What if the 2020 NCAA Tournament Happened

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sports world missed out on one of it’s biggest and most popular sporting events in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness. Now that the pandemic is declining, it is possible to speculate that the madness could return in 2021. Since we missed out on this year’s spectacle, let’s look at how the tournament could have possibly played out.

For the sake of this hypothetical NCAA Bracket, we took the team with the best record in each conference for the 32 automatic bids, and then we used the remaining teams with the best RPI rankings to fill in the at-large bids. Also to keep it simple we are going back to the classic 64 team bracket without play-in games, and we aren’t worrying about teams in the same conference being matched up in the first or second round. 

Automatic Bids

America East: Vermont 

American: Cincinnati 

A10: Dayton 

ACC: Florida State

Atlantic Sun: Liberty

Big 12: Kansas

Big East: Seton Hall

Big Sky: Eastern Washington

Big South: Winthrop

Big 10: Michigan State

Big West: UC Irvine

Colonial: Hofstra

Conference USA: North Texas

Horizon: Northern Kentucky

Ivy League: Yale

Metro Atlantic (MAAC): Siena

Mid American (MAC): Akron

Mid-Eastern (MEAC): NC Central

Missouri Valley: Bradley

Mountain West: Utah State

Northeast: Robert Morris

Ohio Valley: Belmont

Pac 12: Oregon

Patriot League: Boston University

SEC: Kentucky

SOCON: East Tennessee St.

Southland: Stephen F. Austin

Southwestern (SWAC): Prairie View A&M

Summit League: North Dakota State

Sun Belt: UALR (Little Rock)

WCC: Gonzaga

Western Athletic: New Mexico State

Mock Bracket

Teams Missing in Action

Indiana, Michigan, Texas, Mississippi St., Rutgers, Furman, Illinois, Iowa, Penn St., Duquesne, Xavier, San Francisco, NC State, UCLA.

(All ranked within top 64 RPI as of the creation of the bracket. In reality, I think quite a few of the Big 10 teams above such as Iowa, Penn St., etc. would’ve made the tournament if it played out.)

Bracket Analysis

The above bracket is obviously far from what would have actually happened, but it’s my opinion on how it could’ve went down given the teams that made the field in this hypothetical scenario. A trend that can be noticed in the bracket is that I gave Big 12 and Big East teams benefit of the doubt in many relatively even matchups because I believed that those two conferences were strong this season, thus diluting the records and rankings of teams in those conferences after they beat up on each other all season. On the flip side, I wasn’t as impressed with the ACC, and Louisville is the only team I truly believed in from that conference. 

Noting that the Big 12 and Big East were possibly the best conferences this season, it makes sense to see a Big 12/Big East matchup in the championship game. Having Kansas sweep was a pretty easy choice, as their only 3 losses were an early 2-point loss to Duke, a 1-point loss to Villanova, and a loss to Baylor. Along with their stellar win-loss record, the duo of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike was possibly the best duo in the entire nation. Dotson provided explosive scoring from the perimeter with 18.1 points per game, while Azubuike was unstoppable in the paint with 13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting a whopping 74.8%. 

Their opponent, Creighton, probably isn’t a popular choice to make this kind of run, but I believe they had the right matchups and team composition to make a run to the championship game. Their first two matchups against Siena and Richmond aren’t too difficult in my opinion, but their Sweet 16 matchup with Providence was intriguing to me. They split two meetings with Providence during their conference season, and I really only gave Creighton the edge because they had a far superior non-conference performance. 

The upset over Baylor is obviously questionable, as Baylor was arguably the second-best team all season behind Kansas. Baylor also ranked 24th in the nation in turnover ratio, meaning they were one of the best teams at maintaining possession of the ball while forcing opponents to give it up. However, Creighton’s two best players were guards and the team ranked 17th in the nation for fewest turnovers, and I believe that strong guard play is key in March, essentially giving Creighton an advantage in this matchup.

Creighton and Dayton is really a tossup, but I just felt like Dayton didn’t have a strong enough non-conference schedule to prove their worth to me. Obviously Obi Toppin was one of the best players in the country, but I wasn’t sold on the entire team.

For the championship matchup, there wasn’t really any debate in my opinion. As stated earlier, the Dotson and Azubuike matchup would’ve been too overwhelming for Creighton. Even the stellar guard play of Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski wouldn’t be enough for Creighton to have a realistic shot, in my opinion. 

Let me know where you agree or disagree. This is highly subjective and speculative content, but I’d love to have a discussion surrounding it. 

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