Sportsline simulates every game in NCAA Tournament
For the first time in 80 years, college basketball’s worst fears were confirmed this week as the sport’s governing body decided to cancel the NCAA Tournament this month due to coronavirus concerns in the safety of players, coaches and team personnel as the pandemic sweeps the country. Fans, media and coaches alike voiced their dissatisfaction with the necessary decision, a choice that comes down hardest on players who have prepared for this defining moment in March.
In the spirit of a consolation prize, Sportsline on Friday simulated every game in the NCAA Tournament, down to the Final Four and national title game to give fans a glimpse at what might’ve been.
Sportsline’s model used a bracket from CBS Sports bracketology expert Jerry Palm, whose projected top seeds were Kansas in the Midwest as the overall No. 1, Baylor in the South, Dayton in the East, Gonzaga in the West. In the Final Four, it’s East vs. Midwest and South vs. West. Oddsmakers labeled the Jayhawks as the favorite going in, but we won’t get to see potential upsets taking place or a cinderella hoisting the trophy in April.
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Here’s a look at the simulated NCAA Tournament bracket based on Palm’s 64-team projection:
Round of 64
Sportsline’s simulated opening-round picks by region: MIDWEST — No. 1 Kansas over No. 16 Robert Morris; No. 9 Florida over No. 8 Arizona State; No. 5 Wisconsin over No. 12 East Tennessee State; No. 4 Kentucky over No. 13 Vermont; No. 6 Illinois over No. 11 Cincinnati; No.3 Duke over No. 14 Arkansas Little Rock; No. 7 Michigan over No. 10 Utah State; No. 2 Creighton over No. 15 Belmont
EAST — No. 1 Dayton over No. 16 Winthrop; No. 8 St. Mary’s over No. 9 Oklahoma; No. 5 Auburn over No. 12 Akron; No. 4 Louisville over No. 13 Liberty; No. 6 West Virginia over No. 11 Rutgers; No. 3 Michigan State over No. 14 North Texas; No. 7 USC over No. 10 Indiana; No. 2 Villanova over No. 15 North Dakota State
WEST — No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 16 Siena; No. 9 Colorado over No. 8 Houston; No. 5 Penn State over No. 12 Stephen F. Austin; No. 4 Oregon over No. 13 New Mexico State; No. 6 BYU over No. 11 Stanford; No. 3 Seton Hall over No. 14 Hofstra; No. 7 Iowa over No. 10 Xavier; No. 2 San Diego State over No. 15 Eastern Washington
SOUTH — No. 1 Baylor over No. 16 Boston; No. 9 Arizona over No. 8 Marquette; No. 5 Ohio State over No. 12 Yale; No. 4 Butler over No. 13 Bradley; No. 11 Richmond over No. 6 Virginia; No. 3 Maryland over No. 14 UC Irvine; No. 10 LSU over No. 7 Providence; No. 2 Florida State over No. 15 Western Kentucky
Sportsline: “Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 schools in 1985, there have been just five years where at least one No. 12 seed DIDN’T upset a No. 5, last in 2018. Three No. 12s won in the first round in 2019 and it was nearly all four – New Mexico State was two missed free throws in the final seconds from knocking off No. 5 Auburn. However, the Model didn’t have a single No. 12 winning and only four upsets: No. 11 Richmond over No. 6 Virginia in the South (so much for Wahoos repeating); No. 10 LSU over No. 7 Providence also in the South; No. 9 Florida over No. 8 Arizona State in the Midwest; and No. 9 Colorado over No. 8 Houston in the West.”
Round of 32
(Photo: Jamie Squire, Getty)
Simulated picks: MIDWEST — No. 1 Kansas over No. 9 Florida; No. 4 Kentucky over No. 5 Wisconsin; No. 3 Duke over No. 6 Illinois; No. 2 Creighton over No. 7 Michigan
EAST — No. 1 Dayton over No. 8 St. Mary’s; No. 4 Louisville over No. 5 Auburn; No. 3 Michigan State over No. 6 West Virginia; No. 2 Villanova over No. 7 USC
WEST — No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 9 Colorado; No. 4 Oregon over No. 5 Penn State; No. 6 BYU over No. 3 Seton Hall; No. 2 San Diego State over No. 7 Iowa
SOUTH — No. 1 Baylor over No. 9 Arizona; No. 5 Ohio State over No. 4 Butler; No. 3 Maryland over No. 11 Richmond; No. 2 Florida State over No. 10 LSU.
Sportsline: “An even more chalk round for the Model, which obviously can’t project injuries or whether one team might be drained after playing a grueling overtime game in Round 1, etc. The only upset is No. 6 BYU of the West Coast Conference over No. 3 Seton Hall, a co-Big East regular-season champion, in the West Region. The Cougars showed what they are capable of on Feb. 22 when they upset Associated Press No. 2 Gonzaga 91-78 in Provo. The Bulldogs had won 40 consecutive regular-season conference games and 39 straight road contests against WCC opponents.”
(Photo: Wesley Hitt, Getty)
Simulated picks: EAST – No. 1 Dayton over No. 4 Louisville; No. 3 Michigan State over No. 2 Villanova
MIDWEST – No. 1 Kansas over No. 4 Kentucky; No. 3 Duke over No. 2 Creighton
SOUTH – No. 1 Baylor over No. 5 Ohio State; No. 2 Florida State over No. 3 Maryland
WEST – No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 4 Oregon; No. 2 San Diego State over No. 6 BYU
Sportsline: “That BYU-San Diego State game would be a regular-season rematch as the schools met in Provo way back on Nov. 9 and the Aztecs won 76-71. Interestingly, the only other such rematch in the Sweet 16 is also from the West. On Nov. 28 in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas, Gonzaga beat Oregon 73-72 in overtime. Ducks star Payton Pritchard, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, missed a jumper in the final seconds of OT to win.”
(Photo: Rob Kinnan, USA TODAY Sports)
Simulated picks: EAST – No. 1 Dayton over No. 3 Michigan State; MIDWEST – No. 3 Duke over No. 1 Kansas; SOUTH – No. 2 Florida State over No. 1 Baylor; WEST – No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 2 San Diego State
Sportsline: “The only school among these eight to never make a Final Four is San Diego State, which was the last team in the nation to lose this season. The only regular-season rematch is Kansas-Duke as they played in the season-opening Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden and the Blue Devils won 68-66. KU has won the past two NCAA Tournament matchups between the powerhouses, most recently in the 2018 Elite Eight.”
(Photo: Joe Robbins, Getty)
Simulated picks: No. 1 Dayton over No. 3 Duke; No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 2 Florida State
Sportsline: “Two top seeds making the Final Four is the second-most frequent occurrence since 1985 as it has happened 13 times, a percentage of 37.1. The most frequent is a single top seed 15 times (42.9 percent). A No. 2 seed has made 29 combined Final Four appearances, an average of 0.83 per year. A No. 3 has reached the national semifinals 17 times, an average of 0.49 per year.”
247Sports: After Coach K takes Duke to another Final Four appearance, the Blue Devils fall in this simulation to Obi Toppin and the top-seeded Dayton Flyers, who advance to the national championship game to battle Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs.
(Photo: Jeff Blake, USA TODAY Sports)
Anthony Grant and Dayton beat Gonzaga in Sportsline’s NCAA Tournament simulation to capture the 2020 National Championship, their first in program history in their second all-time Final Four appearance. The Flyers would’ve entered March Madness on the nation’s longest winning streak (20 games) and ranked No. 3 in the polls, vying for its first top seed in school history.
Grant said Thursday he understands the NCAA’s decision to cancel the Big Dance: “This is way bigger than basketball. We’ve got the health and safety of a lot of people to consider, that’s got to be first and foremost.”