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East region preview for the first round of the 2022 March Madness

We take a look at how the bracket for the East Region has come together ahead of the 2022 NCAA tournament, including a preview of what and how to watch following Selection Sunday.

Baylor Bears guard James Akinjo (11) handles the ball while defended by Oklahoma Sooners guard Jordan Goldwire (0) in the second half at T-Mobile Center.  Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The defending champion Baylor Bears will be the top team in the East Region in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Bears draw one of the toughest brackets with Kentucky as the 2-seed, Purdue and UCLA also in the region. UCLA made that cinderella run from last year to make the Final Four. Purdue was considered a contender heading into the season.

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Norfolk State

Baylor has a legitimate shot at winning their second straight National Championship this year. For the second year in a row, the teams scoring is widely spread out as seven players are averaging eight points or more per game, led by Arizona transfer James Akinjo.

Defense has been the forte for NSU this year, limiting opponents to just 29.3% shooting from three and 45.2% in effective field goal shooting.

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s

The Kentucky Wildcats will have the best player on the floor in every NCAA Tournament game they play. Big man Oscar Tshiebwe put up huge numbers this season and leads the country in rebounding.

Saint Peter’s comes into this field of 68 after winning its conference tournament. The Peacocks avoided top seed Iona in that bracket, but they’ll likely meet a No. 1 in the “Big Dance”. We’ll see if Saint Peter’s can put the clamps down defensively as it has done all season against a superior opponent.

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 14 Yale

Purdue boasts the nation’s top offense in adjusted efficiency per KenPom, shooting 57.3% in effective FG percentage.

Yale took down the top seed Princeton to win the Ivy League conference tournament and a trip to the “Big Dance”. If Azar Swain can get going, he’s capable of causing some problems in the bracket.

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Akron

The Bruins are a pretty well-rounded team. Juzang led the team in points per game, Myles Johnson led the team in rebounds per game with 5.7 and Tyger Campbell led the team in assists per game with 4.2.

Ali Ali and Xavier Castenada are the players to watch for this Akron team, which dominated Kent State in the MAC title game. The Zips get the conference’s automatic bid, but it’s hard to see how they’ll make noise in the tournament as they don’t have a true strength.

No. 5 St. Mary’s vs. No. 12 Wyoming/Indiana

The Gaels are guided by a stingy defense and head coach Randy Bennett, who has lots of NCAA Tournament experience. They defeated Gonzaga this season, so they won’t be fazed by any opponent.

Ike and Maldonado combined for 38.6 points, 15.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. They are a major part of the Cowboys offense and really that duo controls the pace of play for Wyoming.

The Indiana Hoosiers are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season in Year 1 under Mike Woodson, and they got here because of their defense. Trayce Jackson-Davis is about as good as it gets down low, and he is a real difference maker for this team.

No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech

The Longhorns have a ton of talent, but the question all year has been the team’s chemistry. Of their top seven scorers, five of them are transfers. Despite the integration of new talent, Texas remains one of the top defensive teams in the country. That’s usually a good formula to win in March if players haven’t been with each other for years.

The forward duo of Aluma and Mutts are a force to be reckoned with. They played in all 31 games for the Hokies and combined for 25.7 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.

No. 7 Murray State vs. No. 10 San Francisco

The Racers were outstanding during the regular season losing just two games and going undefeated in conference play. They’re led by big man K.J. Williams who is averaging 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

The Dons had three players average double-digit points this season. Bouyea (16.7), guard Khalil Shabazz (14.0) and Yauhen Massalski (13.5) led the team in scoring over the season.

No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Marquette

Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and Brady Manek form a dynamic trio for UNC, which had a tough time to start out ACC play but ended the regular season with five straight wins.

Rated 42nd in NET, the Golden Eagles posted a 6-7 record against Quad 1 opponents this season. Shaka Smart is looking to make a sizeable NCAA Tournament impact in his first season with the program.