March Madness is upon us and the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament begins with the first round — and 16 games — on Thursday, March 17.
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1 to 68… ?
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 14, 2022
It is the best time of year, and everyone is excited to find the best values in the tournament field. Will Mike Krzyzewski win it all in his final year after losing his home finale and the ACC Tournament championship game? Can the Villanova Wildcats win for the third time in the last six tournaments? Can the Gonzaga Bulldogs finally cut down the nets?
So, who are the locks to make it through the first weekend of the tournament? Each of the teams we are presenting to you has an impressive first-round line of at least 17 points. Let us start with Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds:
#1 Gonzaga and the Rest of the No. 1 Seeds
- Gonzaga’s first-round line: -23.5
- Kansas’s first-round line: -22
- Baylor’s first-round line: -21
- Arizona’s first-round line: TBA after First Four
The overwhelming favorite of the 2022 NCAA Tournament is the Gonzaga Bulldogs (+300), and they are projected to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans. They are followed by the Arizona Wildcats (+600).
Only once in NCAA Tournament history has a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed, and with the spreads in the 20’s, it seems to be a fair assumption that the No. 1 seeds will be advancing to the second round. Now, let us take a look at the No. 8 and No. 9 seed matchups: Boise State/Memphis, North Carolina/Marquette, Seton Hall/TCU, and San Diego State/Creighton.
According to KenPom.com, the most efficient team among the No. 8 and N0.9 teams is San Diego State (22nd overall). Kansas is sixth overall, and it is not even a guarantee that the Jayhawks will have to face the Aztecs in the second round. Lock in the No. 1 seeds past the first weekend.
#2 Kentucky (vs. Saint Peters and Murray State/San Francisco)
- Kentucky’s first-round line: -18
- Kentucky’s title odds: +800
Here is something impressive: even though Kentucky is the second-best No. 2 seed, the squad has better title odds than the Kansas Jayhawks (+900) and Baylor Bears (+1200). The next-best No. 2 seed in terms of championship odds is Duke (+1400). Saint Peter’s should not be a difficult matchup, but Murray State and San Francisco are not bad. Kentucky is too strong though — third overall according to Pomeroy — so make the Wildcats a lock.
#3 Tennessee (vs. Longwood and Colorado State/Michigan)
- Tennessee’s first-round line: -17
- Tennessee’s title odds: +2100
Tennessee appears to have the best value among teams that can win the title. In the first two rounds, the Volunteers will not face a team in the top 30 in terms of efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. You should give Tennessee a lengthy look when making your picks.