The bracket for March Madness 2022 was revealed Sunday evening, officially crafting a path to the championship for every one of the 68 contending teams.
Both of last year’s national finalists— the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Baylor Bears— earned number-one seeds once again, leaving the Kansas Jayhawks and Arizona Wildcats to join them as the headliners in each region. Notably, Tennessee only managed to claim a third seed after an inspiring season, and Providence dropped to a four seed after an inspiring start to the season.
As talented as the top teams are, today is all about finding the best of the rest; here are the best Final Four futures bets for underdogs and dark horses alike.
#5 Iowa Hawkeyes
The Iowa Hawkeyes won nine of their last 10 games and enter the tournament on a four-game win streak that culminated in a Big Ten conference title. Their path to the Final Four will start against a tough Richmond Spiders team, and they will be a popular pick to get upset in the first round, but their path beyond that is actually favorable.
The Hawkeyes will presumably match up with Providence, still reeling from a blowout loss to Creighton in the Big East tournament, and then the Kansas Jayhawks, whom Iowa is certainly capable of keeping up with on the scoreboard. If star player Keegan Murray does not show up, then all bets are off— assuming he does, however, Iowa has a very strong chance of making noise.
#12 UAB Blazers
I love UAB as my Cinderella team of the tournament; the Blazers ended their season as winners of seven straight, and although they played inferior opposition compared to what they will in the tourney, there is something to be said for momentum.
UAB will match up with a defensive Houston team that, despite ranking second in ESPN’s basketball power index, is 0-1 against ranked teams; from there, they will have a better matchup with, presumably, Illinois, and then will most likely face Arizona. I love UAB because they have four 1,000-point scorers, shoot 37.9% from three, and force tons of turnovers. They will get stronger with every round they reach, so I would not count them out from knocking off the top-ranked Wildcats in the Elite Eight and reaching the Final Four.
#9 Marquette Golden Eagles
This Marquette team is very good, so don’t be fooled by its bottom-half seeding. The Golden Eagles were victimized by a brutal Big East conference schedule, one which they went 11-8 en route to a 19-12 record. They went 6-6 against ranked opponents and finished their season on a much better note than they started against these teams, although their overall form was nothing inspiring.
Marquette gets a bonus because of its experience in close games and its ability to share the ball, both of which are extremely important in the tournament. They will face a tough matchup against the physicality of Armando Bacot and UNC in the first round, but similarly to UAB, Marquette actually matches up fairly well with top-seed Baylor in the next round, if they can get there.
#10 Davidson Wildcats
Davidson lost to Richmond by two points in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, but they will be out for blood early in their first-round matchup with Michigan State. The Wildcats are excellent from beyond the arc, shooting the ball at a 38.6% clip, while also making more than 48% of their field goals and 75.7% of their free throws.
Looking beyond their first-round matchup with a wobbly and offensively inefficient Michigan State team, the Wildcats will likely draw second-seed Duke in the Round of 32; the Blue Devils were pushed to the brink by Syracuse (without Buddy Boeheim) and Miami before getting easily handled by Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament final, and they are not the same fear-inspiring bunch they once were. That leaves Davidson with one matchup against (probably) Texas Tech before they will almost assuredly tangle with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, which would be a thrilling clash of styles.