season, the Trojans did not lose until January this year. The offense is run through 6-foot-10 junior forward Isaiah Mobley, who is a tough matchup for anyone, and senior guard Drew Peterson can make opponents pay from beyond the arc (41.1 percent 3-point shooter) when they double Mobley.
No. 10 Miami (23-10)
Coach: Jim Larranaga
Post-ing up: After three straight losing seasons, the Hurricanes are back in the dance. They are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country and turn the ball over plenty. But senior guards Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore can help cover up for some of those deficiencies with their scoring and defense.
No. 2 Auburn (27-5)
Coach: Bruce Pearl
Post-ing up: No team has blocked more shots than Auburn thanks in large part to Walker Kessler, the 7-foot-1 monster who was second in the nation with 4.5 per game and broke the program’s single-season record for rejections. Freshman phenom Jabari Smith, a likely lottery pick, carries the load on the offensive end.
No. 15 Jacksonville State (21-10)
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Coach: Ray Harper
Post-ing up: The Gamecocks will make for a good trivia question: Which low-major program reached the NCAA Tournament despite losing in its conference tournament? Thanks to Bellarmine’s victory over Jacksonville in the Atlantic Sun final, Jacksonville State is dancing for the second time in school history. That’s because Bellarmine isn’t yet eligible for postseason play as it transitions into Division I.