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Should Gonzaga Be Favored to Win the 2022 NCAA Tournament Over Michigan and UCLA?

Should Gonzaga Be Favored to Win the 2022 NCAA Tournament Over Michigan and UCLA?
Anton Watson #22 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs goes up to the basket . Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

College basketball is nearly impossible to predict for many reasons. Roster turnover happens so quickly that teams can make meteoric rises in less than a season. So much of the sport is left up to chance, and the structure of the NCAA Tournament makes it hard to win it all.

Still, there are a few key frontrunners in college basketball this season. Gonzaga is coming off a national championship appearance and an undefeated regular season. They lost Jalen Suggs, but their recruiting class is incredibly strong. With elite coaching and a strong roster, they are the easy favorites to win a national title in 2022. Take it into consideration for your future NCAAB odds.

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The question isn’t if they are the favorites. It’s whether or not they should be. There are plenty of other solid teams with title hopes this year. Michigan was easily one of the best teams in college basketball last year, and UCLA returns key players from their Final Four run.

Gonzaga has +600 odds to win a title despite failing to get over the hump year after year. Will this be different? Should another team be the favorite to win it all?

Why Gonzaga Is the Favorite

Mark Few is one of the most underrated coaches in all of college basketball. He’s built an elite program at Gonzaga despite not having the same recruiting pull as the other powerhouses in college basketball. He’s done it by developing strong players over their collegiate careers until they are ready to contribute as upperclassmen.

Head coach Mark Few of the Gonzaga Bulldogs looks on during the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

We saw a tweak in Few’s strategies last year after he recruited Jalen Suggs. Suggs was an elite recruit who was going to leave for the NBA after one year. After his only season with the Bulldogs, he became a lottery pick and was easily one of the best players in Gonzaga history.

Gonzaga has to replace him, but they are bringing in their best recruiting class ever. If they can turn these new players into more elite players at the collegiate level, Gonzaga could be even better this year.

The Bulldogs retain plenty of talent from last year’s title-contending team. They bring back their coach, and the recruiting class is phenomenal. It’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt after losing last year, but this team should be just as good if not better, and that is more than enough to win a title.

The Contenders

Gonzaga is the frontrunner, and it is clear why. However, there are plenty of other great teams in college basketball. Two of the top contenders will be Michigan and UCLA. The Wolverines have one of the best new coaches in the game, and he has turned the program around in his short stint as head coach. Michigan should be in the title hunt as long as Howard is proving himself as the head coach.

UCLA had an incredible rise in the NCAA Tournament, but one must remember that they were a Cinderella story for a reason. They caught lightning in a bottle, but that’s hard to duplicate. It’s nice to bring back Johnny Juzang and other key players, but will that be enough to get past Gonzaga? I doubt it.

Outside of these two teams, there are plenty of contenders with an outside shot of winning it all. Baylor will try to repeat despite losing most of their key contributors. Alabama has high hopes after winning both SEC titles last year, and Duke wants to do something special in Coach K’s final year as a head coach.

So, Should Gonzaga Be the Favorites?

This is one of those situations where the numbers on paper argue with the facts of life. On paper, Gonzaga is easily the best team in college basketball. They were the top overall seed last year, and they bring back more talent than almost any other title contender. They also have the best recruiting class in school history, and nothing points to them regressing besides losing Suggs.

Joel Ayayi, former player of the Gonzaga Bulldogs looks on. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

However, the facts of life are different. Despite being a top-level team in the past, they have yet to win a national championship. They failed to do so last year, and it’s hard to go from losing the title game to winning the title in the following year. Also, the top-ranked team rarely wins the national title.

If basketball were a game played on paper, the Bulldogs would have this in the bag. Since it’s not, it’s hard to believe the Bulldogs will win it all. They’re still the favorite, but I would choose the field over the Bulldogs.