The Heavy Hitters: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, and Baylor

This section is featured in SLAM’s 2022 MBB March Madness Preview. Here, we take a look at some of the teams that have been dominant throughout the season. This section is featured in our Women’s March Madness Preview. Tap in here.

The Dog House – Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-3)

Simply put, this Gonzaga team is different. They’re led by an unlikely duo — a mustache-donning junior from Texas and a seven-foot unicorn freshman from Minnesota. That duo is Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren, who are both John R. Wooden Award candidates.

Timme, the 2022 WCC Player of the Year, averages 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He’s made it clear that he wants to win it all,

“I came back [to Gonzaga] to win a championship and get better,” he said. “That’s all I’m focused on.” 

Holmgren averages 14.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game, good for fourth in the NCAA. He projects to be a top-three selection in the upcoming NBA Draft due to his unique skill set for his physical stature at such a young age.

However, it’s not entirely the Timme and Holmgren show. After all, you don’t lead the nation in points per game (87.8) with just two elite players. This Bulldogs team has multiple threats. Sophomore Julian Strawther is an outstanding player, averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting the long ball at a 39.6 percent clip. Strawther’s backcourt partner Senior Andrew Nembhard averages 11.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Then there’s the sharpshooter Rasir Bolton who’s shooting a ridiculous 46.7 percent from deep.

This Bulldogs team is well-rounded and dangerous. They will take on No. 16 Georgia St in the first round.

Top of the Pac – Arizona Wildcats (31-3)

It’s not often that a first-year head coach leads a team to be so dominant in college play. Arizona’s Tommy Lloyd has done just that in his first season as a Division I coach. Of course, Coach Lloyd didn’t put on a jersey himself, but he was able to direct some top-tier talent in the right direction. Two players come to mind when it comes to Lloyd’s coaching ability.

Pac-12 Player of the Year and a potential high lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft Bennedict Mathurin and Pac-12 Defensive and Most Improved Player of the Year Christian Koloko.

Mathurin — a product of the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City — averages 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while Koloko averages 12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. Those two are the primary anchors on this well-rounded Wildcats team with few weaknesses. Other huge contributors are Azuolas Tubelis (14.5 points, 6.4, and 1.1 steals) and Kerr Kriisa (10.1 points and 4.9 assists).

In the opening round, this dynamic Arizona team will face the winner between Bryant and Wright State.

Flying Above the Competition – Kansas Jayhawks (28-6)

The hard-nosed Kansas Jayhawks team is ready to make a run at a title. The lead man for the Jayhawks is Big 12 Player of the Year Ochai Agbaji, who’s currently projected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Agbaji averages 19.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range.

Aside from Agbaji, Kansas also has homegrown Christian Braun (14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds), Jalen Wilson (10.9 points and 7.0 rebounds), and David McCormack (10.1 points and 7.0 rebounds). This team is loaded with a roster of experienced players, with nine-time Big 12 Champion Coach Bill Self at the helm, looking to win their first NCAA crown since 2008.

In the first round, this tested Kansas team will face the winner between Texas Southern and Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

Leaving the Den – Baylor Bears (26-6)

At this time of year, green is associated with St. Patricks Day. However, the Baylor Bears will need no ‘Luck of the Irish’ to compete deep into this year’s NCAA tournament. The defending National Champions will look to repeat their success, with their loaded offensive unit at the forefront.

Baylor has an impressive seven players that average eight or more points per game, showcasing their well-rounded offensive prowess. While Baylor puts up 76.5 points per game as a unit, they’re led by a few standout players. Big 12 First-Team selection James Akinjo averages 13.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.1 steals per game, while his backcourt partner Adam Flager averages 13.4 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. LJ Cryer is averaging 13.5 points per game in large part due to his elite 46.8 percent clip from deep.

The defending champions will face No. 16 Norfolk St in the first round.