MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – APRIL 08: Virginia Cavaliers fans cheer on their team against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the second half during the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
With the NCAA opting to cancel March Madness, we simulated the entire projected NCAA Tournament to see what possibly could’ve happened in real life.
The shock has surely worn off by now, but the NCAA’s decision to cancel March Madness due to the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t hurt any less – especially as we’ve now reached the time when we would’ve had a bracket in our hands.
What could’ve happened during the 2020 NCAA Tournament will likely remain one of the biggest “what-ifs” in sports history. Would schools like Dayton and San Diego State have turned their historic seasons into Final Four berths? Would Gonzaga have won their first national championship? In a largely wide-open and even field, how many teams could’ve made Cinderella runs?
In an effort to try to answer some of these questions (and because what else am I going to do without any sports), I decided to simulate the 2020 NCAA Tournament using current and updated rosters on College Hoops 2K8, the greatest college basketball video game ever made. Because, while we all know what we think would’ve happened, one of the biggest things we love about March Madness is the unpredictability of it. As such, this takes my thoughts out of the equation.
The matchups and selections came from the latest bracket created by Busting Brackets bracketologist Lukas Harkins, so if you’d like to fill out a pseudo-bracket to see how you would do against this simulation, I encourage it!
So, before we dive into the full tournament, let’s get to the First Four. These had to be simulated separately because, back in 2008, the NCAA Tournament only had 65 teams. Here are the results:
(16) NC Central 71, (16) Robert Morris 61
(16) Boston University 68, (16) Prairie View A&M 60
(12) Cincinnati 71, (12) Texas Tech 59
(11) Xavier 82, (11) NC State 69
Some intriguing First Four matchups turned out to be handled pretty easily by the victorious teams. Texas Tech’s offense couldn’t get going against the Bearcats, shooting just 1/11 from three-point range on the game. NC State had similar struggles against Xavier, who controlled the game from start to finish behind 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists from Naji Marshall.
Now, let’s jump into the rest of the bracket, going region by region with recaps after each round: