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ESPN's first Bracketology for 2022 NCAA Tournament has Nevada in the field

Steve Alford
Steve Alford is looking to get Nevada back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

Let the hype begin.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi released his first Bracketology for the 2022 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, and Nevada made the cut. Just barely.

The Wolf Pack is projected to play in a First Four game against Saint Mary's. Nevada is predicted to be the third-to-last team into the field ahead of only Creighton and Richmond. Wichita State, which just lost transfer Trey Wade to Nevada, is projected as the first team out of the tournament.

Nevada made three straight NCAA tournaments from 2017-19, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2018, before missing this year's event. The 2020 NCAA Tournament wasn't held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the Wolf Pack didn't have the résumé to get an at-large bid into the tournament that season.

In year three under coach Steve Alford, the Wolf Pack has built a roster capable of ending its NCAA Tournament mini-drought. Nevada returns all five of its starters, including All-Mountain West honorees Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge Jr. The Wolf Pack also adds transfers Wade, Oregon's Addison Patterson and Texas' Will Baker, the latter of those two joining Nevada at the semester break last season.

The winner of the projected Nevada-Saint Mary's First Four game would advance to play No. 6 seed North Carolina in the first round. The Wolf Pack is one of two MW teams projected in the field. Colorado State, which Lunardi projects to win the MW's automatic bid, is listed as a 10 seed against No. 7 Virginia Tech. Boise State is listed among the "first four out" while San Diego State made the "next four out" category.

The Wolf Pack went 19-12 overall and 12-6 in the MW in Alford's first season and 16-10 overall and 10-7 in conference last year. Prior to coming to Nevada, Alford had made the NCAA Tournament in six of his previous eight seasons, including four times at UCLA and twice with New Mexico. He's coached in 11 NCAA Tournaments, going 11-11 with four Sweet 16 appearances.

Lunardi's four No. 1 seeds include Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas and Alabama. He has Gonzaga as the No. 1 overall seed. Lunardi lists Arkansas, led by former Nevada coach Eric Musselman, as a No. 3 seed.

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