It's been just over two weeks since the 2021 NCAA Tournament came to a close, as Baylor captured its first college basketball national championship. However, it's never too early to look ahead to next March.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi is doing just that as he released his "way-too-early" projections for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. In his latest update on ESPN.com, Lunardi picked Gonzaga, UCLA, Alabama and Kansas to claim the four No. 1 seeds in next year's March Madness.
It's unsurprising to see the Bulldogs claim the No. 1 overall seed in the early bracketology release, after Mark Few led his team to the 2021 NCAA Tournament title game. Gonzaga also landed Chet Holmgren, the top overall recruit in the class of 2021 earlier this week, providing the program with its most talented high school prospect ever. With 2020 starters Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme expected back in Spokane, the Bulldogs have all of the pieces to mount another deep run.
UCLA shocked college basketball fans everywhere with a run to the Final Four in 2021. However, Lunardi thinks it should be no surprise to see the Bruins back in the national semifinals next year. Mick Cronin seems to be having the historic program trending in the right direction and should keep his roster mostly in tact this offseason.
Alabama earned a No. 2 seed in last year's Big Dance, thanks to a talented three-point shooting team and an impressive coaching job by Nate Oats. Although SEC Player of the Year Herb Jones might not be back in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will return their two leading scorers in Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly.
Perhaps the most shocking team to appear on Lunardi's preseason list of projected No. 1 seeds is Kansas. The Jayhawks scraped by Eastern Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before getting demolished by USC in the Round of 32. Bill Self should pull back his three top scorers from 2021, but will need to foster a cohesive unit if Kansas hopes to compete in next year's March Madness.
The start of the 2021-22 college basketball season is still months away, so plenty can change between now and next fall. However, it sounds like Joe Lunardi will be working throughout the summer to keep up with the transfer portal and to provide up-to-date bracketology to the sport's most rabid fans.