College basketball is a rare type of game. In most college sports, the largest programs dominate every season. Teams outside of the Power 5 have no shot of competing for a title, and they would not have a chance if they faced off against a blue-blood in the regular season.
However, college basketball is different. Mid-major programs have more experience, and their chemistry is sound. Due to the nature of basketball, the physical discrepancies between athletes are minimized. At the end of the day, it only takes a hot shooter to win a game.
With so many mid-major teams making it to the NCAA Tournament, we always see surprise runs from lower-level programs. It only takes one five-star talent or a seasoned senior to make the difference in the postseason, and they can be found on almost every team.
The problem is that there are so many mid-major teams in the mix. Most of them won’t make the NCAA Tournament, and even fewer will make it out of the first round. So, which teams are actually contenders this season?
Okay, let’s get the elephant out of the room with Gonzaga. They are easily the frontrunners to win it all next year. They have a great coach, and they retain plenty of talent from last year’s title-contending team. Also, Gonzaga will bring in one of the best recruiting classes in program history, so don’t be surprised if they are even better this year.
Many will scoff at the idea of Gonzaga being a mid-major, but they technically are. That hasn’t stopped them from being a dominant program in recent years. They rely on well-coached teams that focus on the fundamentals. They have few weaknesses, and they can compete with the best teams in college basketball.
There’s no doubt that Gonzaga will be a top team this season, but can they win it all? With +550 odds, they are clearly the favorites.
Gonzaga should have a better roster last year, but they were the clear frontrunners in 2021. At some point, they just have to get over the hump and win it all. If they can’t do it this season, they may never manage to do so.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies
If you are looking for a team that is flying under the radar, look no further. St. Bonaventure returns every starter from last year, and each of them scored in the double-digits. They lost most of their bench production, but they will bring in plenty of transfers to add depth to the roster.
The Bonnies can switch on defense thanks to their lengthy guards, and they have plenty of options to score. Teams in the Atlantic 10 will be unable to stop all of their scorers on a nightly basis.
St. Bonaventure was a 9-seed last season, but their returning stars should bump that up in 2022. If they can get enough bench production from their transfers, look out for them to compete in the NCAA Tournament. They could make it as far as the Sweet Sixteen without it being a surprise.
They have size and production offensively. They were one of the best defenses in the country last season, and they bring back plenty of production. They’ll be fun to watch, and they’ll likely make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Loyola-Chicago is dangerous simply because of its history in the NCAA Tournament. If they make it, they are a threat to beat anyone and everyone. It defies logic and reasoning. At the end of the day, they can put it all together at the right time and win when it matters most.
Loyola-Chicago made the Final Four a few years ago, and they reached the Sweet Sixteen last season. That is more success than most blue-blood programs have seen in the same timespan.
The bad news is that the Ramblers will be without their head coach and star player from last season. Still, they retain chemistry with a deep roster and an assistant taking over. It’ll be interesting to see if they can retain that level of success with a new head coach, but don’t be surprised if they make it back to the Sweet Sixteen in 2022.