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Assessing Villanova’s path and the rest of the 2022 NCAA Tournament field

One take on Villanova’s potential path, and how the rest of the tournament field will shape up.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four Practice Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The best three weeks of the year have come, and there are some juicy matchups in each of the four regions this year. The most exciting part about the games this year is that the NCAA Tournament will have fans for the first time since 2019.

After looking at the South Region teams, I will expand into the rest and give my predictions for every game of the tournament — starting with Villanova’s potential path and opponents, followed by the rest of the tournament. Without further ado, let’s get going.

South Region

First round:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 16 Wright St./Bryant
No. 9 TCU over No. 8 Seton Hall
No. 5 Houston over No. 12 UAB
No. 4 Illinois over No. 13 Chattanooga
No. 6 Colorado State over No. 11 Michigan
No. 3 Tennessee over No. 14 Longwood
No. 10 Loyola Chicago over No. 7 Ohio State
No. 2 Villanova over No. 15 Delaware

I do not have too many upsets in the first round games in the South Region. To me, this could not have worked out any better for Villanova. Out of the 3-seeds of Wisconsin, Purdue, Tennessee and Texas Tech, Tennessee would be the team I would want to face. Some will completely disagree with me on this considering Tennessee was so dominant in the SEC Tournament. As you will read, I am very high on Purdue and Texas Tech. Wisconsin is one of those teams that can reach the Final Four if it wanted to. Villanova has already defeated the Vols once this year. This Tennessee team has improved since that victory, but the ‘Cats match up well against them.

Arizona will defeat Wright State or Bryant. It doesn’t matter who they play, it will be a blow out either way.

TCU and Seton Hall will be a classic 8 vs 9 game. Jamie Dixon has done an excellent job down at TCU, and I believe they get the job done. The Hall played Villanova tough in both games this season, but they will be one-and-done.

UAB over Houston and Michigan over Colorado State are upset picks that some fans will make. DO NOT fall into this trap. Houston does not have many quality wins on their resume. Does UAB? No. Take the Cougars. Michigan has been surrounded by drama all season long and Colorado State only lost five games this season. The Rams win it.

Tennessee will take care of business early on against Longwood.

Loyola Chicago will get a win in the tournament against a struggling Ohio State team. The Buckeyes have gone just 1-4 in their past five games and limped into the tournament. The Ramblers, on the other hand, have gone 4-1 in their last five.

Villanova will defeat Delaware. What even is a Blue Hen?

Second round:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 9 TCU
No. 4 Illinois over No. 5 Houston
No. 3 Tennessee over No. 6 Colorado State
No. 2 Villanova over No. 10 Loyola Chicago

All of the top seeds will advance and Villanova will avoid the upset against Loyola Chicago that people are talking about — sorry, Sister Jean.

Sweet 16:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 4 Illinois
No. 2 Villanova over No. 3 Tennessee

Both Arizona and Villanova will advance to the Elite Eight.

Elite Eight:

No. 1 Arizona over No. 2 Villanova

In an all Wildcat matchup, Villanova’s run in the 2022 NCAA Tournament will come to an end. Arizona only has three losses on the season and Tommy Lloyd has done a masterful job in his first year as head coach. Arizona’s three losses have come to Colorado, UCLA and Tennessee. However, they defeated UCLA twice, including just last week in the Pac-12 Final. Their starting five all contribute but Christian Koloko and Bennedict Mathurin especially would be too much to handle for Villanova. I will be thrilled if Villanova pulled this one out, but I am going with my head over heart in this one.

West Region

First round:

No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 16 Georgia State
No. 8 Boise State over No. 9 Memphis
No. 5 UConn over No. 12 New Mexico State
No. 13 Vermont over No. 4 Arkansas
No. 11 Rutgers/Notre Dame over No. 6 Alabama
No. 3 Texas Tech over No. 14 Montana State
No. 10. Davidson over No. 7 Michigan State
No. 2 Duke over No. 15 Cal State Fullerton

Gonzaga has been dominant all season and should have no trouble against Georgia State.

The Boise State vs. Memphis matchup is intriguing for a few reasons. It is the return of Penny Hardaway in the tournament and Boise State quietly won the Mountain West. I think this is going to go down to the last minute but Boise State will use their momentum from the MW championship and defeat the Tigers.

UConn is a solid team, whether we like it as Nova fans or not. New Mexico State is a trendy upset pick but the Huskies will be too much.

The Vermont Catamounts will upset Arkansas. This team can shoot lights out and put up points in a hurry. After going 7-1 in February, the Razorbacks have gone 2-2 in March which included an annihilation at the hands of Texas A&M. Eric Musselman is a great coach but his team is one and done.

Another SEC team will be upset as well. Alabama will fall to either Rutgers or Notre Dame. If you cannot tell, I was not sold on the SEC this season. Rutgers has quality wins on their resume and nobody is talking about Notre Dame because of their schedule and weak ACC. Mike Brey’s team finished second in the ACC. Whether it was a down year or not, you have to take that into consideration when making this pick.

Texas Tech will handle business against Montana State and slide into the next round without any trouble.

Another upset will occur as Davidson will defeat Michigan State. Davidson is one of those teams that does not go away and flat out wins. Bob McKillop coaching against Tom Izzo will be a classic but McKillop will come out victorious.

I feel bad for Cal State Fullerton. The Titans have to travel across the country and then basically face Duke with a home court advantage. The Blue Devils easily get the win.

Second round:

No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 8 Boise State
No. 5 UConn over No. 13 Vermont
No. 3 Texas Tech over No. 11 Rutgers/Notre Dame
No. 10 Davidson over No. 2 Duke

Three of the four favorites will come out victorious in the second round. Gonzaga, UConn, and Texas Tech will defeat Boise State, Vermont, and Rutgers/Notre Dame respectively.

Then there was Davidson against Coach K and Duke. Remember back in 2019 when Duke barely escaped UCF? That Duke team was loaded. This year’s team is talented but not close to the trio of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish. The Wildcats will shock the world and advance to the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16:

No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 5 UConn
No. 3 Texas Tech over No. 10 Davidson

In the Sweet 16, Gonzaga will defeat UConn, although I think the Huskies will keep it close. Dan Hurley’s team never goes away. Davidson’s magical run in the tournament will end with a loss to the Red Raiders.

Elite 8:

No. 3 Texas Tech over No. 1 Gonzaga

In a game to advance to the Final Four, Texas Tech will upset top-seeded Gonzaga to go to New Orleans. This will be a fantastic game but Texas Tech will claw and scrap and find a way to squeak out a victory.

East Region

First Round:

No. 1 Baylor over No. 16 Norfolk State
No. 8 UNC over No. 9 Marquette
No. 12 Indiana over No. 5 St. Mary’s
No. 4 UCLA over No. 13 Akron
No. 6 Texas over No. 11 Virginia Tech
No. 3 Purdue over No. 14 Yale
No. 7 Murray State over No. 10 San Francisco
No. 2 Kentucky over No. 15 St. Peter’s

Baylor by 30 against the Spartans. A team reeling with injuries can rest a little in the second half.

UNC against Marquette will be an exciting game with a lot of back and forth action. I wanted to pick Marquette as a Big East fan, but my head says UNC. I would not be surprised if the Golden Eagles won, though.

St. Mary’s is overrated to me for a couple reasons. Yes, they beat Gonzaga on their home court. Who else have they defeated? Out of the tournament teams they defeated Notre Dame on a neutral court, San Francisco twice, Yale at home, and Gonzaga at home. They also lost to Gonzaga twice. The Gaels have no business being a 5 seed and the winner of Indiana will carry the momentum over. A bold prediction is that the Hoosiers will defeat St. Mary’s by double-digits.

The Zips of Akron had a tremendous season but will be overpowered by UCLA.

Virginia Tech over Texas is a trendy upset pick but I’m not buying it. The Hokies played great in the ACC Tournament, there is no denying that. However, Texas defeated Tennessee, TCU twice, and Kansas. Those are quality wins and should not be overlooked. The Longhorns win it.

Congrats to Yale for winning the Ivy League. They will be no match for Purdue. Boilermakers by 25.

Murray State against San Francisco is a mid-majors fan dream. I like the Racers but I think this game is closer than people think it will be. San Francisco is one of those teams that you can never count out and has a win against Davidson.

Being from New Jersey, I am glad St. Peter’s made the tournament. This game is going to be ugly, though. Wildcats by 30.

Second Round:

No. 1 Baylor over No. 8 UNC
No. 4 UCLA over No. 12 Wyoming/Indiana
No. 3 Purdue over No. 6 Texas
No. 2 Kentucky over No. 7 Murray State

In the second round, all of the top seeds will advance to the Sweet 16. A bold prediction I have is that Baylor will defeat UNC on a last possession three-pointer to break the hearts of Tar Heel fans.

Sweet 16:

No. 4 UCLA over No. 1 Baylor
No. 3 Purdue over No. 2 Kentucky

Although there were no upsets in the second round. The top two seeds in the region go down in the Sweet 16. I debated for a long time between Baylor and UCLA. Baylor’s injuries will just be too much to overcome. I love Purdue and the way they play. As Villanova knows, this team is the real deal. Even though they lost in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game, I believe they use that loss as motivation to make a run at the title.

Elite 8:

No. 3 Purdue over No. 4 UCLA

The Bruins will come up short yet again in the tournament. Purdue advances to the Final Four in a thriller.

Midwest Region

First round:

No. 1 Kansas over No. 16 Texas Southern
No. 9 Creighton over No. 8 San Diego State
No. 5 Iowa over No. 12 Richmond
No. 13 South Dakota St. over No. 4 Providence
No. 6 LSU over No. 11 Iowa State
No. 3 Wisconsin over No. 14 Colgate
No. 10 Miami over No. 7 USC
No. 2 Auburn over No. 15 Jacksonville State

There will not be a 16 over a 1 upset this year. Kansas rolls Texas Southern.

As we all know, Creighton is an exceptional team. The Jays completely destroyed the Friars at MSG last week. It was not an easy victory for the ‘Cats in the championship game. If Creighton shoots it a little better, they probably win that game. The Jays will defeat SDSU to set up an anticipated Kansas vs. Creighton matchup.

Richmond is a great story, and I am happy for the Spiders. The A 10 is an underrated league and the Spiders’s championship shows how deep that league is. Unfortunately for Richmond, Iowa has been on a roll lately. The Hawkeyes will take it.

Providence won the Big East regular season title but the Friars are overrated. Yes I said it. And it will show against the Jackrabbits. South Dakota State can really score and the offense will outshoot the Friars. Providence has won a boatload of close games this season. They will be on the losing side of a close game in this one.

LSU just fired head coach, Will Wade. I believe the team is going to rally around one another and play for each other.

Wisconsin will roll past Colegate and USC is another team I feel is overrated. Miami has shown a lot of heart this season. The Hurricanes will take it.

Due to an NCAA rule that should be changed, Jacksonville State heads to the tournament over conference winner, Bellarmine. The Knights are only in their second year season in Division 1, which means they are not eligible for the postseason. Auburn wins easily.

Second round:

No. 1 Kansas over No. 9 Creighton
No. 5 Iowa over No. 13 South Dakota St.
No. 3 Wisconsin over No. 6 LSU
No. 2 Auburn over No. 10 Miami

All of the top seeds advance in the second round of the Midwest Region. Creighton will give Kansas a scare, though.

Sweet 16:

No. 1 Kansas over No. 5 Iowa
No. 2. Auburn over No. 3 Wisconsin

Both Kansas and Auburn narrowly escaped against Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively. If these matchups occur, they will be the best two Sweet 16 games of the tournament.

Elite 8:

No. 1 Kansas over No. 2 Auburn

This game could go either way but I trust Bill Self more than I do Bruce Pearl. Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament and Ochai Agbaji is just too good of a player.

Final Four

No. 3 Purdue over No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 1 Arizona over No. 1 Kansas

Purdue will take the Big Ten Tournament Championship game loss to heart and make it to the final. Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey will carry the Boilermakers this far.

What a game this would be if it was to take place in New Orleans. Two teams with a rich history in college basketball battle it out for a spot in the championship game. This is Arizona’s year.

National Championship Game

No. 1 Arizona over No. 3 Purdue

If it can’t be Villanova, at least the Wildcats of Arizona will be crowned the champion. Arizona is a winning program and has especially shown that this season. Tommy Lloyd wins it in his first year as Arizona head coach.