The Detroit Sports Czar’s 2020 NCAA Tournament Simulation

NCAA-2020-Final-Four-Logo-590x460

Loyal readers…both of you…may remember that one of the very first posts the Detroit Sports Czar brought to you was how to fix the NCAA tournament, despite the fact that it’s almost the perfect tournament.  So, as we sit here lamenting the fact that there’s no Final Four this year, I’ve decided to simulate the tournament for you, all while implementing some of the changes I suggested 7 years ago, and bringing about a few others.

And boy was it a doozy.  A 15 taking down a 2.  A 19-seed in the Sweet 16.  A 14-seed in the Final Four.  A mid-major champion.  You’re gonna love it.

(Unless you’re a Michigan fan.  Sorry…I only report the results.)

So let’s get to it.

The Ground Rules

Elimination of Conference Tournaments

If you’ll recall, the DSC loathes conference tournaments.  They’re nothing more than cash grabs and they screw deserving teams out of the tournament when they lose to an 8-seed in the first round of their conference tournament.  Worse, most conferences do not use the regular season as a mechanism for eliminating teams from their conference’s tournament, so what that 8-seed does in 4 days is more important than what the 1-seed did over 16-20 regular season games.

So we’re getting rid of them.  Rather than granting an automatic bid to every conference’s tournament champion, we’re giving automatic bids to the top 2 finishers in each conference.  But wait, DSC, I’m sure you’re saying, there are only 68 qualifiers for the tournament.  With 32 conferences and 2 automatic bids, that only leaves 4 at-large qualifiers, doesn’t it?  No it doesn’t, because we’re going to a…

96-Team Tournament

That’s right, 64 automatic bids, 32 at-large qualifiers.  The top 8 seeds in each region get a bye into the Thursday/Friday games, while seeds 9-24 play on Tuesday/Wednesday.  This is actually a decrease of 4 at-large bids, but in reviewing the new process, the lowest ranked at-large qualifier, which we’ll discuss shortly, is ranked 52nd in the nation.  Sorry, but if you can’t crack the top 52, you don’t have much of an argument to make the tournament.

Admittedly, in seeding these games, there were some less than ideal Tuesday/Wednesday matchups, but people love their brackets so much that they’ll tune in no matter what.  I had contemplated granting each of the conference champions an automatic bid to the Thursday/Friday games, but no one will argue that Prairie View deserves a bye ahead of, say, Duke or Louisville.

Modification of NIT

The NIT is an antiquated tournament that lost its importance when the NCAA allowed at-large teams in 1975.  Since then it’s been a second-tier tournament that has teams competing for who the 65th or 69th best team in the country is.  This is obviously misleading; if we were simply going by the quality of the teams, many NIT teams would qualify for the NCAA tournament ahead of automatic qualifiers from smaller conferences.  Still, the system is what it is, and it’s hard to argue that the NIT champion carries much cachet anymore.

So we’re changing that.  The NIT will continue to exist, and still as a consolation tournament, but instead of taking the top 32 teams that didn’t make the tournament, the NIT will consist of a 4-team tournament between the 4 highest ranked teams that didn’t make the Final Four.  We’ll see better matchups and more prestigious games, and we can still do it at Madison Square Garden the week preceding the Final Four.

Automatic Seeding

In 2000, Cincinnati had the best team in the nation.  Now, that’s no guarantee that they’d win the national championship, especially considering their history of early-round flameouts, but they should’ve been the #1 seed in the tournament.

Then Kenyon Martin broke his leg.

Because of the way seeding in the tournament works, instead of determining seedings based upon how the team played over the course of the entire season, injuries and how a school finished its season are huge factors in seeding the tournament.  With Martin gone, Cincinnati lost their next game in the conference tournament, the tournament committee dropped Cincinnati from #1 overall to #2 in the South, Michigan State was elevated to the #1 seed in the Midwest that Cincinnati had rightly earned, and was able to take advantage of Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games in Detroit and ride their way to the national championship.

(God that was painful to write for a Spartan.)

Numerous other factors are considered when seeding teams for the tournament, travel being foremost among them.  Theoretically, a top-level team could get matched up with a superior lower seed because that lower seeded team’s campus is closer to the first round games.  So we’re taking the human element out of the seedings.

With the sheer number of computer rankings determining the who’s played the best throughout the season, it’s possible to aggregate them and seed the qualifying teams from 1-96.  Simple and painless, we don’t need to hear mindless drivel about how difficult it is for the committee to put together a bracket.  Seriously, it literally took me about 2 hours to put it together.  The tournament committee is pointless.

Travel Considerations

When the committee is putting together the brackets you’ll hear a lot about pods where the games are played.  Teams are generally assigned to the pods closest to their campus, so, as I mentioned previously, a top seed is not necessarily playing the proper seed in their early round matchups.

Additionally, there are some rather stupid rules regarding home cities and arenas.  So this season, Gonzaga was allowed to play in Spokane because the tournament games were not taking place at their home stadium, while Creighton was barred from playing in Omaha because they were.  No more of that.

The top 16 teams are assigned geographically to the closest opening round tournament sites, in descending order.  The remaining teams fall in line behind them.

The Process

Before I get to the games, I’ll tell you that the rankings were determined by the aggregate rankings found here, with the rankings being done after the games of Sunday, March 8 (the final day of the regular season).

Simulation games were done at WhatIfSports.  I had contemplated doing 5- or 10-game “series” to determine who the “proper” winner should be, but that’s not how the tournament works.  If Virginia plays UMBC 10 times, they probably win 9.  But we all know how the game turns out.  So it was 1-and-done.  There were no shenanigans to come up with an outcome I preferred.  You’ll just have to trust me on that one.

(Sorry, I didn’t do play-by-plays or scoring stats or all-tournament teams…go to ESPN if you want that.)

The Games

Play-In Games

Midwest Region
(17) Harvard, (16) Northern Colorado 72
(9) Illinois 77, (24) North Carolina A&T 68
(12) Mississippi State 77, (21) South Alabama 76
(13) East Tennessee St. 94, (20) Siena 58
(11) Purdue 79, (22) St. Peter’s 70
(14) Vermont 71, (19) Murray State 70
(10) Oklahoma 67, (23) American 64
(18) UC Irvine 78, (15) Akron 66

South Region
(17) Wright State 79, (16) New Mexico State 75
(9) Wichita State 90, (24) UT Rio Grande Valley 75
(12) USC 74, (21) William & Mary 73
(13) NC State 80, (20) South Dakota St. 75
(11) Cincinnati 94, (22) Radford 67
(14) Northern Iowa 84, (19) Winthrop 74
(23) Cal State Northridge 92, (10) Utah State 89
(15) Stephen F. Austin 92, (18) Eastern Washington 90

West Region
(16) Belmont 91, (17) Loyola-Chicago 80
(9) Marquette 81, (24) NC Central 61
(12) Arkansas 81, (21) St. Francis (PA) 70
(20) Northern Kentucky 73, (13) Memphis (67)
(11) Indiana 80, (22) Abilene Christian 64
(19) Arkansas Little Rock 88, (14) Furman 77
(10) Richmond 79, (23) Robert Morris 47
(18) Colgate 84, (15) Yale 81

East Region
(16) North Texas 84, (17) Western Kentucky 75
(9) St. Mary’s 86, (24) Southern 67
(12) Stanford 86, (21) North Florida 76
(13) Arizona State 82, (20) Bowling Green 67
(22) Stony Brook 71, (11) Xavier 58
(19) North Dakota St. (74), UCLA 72
(10) Providence 90, (23) Prairie View 85
(15) Liberty 64, (18) Hofstra 60

First Round

Midwest Region
(1) Kansas 94, (17) Harvard 67
(9) Illinois 76, (8) Florida 73
(5) Kentucky 91, (12) Mississippi State 86
(4) Maryland 81, (13) East Tennessee St. 76
(11) Purdue 74, (6) Butler 71
(3) Michigan State 74, (14) Vermont 62
(7) Colorado 66, (10) Oklahoma 56
(2) Louisville 68, (18) UC Irvine 60

South Region
(1) Baylor 80, (17) Wright State 53
(8) Louisville 87, (9) Wichita State 75
(5) Auburn 94, (12) USC 75
(4) Ohio State 78, (13) NC State 77
(6) Wisconsin 78, (11) Cincinnati 76
(14) Northern Iowa 65, (3) Villanova 63
(7) Virginia 61, (23) Cal State Northridge 55
(15) Stephen F. Austin 87, (2) Duke 79

West Region
(1) Gonzaga 90, (16) Belmont 89
(9) Marquette 99, (8) Texas Tech 93
(12) Arkansas 94, (5) Seton Hall 89
(4) BYU 81, (20) Northern Kentucky 68
(6) Arizona 102, (11) Indiana 99
(3) Creighton 89, (19) Arkansas Little Rock 80
(10) Richmond 93, (7) Penn State 85
(2) Florida State 82, (18) Colgate 65

East Region
(1) Dayton 86, (16) North Texas 70
(8) Rutgers 72, (9) St. Mary’s 70
(5) Houston 74, (12) Stanford 71
(4) West Virginia 88, (13) Arizona State 81
(22) Stony Brook 88, (6) Michigan 86
(19) North Dakota St. 86, (3) Oregon 83
(7) Iowa 78, (10) Providence 57
(2) San Diego State 84, (15) Liberty

Round of 32

Midwest Region
(1) Kansas 103, (9) Illinois 82
(5) Kentucky 89, (4) Maryland 76
(3) Michigan State 77, (11) Purdue 65
(7) Colorado 90, (2) Louisville 81

South Region
(1) Baylor 89, (8) LSU 82
(5) Auburn 72, (4) Ohio State 56
(14) Northern Iowa 72, (6) Wisconsin 71
(7) Virginia 67, (15) Stephen F. Austin 57

West Region
(9) Marquette 90, (1) Gonzaga 85
(4) BYU 86, (12) Arkansas 76
(6) Arizona 94, (3) Creighton 90
(2) Florida State 76, (10) Richmond 62

East Region
(1) Dayton 93, (8) Rutgers 65
(4) West Virginia 76, (5) Houston 71
(19) North Dakota St. 75, (22) Stony Brook 67
(2) San Diego State 103, (7) Iowa 102

Sweet 16

Midwest Region
(1) Kansas 78, (5) Kentucky 58
(3) Michigan State 79, (7) Colorado 73

South Region
(5) Auburn, (1) Baylor 70
(14) Northern Iowa 76, Virginia 69

West Region

(4) BYU 95, (9) Marquette 79
(2) Florida State 82, (6) Arizona 77

East Region
(1) Dayton 82, (4) West Virginia 75
(2) San Diego State 83, (19) North Dakota St. 72

Elite 8

Midwest: (1) Kansas 98, (3) Michigan State 80
South: (14) Northern Iowa 81, (5) Auburn 76
West: (4) BYU 88, (2) Florida State 81
East: (1) Dayton 86, (2) San Diego State 66

NIT

Semifinals
(2) Florida State 92, (1) Gonzaga 72
(1) Baylor 103, (2) Duke 94

Finals
(2) Florida State 86, (1) Baylor 80

Final Four

(1) Kansas 79, (14) Northern Iowa 76
(1) Dayton 114, (4) BYU 108 (OT)

NCAA Title Game

(1) Dayton 81, (1) Kansas 61

So Michigan State doesn’t win the title.  Michigan, Villanova, Oregon, and Seton Hall all suffer first round defeats after some thought they’d be title contenders.  We get to see Duke lose twice.  Baylor’s late-season swoon continues.  Kansas proves that despite Bill Self’s campaigning, national championships are won on the field, not by having themselves declared when the season was abruptly canceled.  And in the cruelest twist, the championship in this aborted season goes to a mid-major having a season that comes once in a lifetime.

Really sorry we didn’t get to see it.

2020 DSC College Basketball Championship-page-001

One thought on “The Detroit Sports Czar’s 2020 NCAA Tournament Simulation

  1. Nice work. How about all Play-In Round losers go to NIT?
    And the 2000 Elite Eight was in Auburn Hills….give The Palace its due as it gets torn to shreds!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s