Mark Few is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in college basketball. His resume speaks for itself. He has an incredible .830 winning percentage and has led Gonzaga to the national championship game in 2017 and 2021. His program has produced five first-team All-Americans (Dan Dickau, Adam Morrison, Kelly Olynyk, Nigel Williams-Goss, Rui Hachimura) and several NBA standouts (Ronny Turiaf, Domantas Sabonis, Zach Collins, Brandon Clarke, Corey Kispert, and Jalen Suggs).
The only thing missing on Few’s resume is an NCAA championship plaque.
There are three major ingredients in order to win the NCAA tournament.
You must have a first-round NBA talent on your roster.
You need experienced guards.
You must be able to defend at a high level.
Few’s 2022 Bulldogs team checks all three of those boxes. They have a potential No. 1 pick in 7-foot center Chet Holmgren, and All-American forward Drew Timme is one of the best low-post players in college basketball. Point guard Andrew Nembhard is a senior guard who was on last season’s Bulldogs squad that came within one game of completing an undefeated season.
Gonzaga enters the 2022 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 overall seed and the top-seeded team in the West Regional. The Zags are the betting favorites (somewhere between +300 to +350 on various betting sites) to cut down the nets and enjoy their one shining moment. Here are the four teams OMFB projects will reach the Final Four in New Orleans.
Gonzaga — Aside from having the top offense in the nation, the Bulldogs are also a top-notch defensive unit. Anchored by Holmgren in the middle, the Bulldogs make it difficult to score in the paint. Their offensive efficiency keeps them from having to scramble defensively. NBA scouts are giddy over Holmgren’s potential matchups against other projected lottery picks in the West regional. Holmgren could potentially see Memphis’ Jalen Duren in the second round and he could have a rematch with Paolo Banchero of Duke in the regional final. Holmgren and Banchero went head-to-head Nov. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Blue Devils won the game, 84-81, and Banchero outscored Holmgren 21-16. the stakes will be even higher if Holmgren and Banchero meet again. On the line for the top-seeded Bulldogs and the second-seeded Blue Devils is a berth in the Final Four in legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA tournament.
UCLA — Around this time last year, the Bruins had to play their way into the NCAA tournament. Once they secured a spot in the 64-team field, the Bruins went on a phenomenal run that culminated in a trip to the Final Four and it took a miraculous half-court heave from Jalen Suggs in overtime to knock them out. This season, head coach Mick Cronin brought back the core of his Final Four team led by Pac-12 all-conference first-teamers Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez, and Johnny Juzang. Juzang caught fire in last year’s tournament, and the Bruins Juzang can recapture that same shooting stroke. UCLA is among the leaders in the nation in offensive and defensive efficiency, and it has four quality wins (Arizona, Villanova, Marquette, USC). Campbell controls the pace, Juzang and Jules Bernard provide most of the offensive punch, and Jaquez is the team’s heart and soul. UCLA feels it has some unfinished business and anything less than another Final Four trip would be considered a disappointment in Westwood.
Arizona — The Wildcats started the season unranked and finished the regular season 31-3, and won the Pac-12 regular-season title and tournament title. First-year head coach Tommy Lloyd was an assistant under Few for two decades and he brought with him Gonzaga’s winning culture to Tucson, Ariz. Lloyd’s Wildcats are loaded with NBA prospects, led by Pac-12 player of the year Bennedict Mathurin. Arizona also boasts one of the tallest team’s in college basketball, a frontcourt anchored by 7-1 junior center and Christian Koloko. When Koloko goes to the bench, the Wildcats insert 7-footer Oumar Ballo. When Azuolas Tubelis is on his game, Arizona is nearly unbeatable. The 6-11 Lithuanian native is one of the most versatile forwards in the nation. The one concern for the Wildcats is the injury to point guard Kerr Kriisa. The sophomore point guard injured his ankle in the Pac-12 tournament.
Wisconsin — The Badgers will attempt to erase the stain of the Big Ten’s failures in last season’s tournament. Nine Big Ten teams competed in the 2021 March Madness. The conference finished with an 8-9 record. This season, the Big Ten has nine teams again in the Big Dance. The conference will have extra motivation to do better than eight wins in 2022. When coach Greg Gard is not sticking a finger on the chest of Juwan Howard, he’s usually a steady hand on the sidelines. Gard has one major concern heading into the tournament. Big Ten player of the year and first-team All-American guard Johnny Davis hurt his ankle on March 9 and didn’t look particularly good against Michigan State in the conference tournament. If Davis is not 100%, the Badgers could have some trouble getting past the Sweet 16. But if Davis’ ankle holds up and he’s anything close to the player who scored 25 points or more in nine games, the Badgers could be booking a trip to New Orleans.
NCAA championship: Gonzaga will battle Arizona in the title game. In a battle of the two best offensive teams in the nation, Few will beat his former assistant Lloyd and finally get the monkey off his back. Zags win, 83-81.