As a staple of CBS television coverage of the NCAA Tournament for the past three decades, and as someone who played in the Big Dance for Ohio State, Clark Kellogg knows more about March Madness than most.
So when Kellogg looks at the national picture entering Selection Sunday on CBS this year and sees the potential for chaos, it's probably best to listen and prepare to make your bracket picks accordingly.
"I see this one being more of a case of some double-digit seeds and maybe some of the mid-single digit seeds making noise," Kellogg said. "A team like Iowa, A team like Seton Hall, a team like UConn. Those kinds of teams outside the top seeds, they could be really dangerous. I just think you've got so much compression that I don't anticipate chalk walking to the Sweet 16.
"I think we're going to have some turbulence on the way to the second weekend"
After a strange 2021 NCAA Tournament held in a controlled environment in Indiana with limited attendance, and after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19, this year's event will be the first since 2019 to feel like a "normal" NCAA Tournament. But normal in college basketball typically means madness, and Kellogg has also identified a couple of teams who may even be double-digit seeds who could make noise next week.
"I've always got those kinds of teams on my radar," he said. "In the double-digit seed area — just projecting — I love what I've seen from Chattanooga. They've got positional size that is not the norm for a mid-major team. Silvio De Sousa, a Kansas transfer and big fella', is impactful on both ends. They've also got size in the back court with Malachi Smith. Chattanooga is a team that I think will be a double-digit seed that can be a surprise. Then, Memphis, if they get there, they will most likely be a double-digit seed and also be a very, very dangerous one because of their depth, athleticism and their defensive prowess."
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While Kellogg likes the chances of UConn, Iowa and Seton Hall from the projected mid-single digit line and with Memphis and Chattanooga as potential dark-horse teams from double-digit seeds, his projected national champion entering Selection Sunday is a team likely to be a No. 1 seed.
"At this point, I am leaning towards Gonzaga," Kellogg said. "They've been banging on the door for several years, been in a couple of championship games. They were primed and ready to be a No. 1 seed in 2020 as well. They clearly have the ingredients: size, a unique player in Chet Holmgren, a terrific guard in Andrew Nembhard, and they are highly motivated."
Kellogg envisions last season's loss to Baylor in the national title game being a motivating factor for Gonzaga players like Nembhard, Drew Timme, Anton Watson and Julian Strawther who were part of that team. But Kellogg acknowledged the group of potential national champions is perhaps 8-12 deep.
One of the top stories of the 2022 NCAA Tournament will be Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski making his final appearance in the event as he prepares to retire at the conclusion of his 42nd season leading the program. The Blue Devils, according to Kellogg, are among that group of 8-12 teams capable of winning it all.
"Duke is a young team in terms of three of their key players are first-year guys but playing well beyond their years in (Trevor) Keels, (AJ) Griffin and (Paolo) Banchero. They've got a nice mix. They've got size, shooting, they've got solid play at the point. They're a championship-caliber team. I don't think there's any question about that. They're in that upper tier, that first tier."
There is no telling exactly how things will turn out -- perfect brackets are exceedingly rare -- but there is one thing Kellogg is guaranteed to be correct about, which is how great it will be to have a normal NCAA Tournament back. For him, that means enjoying routine interactions with fellow on-air personalities and behind the scenes crew members with CBS and Turner in the early days of the tournament.
Then, on site for the Final Four in New Orleans, it means interacting with fans, coaches, players and other media as part of the March Madness he's been one of the faces of now for nearly 30 years.
"There's just an energy and an excitement," Kellogg said. "People fuel one another. We need the fuel of other people. We are created to be interdependent and engaged. That's why this has been so difficult on multiple levels, not just in our corner of the world in sports but globally. There is a need for human connection and interaction and engagement. That takes place in a really amplified way during this wonderful three-plus week run to a championship that captivates the nation in so many ways."