Baylor played spoiler for a history-making Gonzaga team but, as we look ahead to next year, which teams will be in the 2022 Final Four and who will win it all?
Scott Drew and the Baylor Bears weren’t interested in narratives or history being made in Indianapolis. Jared Butler and Dayvion Mitchell led a dominant Final Four run that culminated with not just a win over previously undefeated Gonzaga but a decisive blowout victory over the Bulldogs. Now, Drew’s incredible rebuilding effort is complete with the Bears cutting down the nets.
As always, though, it’s time to take a peek ahead to next season. For the phenomenal job that Baylor has done getting to this point as a program, they are going to have to contend with big losses, Butler and Mitchell chief among them. Because of that, a repeat effort is difficult to see playing out in the 2021-22 season.
So which teams will make it to the 2022 Final Four? We’re ready to make some irresponsibly early predictions for which teams will be in the premier quartet at the end of March Madness next year and, not only that, which team will follow in Baylor’s footsteps by winning a National Championship.
Predicting the 2022 Final Four and national champion
Alabama Crimson Tide
Nate Oats has proven he’s the right man for the job in Tuscaloosa as he had this team poised to make a deep tournament run tournament run until they ran into the UCLA buzzsaw. There are questions about whether or not two key players, John Petty and Herbert Jones, choose to return to Alabama. If either or both choose to, the Crimson Tide are going to be big trouble for any opponent they come up against.
But even if not, Alabama’s style of play and the guys Oats is bringing into the program produce a style of play that is made to succeed in March Madness. They play fast and shoot a plethora of 3-point attempts. If they have the right shooters in place, that’s dangerous every night that they take to the hardwood and it will lead them to a Fianl Four appearance.
After coming up short in the National Championship Game and missing out on the first perfect season in college basketball since 1976, don’t expect Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs to be going anywhere. They’re going to lose Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert but the expectation should be for big man Drew Timme, who was the Zags’ best player in the NCAA Tournament, to return along with Joel Ayayi.
More than that, the Bulldogs are expected to add the top recruit in the country, Chet Holmgren, along with another top-10 recruit in Hunter Sallis. Few has done a phenomenal job of turning this small school in Washington into a national powerhouse and they should have another opportunity to cut down the nets when next year’s Final Four rolls around.
While UCLA went down as one of the Cinderella teams of March Madness this past year as they made ito the Final Four and took Gonzaga to the wire, it was a testament to the talent on the roster and coaching of Mick Cronin. They found their identity and that’s something they can build on going into next season, especially since they should have eve more talent on the roster.
Chris Smith, who missed all but eight games in the 2020-21 season, should be back and Johnny Juzang could return as well. Throw in 5-star recruit Peyton Watson potentially entering the fray for the Bruins and this team is going to be loaded and, after this year’s tournament run, they proved they can beat anyone. Expect March Mick to make another appearance next season.
Michigan Wolverines – National Champions
Juwan Howard is seemingly ahead of schedule with his alma mater as Michigan came into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. They were behind the 8-ball with Isaiah Livers getting injured but it still put up a fight that had them on the precipice of the Final Four. Not only are they going to get over that hump next season, though, the Wolverines are going to be cutting down the nets when it’s all said and done.
Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner are expected to return to Ann Arbor next season but they’ll be joined by 5-star recruits Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan to form the most talented frontcourt in the country. If any of Livers, Eli Brooks or Mike Smith come back to the fold, this team is going to be complete in every facet and be near impossible to stop.
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