March Madness regional breakdowns: Teams and players to watch

UCLA's Johnny Juzang (3) celebrates after a play against Arizona during the first half.
UCLA’s Johnny Juzang (3) celebrates in front of teammate Tyger Campbell during Saturday’s Pac-12 championship game against Arizona.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

UCLA, USC and Cal State Fullerton all learned on Selection Sunday where they will start their NCAA tournament journeys.

The Bruins (25-7) are the No. 4 seed in the East Region and will open against No. 13 Akron (24-9) on Thursday in Portland, Ore. If UCLA wins, it will face the winner of the No. 5 St. Mary’s (25-7) vs. No. 12 Wyoming or Indiana matchup on Saturday in Portland.

USC (26-7) is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and will face No. 10 Miami (23-10) Friday in Greenville, S.C. If the Trojans advance, they would face the winner of No. 2 Auburn (27-5) vs. No. 15 Jacksonville State (21-10) on Sunday in Greenville.

And Cal State Fullerton (21-10), the only other Los Angeles area team to make the field, is the No. 15 seed in the West Region and will face No. 2 Duke (28-6) in Greenville on Friday. It will be Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final NCAA tournament appearance after announcing his retirement at the end of this season.


The complete 68-team bracket for the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

UCLA flirted with a No. 3 seed and a chance to open the tournament in nearby San Diego, but Texas Tech (25-9) ultimately locked up the spot. The Bruins proved last season they could overcome seeding challenges, going from a First Four matchup to the Final Four.

Gonzaga, which beat UCLA in the Final Four last season, is the No. 1 overall seed atop the bracket. Arizona, which defeated the Bruins in the Pac-12 tournament championship Saturday night, Baylor and Kansas clinched the other No. 1 seeds.

Dayton, Okahoma, SMU and Texas A&M were the last four teams out and were designated first-round replacement teams if any school in the field has to withdraw because of COVID-19 issues.

Thirty-one teams received automatic bids and 37 teams comprised the rest of the at-large pool. The tournament tips off Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. PDT in Dayton, Ohio, with the First Four games. The first round starts Thursday at 9 a.m. PDT.

A year after the NCAA tournament was staged in a bubble in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 concerns, the games are returning to regional sites across the country.



Gonzaga forward Drew Timme
(Ellen Schmidt / Associated Press)

No. 1 Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are the tournament’s top overall seed and are consistent Sweet 16 contenders, but the 2021 runner-up has never won a national championship.


No. 2 Duke: This isn’t Mike Krzyzewski’s most talented team, but the group clearly understands the importance of trying to send the retiring legend out with another championship.

No. 3 Texas Tech: The Red Raiders ousted No. 1 seed Kansas at home earlier this season and impressed the selection committee enough to bump UCLA out of a coveted No. 3 seed.

No. 4 Arkansas: Former NBA coach Eric Musselman has the Razorbacks humming, with the offense flowing through versatile sophomore Jaylin Williams.

Cinderella search

Teddy Allen, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year and newcomer of the year, is an elite shooter who averages 19.4 points per game. He leads a balanced New Mexico State lineup..


Top players

Drew Timme, forward, Gonzaga: The All-American and West Coast Conference player of the year helped the Bulldogs post a 55-4 record since the start of last season. Timme leads Gonzaga with 17.6 points per game and ranks among the top 25 in field-goal percentage (58.3).

Paolo Banchero, forward Duke: The ACC freshman of the year and first team All-ACC selection averages 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Banchero is an NBA draft lottery prospect and finalist for the John R. Wooden Award.

Bryson Williams, Texas Tech: The super senior is making the most of his COVID year after stops at Texas-El Paso and Fresno State. Williams, a unanimous first team All-Big 12 selection averaging 13.7 and 4.3 points per game, will be making his first NCAA tournament appearance.

Rim shots


  • Former NBA star Penny Hardaway led his alma mater Memphis to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. The deepest run Hardaway made as a player was to the Elite Eight in 1992.
  • Gonzaga’s Chet Holgren is atop many mock NBA draft boards, but the 7-foot, 195-pound athlete could use a strong tournament run to make the case his thin frame won’t hold him back in the NBA.
  • Former Duke star Dan Hurley has been steadily molding Connecticut into a consistent tournament contender after the program faced NCAA investigations and a messy coaching change.

— Sam Farmer and Iliana Limón Romero



Illinois center Kofi Cockburn grabs a rebound during a game.
Illinois center Kofi Cockburn
(Duane Burleson / Associated Press)

No. 1 Arizona: The Wildcats won the Pac-12 regular season by three games over second-place UCLA and have lost once — by 16 points at Colorado — since Jan.25.

No. 2 Villanova: The Wildcats have won five Big East titles in eight years. They were the No.2 seed in the South in 2016 and won a national championship.

No. 3 Tennessee: The Volunteers are one of only three teams to beat Arizona this season, defeating the Wildcats 77-73 on Dec.22 in Knoxville.


No. 4 Illinois: Despite recent success in the Big Ten tournament, the Illini won a share of the conference’s regular-season title for the first time since 2005.

Cinderella search

Why not Chattanooga? The Mocs already have had a prayer answered this March. They secured their bid when guard David Jean-Baptiste hit a three-pointer at the overtime buzzer to beat Furman in the Southern Conference final.

Top players

Kofi Cockburn, center, Illinois: The 7-foot Cockburn is the only player in the country averaging at least 20 points (21.1) and 10 rebounds (10.6). Nationally, he ranks 11th and eighth, respectively, and is a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar center of the year award.

David Roddy, forward, Colorado State: At 6-6 and 255 pounds, Roddy is thicker than most star players. He averages 19.4 points and 7.6 rebounds and was Mountain West Conference player of the year.

E.J. Liddell, forward, Ohio State: A junior, Liddell toyed with the idea of entering the NBA draft last year before deciding to remain in college. His improved play this season includes averaging 19.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.


Rim shots

  • Bryant’s Peter Kiss leads the nation in scoring, averaging 25.1 points. A 6-5 senior guard, Kiss reached 30 points 10 times this season.
  • Delaware is 0-15 all time against Villanova, the most recent loss coming in 2019. Blue Hens coach Martin Ingelsby grew up rooting for the Wildcats, and his father, Tom, was a Villanova standout.
  • Loyola Chicago is coached by Drew Valentine, who took over the program last year at age 29. As a player, he was part of the Oakland program that made back-to-back NCAA appearances starting in 2010.

— Jeff Miller



Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji drives to the basket.
Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

No. 1 Kansas: The Jayhawks’ six-man rotation is top-notch. Their 32nd consecutive tournament appearance is a record, and coach Bill Self is chasing his second title.

No. 2 Auburn: The talented Tigers began the season going 22-1 before cooling down the stretch because of turnovers and cold long-distance shooting.


No. 3 Wisconsin: The Badgers overcame offseason turmoil to wildly exceed expectations and win the Big Ten regular-season title.

No. 4 Providence: The Friars have repeatedly won the hearts of March Madness fans with their unselfish, gritty style. This edition under coach Ed Cooley is no different.

Cinderella search

San Diego State, is 11-2 since Feb. 6 with both losses coming at the hands of Boise State. A smothering defense inside the arc and the emergence of Cal transfer Matt Bradley give the Aztecs an edge over Creighton and a shot at toppling Kansas in the second round.

Top players


Johnny Davis, forward, Wisconsin: Projected to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten, the Badgers rose to the top on the back of Davis, a Wisconsin native who was solid as a freshman before developing into a potential NBA lottery pick this season.

Ochai Agbaji, guard, Kansas: A Kansas City kid who backed out of the 2021 NBA draft, Agbaji is a deadeye shooter and senior leader for the top-seeded Jayhawks. He elevated his game from a Big 12 honorable mention as a junior and sophomore to a national player of the year candidate.

Jabari Smith, forward, Auburn: A prolific scorer from inside and beyond the arc, the 6-10 Smith could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and is the primary reason Auburn was ranked No. 1 for three weeks for the first time in school history.

Rim shots

  • Iowa, Two of the Midwest Region’s top players have twins on their teams: Kris Murray complements Keegan at Iowa by averaging 10.0 PPG and Jordan Davis complements Johnny at Wisconsin as a role player off the bench.
  • Louisiana State fired coach Will Wade on Saturday after receiving a notice that details significant misconduct. Assistant Kevin Nickelberry will serve as the interim coach and lead the Tigers into the tournament.

— Steve Henson



Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe celebrates during a game.
Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

No. 1 Baylor: If the Bears are going to repeat as national champions, they’ll have to do it without injured contributors Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and LJ Cryer.

No. 2 Kentucky: John Calipari’s Wildcats, led by a bunch of talented transfers, are hoping to advance to their first Final Four since 2015 and put an end to the surprising drought.

No. 3 Purdue: The Boilermakers enjoy a luxury few teams have — two dominant big men in 7-4 Zach Edey and veteran shotmaker Trevion Williams.

No. 4 UCLA: A year after making a run from the First Four to the Final Four, the Bruins are a favorite to make the second weekend thanks to the chemistry of the same cast of characters.

Cinderella search


San Francisco is making its first NCAA tournament trip since 1998 as a No. 10 seed. The Dons could conceivably beat No. 7 seed Murray State and put their top-notch defense to the test against Kentucky.

Top players

Oscar Tshiebwe, center, Kentucky: The West Virginia transfer has been one of the stars of college basketball this season, averaging a ridiculous 17 points and 15.1 rebounds.

Jaden Ivey, guard, Purdue: Purdue is known for its big man duo of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams, but Ivey is a first-round NBA talent who can score at will when he gets rolling and rise for amazing dunks.

Johnny Juzang, guard, UCLA: Juzang didn’t have the All-America type season that many projected when he returned, but he still has the fearless mentality that can ignite another Bruins run to the Final Four.


Rim shots

  • To make a second straight Final Four, Baylor could have to go through three straight blue-bloods: No. 8 North Carolina, No. 4 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky.
  • Last year, North Carolina lost in the first round for just the second time in school history. First-year coach Hubert Davis will try to get the Tar Heels back in the win column.
  • After missing the NCAA tournament with a 9-16 record last year, Kentucky raided the transfer portal for four key players, including national player of the year candidate Oscar Tshiebwe.

— J. Brady McCollough