Last season, Baylor crushed Gonzaga’s dreams in Indianapolis to win the program’s first national championship in the Bears’ first Final Four appearance since 1950. And despite significant roster turnover, the champs enter the 2022 NCAA Tournament primed for a run at a repeat.
But repeating won’t be easy, much less getting out of an East Region that features Kentucky, Purdue, and some of the best defensive teams in college basketball.
Baylor is among that group, as Scott Drew’s Bears rank 14th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. But that puts them fourth in the East Region behind Saint Mary’s (ninth), UCLA (12th), and Texas (13th).
However, the region isn’t just about defense. Purdue, Kentucky, Baylor, and UCLA all rank in the top 15 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and Purdue, Kentucky, and Murray State all average over 79 points per game.
While the Bears may be the top seed in the East Region, the odds are against them in more ways than one.
In recent NCAA Tournament history, repeats have been rare, and it is a tough task to even reach the championship game in back-to-back seasons. The last repeat champion was Florida in 2006 and 2007, and the most recent program to reach the title game in consecutive years is North Carolina, who did it in 2016 (lost) and 2017 (won).
Also, the Bears are not the favorite to win the region. That would be Kentucky, who edges out Baylor atop East Region odds as tournament play gets set to begin.
Here’s a look at the odds to win the region.
Odds to Win the East Region of the 2022 NCAA Tournament
Pre-tournament odds are via FanDuel Sportsbook as of Thursday, March 17, 2022. Teams in bold are still alive in the tournament after the first round.
East Region Odds Prior to the NCAA Tournament
- #2 Kentucky +250
- #1 Baylor +260
- #3 Purdue +500
- #4 UCLA +600
- #6 Texas +1100
- #5 Saint Mary’s +2300
- #8 North Carolina +2500
- #11 Virginia Tech +2500
- #12 Indiana +2700
- #10 San Francisco +3200
- #9 Marquette +5000
- #7 Murray State +5000
- #14 Yale +25000
- #13 Akron +25000
- #16 Norfolk State +25000
Saint Peter’s, the #15 seed, is (was) not listed at FanDuel but is +15000 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Current Odds to Win the East Region (After the First Round)
- #1 Baylor +200
- #3 Purdue +300
- #4 UCLA +500
- #6 Texas +550
- #7 Murray State +1100
- #5 Saint Mary’s +1200
- #8 North Carolina +1600
#15 Saint Peter’s is still not listed at FanDuel after their upset win over Kentucky, but the Peacocks are +10000 at Caesars Sportsbook.
2022 NCAA Tournament East Region Venues & Locations
- East Region First and Second Round Venues & Locations: Fort Worth, Texas (Dickies Arena), Indianapolis, Indiana (Gainbridge Fieldhouse), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Fiserv Forum), Portland, Oregon (Moda Center)
- East Region Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Wells Fargo Center)
2022 NCAA Tournament East Region Bracket
East Region First Round
Fort Worth, Texas (Dickies Arena – Thursday, March 17)
#1 Baylor 85, #16 Norfolk State 49
#8 North Carolina 95, #9 Marquette 63
Portland, Oregon (Moda Center – Thursday, March 17)
#5 Saint Mary’s 82, #12 Indiana 53
#4 UCLA 57, #13 Akron 53
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Fiserv Forum – Friday, March 18)
#6 Texas 81, #11 Virginia Tech 73
#3 Purdue 78, #14 Yale 56
Indianapolis, Indiana (Gainbridge Fieldhouse – Thursday, March 17)
#7 Murray State 92, #10 San Francisco 87 (OT)
#15 Saint Peter’s 85, #2 Kentucky 79
East Region Second Round
Fort Worth, Texas (Dickies Arena – Saturday, March 19)
#8 North Carolina vs. #1 Baylor, 12:10 p.m. ET, CBS
Portland, Oregon (Moda Center – Saturday, March 19)
#5 Saint Mary’s vs. #4 UCLA, 7:10 p.m. ET, TBS
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Fiserv Forum – Sunday, March 20)
#6 Texas vs. #3 Purdue, 8:40 p.m. ET, TNT
Indianapolis, Indiana (Gainbridge Fieldhouse – Saturday, March 19)
#15 Saint Peter’s vs. #7 Murray State, 7:45 p.m. ET, CBS
2022 NCAA Tournament East Region Predictions: Who Will Win the Region?
Pick: Purdue (+500)
The Purdue bandwagon might have lost a number of passengers with the stretch run that the Boilermakers may have had, which is understandable.
After scoring 80+ points in six straight games across late January and early February, Purdue heads into the NCAA Tournament having hit the 75-point mark only twice in their past ten games.
Have the Boilermakers been figured out? Is another talented, promising Purdue team going to fall short of the Final Four yet again?
Purdue hasn’t made the Final Four since 1980, losing in the Elite Eight in 1994, 2000, and 2019. Their March Madness history over the past four-plus decades has been littered with crushing loss after crushing loss with a high seed or a favorable situation, from six losses in the second round as a #1, #2, or #3 seed, to the Elite Eight loss to #8 seed Wisconsin in 2000, to the OT loss to Virginia in the Elite Eight three years ago, to last year’s first-round exit at the hands of #13 seed North Texas in overtime.
And last, but certainly not least, there was 1994. The Boilermakers, led by Player of the Year Glenn Robinson, who would be drafted first overall in the 1994 NBA Draft after a legendary sophomore season, fell to Duke in the Elite Eight as the top seed in their region.
Early Exits for Purdue in the NCAA Tournament Since 1980 as a #3 Seed or Better
- 1984: #3 seed – second round to Memphis
- 1987: #3 seed – second round to Florida
- 1990: #2 seed – second round to Texas
- 1995: #3 seed – second round to Memphis
- 1996: #1 seed – second round to Georgia
- 2011: #3 seed – second round to VCU
But at some point, the suffering has to end. And if there is ever a time for that to happen, it is this year.
Purdue is sixth in Division I in field goal percentage (49.3 percent) and fourth in three-point shooting (39.1 percent) and ranks in the top 15 in both three-point shooting and two-point shooting. We haven’t seen their best on the offensive end lately but look for it to reemerge right on time for a run to a regional title.
This is a team with 13 wins over teams that made the field of 68, so they have been tested plenty throughout the season. And though this year’s team is certainly at its best when its best player, Jaden Ivey, is at the top of his game, this team has such high potential because it has a star like Ivey that can take over a game and is equipped to beat you with a variety of sources whether or not Ivey is on.
Three years ago, the Boilermakers made it to the Elite Eight on the back of the Carsen Edwards show. Edwards averaged 34.8 PPG and recorded 91 field goal attempts (61 from three) and 36 free-throw attempts in four NCAA Tournament games. That will not need to be the case this time around.
The stretch run has not been stellar, but the bright lights of the Big Dance will bring out the best in the Boilermakers.
2022 NCAA Tournament East Region Best Value Bet: Purdue to Reach the Elite Eight (+230 at FanDuel Sportsbook)
If you are not confident enough to beat out Baylor to win the region, this is a high-value option to opt for instead.
A potential Purdue-Kentucky matchup in the Sweet Sixteen could be one of the most interesting and memorable games of March Madness. The Wildcats, led by Wooden Award favorite Oscar Tshiebwe, are certainly a formidable foe.
But while Kentucky did register two of the season’s most impressive wins–an 18-point win at Kansas and a 28-point home win over Tennessee in which they lit up the Vols for 107 points–they enter the NCAA Tournament with a 3-6 mark against ranked teams this season.
Purdue, on the other hand, is 5-3 this season against ranked teams. I like the Boilermakers to be able to come out on top in that matchup, even if Tshiebwe does what he has done against most teams this season.
2022 NCAA Tournament East Region Early Upset Pick
#12 Indiana over #5 Saint Mary’s
Indiana went into the Big Ten Tournament with seven losses in nine games and seemingly bound for the NIT. But the Hoosiers beat Michigan and Illinois before falling to Iowa in the semifinals to book their place in the Big Dance. Then on Tuesday night, they saw off Wyoming’s challenge in the First Four to advance to a first-round showdown with the Gaels.
So, the Hoosiers are on the right track at the right time. Saint Mary’s can be a tough matchup for just about anyone, but especially so for a team that has had issues getting consistent offense from sources not named Trayce Jackson-Davis.
But Xavier Johnson is averaging 17.2 PPG over his last nine games, and after a stretch in which he had one 20+ point performance in 13 games, Jackson-Davis has scored 24, 21, 31, and 29 points in his last four games. Against Wyoming, he went 10 of 16 from the field and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line, and he had nine boards as well.
Indiana should certainly be approached with caution, but they are worth backing to move on to the second round.
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