The Baylor Bears and the Texas Tech Red Raiders made the ‘Magic Eight,’ a ranking put together of the most likely teams to win the 2022 National Championship.
The SI piece said the goal of the ‘Magic Eight’ was simple: “Identify the eight teams that can win the national championship and separate the contenders from the pretenders in the process.”
To writer Kevin Sweeney, the Bears and the Red Raiders make the cut, along with Gonzaga, Auburn, Arizona, Kentucky, Duke and Ohio State.
So why the Bears and the Red Raiders?
Sweeney pointed out that when it comes to Baylor, the backcourt — James Akinjo, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer (who is out with an injury right now) — is good enough help the Bears win games in March. He acknowledged the season-ending injury to forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, but he wrote that freshmen Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan still make the Bears longer and more athletic, and that Sochan can be an ‘X-factor’ player in Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s absence.
As for Texas Tech, Sweeney’s analysis leans on what he calls Texas Tech’s elite defense and first-year head coach Mark Adams’ experience on the Red Raiders’ bench as an assistant coach during the 2019 NCAA Championship game run as positives.
“The Red Raiders have length and athleticism at every position and a roster completely bought into defending at the highest level,” Sweeney wrote.
He also pointed out that Tech is less reliant on forward Terrence Shannon Jr. for offense and because other players have stepped up, it makes them more dangerous.
Sweeney left Kansas out of his ‘Magic Eight,’ citing concerns about point guard play — where Remy Maritn is currently out due to injury — and the inconsistency of forward David McCormack, who is coming off a double-double against Oklahoma State on Monday. The Jayhawks lead the Big 12.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.