March Madness 2020



by Nikhil Datta

Predicting how college basketball’s most prestigious tournament could have turned out



On March 12, the NCAA announced that March Madness, college basketball’s Division 1 tournament, was canceled due to concerns regarding COVID-19’s spread. Despite this year’s season not generating the same amount of excitement as previous years, the cancellation of March Madness has nonetheless left a hole in every basketball fan’s spring vacation. This year’s March Madness may have lacked the star power that the tournament has had in the past, but the absence of NBA lottery talent may have sparked a more competitive and unpredictable tournament. Here are the three teams that would have had the greatest chances to lift silverware and the three teams that could have been this year’s “Cinderella Story” if 2020’s March Madness was not canceled.





KU Sports


1. Kansas Jayhawks (#1 in the nation; 28-3 overall)


The Kansas Jayhawks enjoyed the best season that the program has had since the 2010-2011 season. This year’s Kansas team would almost undoubtedly have gone further into the tournament than the 2011’s team Elite 8 accolade, however. By the end of this year’s season, no team was able to find an answer for Devon Dotson (18.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.1 SPG) and Udoka Azubuike (13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.6 BPG), who are projected to be the 35th and 28th pick respectively by NBADraft.net. This is illustrated by the Jayhawks’ 16 game winning streak to wrap off the season. A supporting cast of Ochai Agbaji (10.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG), David McCormack (6.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG), and Marcus Garret (9.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.6 APG) also brought experience and reliability to all 31 of Kansas’s games. Kansas’s impressive wins against Dayton (#3 in the nation) and Baylor (#5 in the nation) throughout the year additionally illustrated the Jayhawks’ ability to win big games.





The Spokesman View


Gonzaga Bulldogs (#2 in the nation; 31-2 overall)


This season, the Gonzaga Bulldogs improved their last season’s record despite losing Rui Hachimora, Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell Jr., and Josh Perkins to the NBA and G-League. The Bulldogs have reached the Sweet 16 in the previous five seasons, and have sported their most impressive record since 2017 this year. Filip Petrusev (17.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG), Cory Kisper (13.9 PPG, 43.8 3P%), and Jay Ayayi (10.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.2 APG) all greatly improved during the offseason and provided the pieces that Coach Mark Few needed to create a top two ranked team. The team’s leader, senior Killian Tillie (13.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG) additionally enjoyed a successful bounceback season from last year’s injury and has consistently scored in past March Madnesses. Gonzaga may not have had the talent of previous years, but the Bulldogs’ experience, their ability to take care of the ball (11.2 TPG), and their consistent scoring would have made them a difficult opponent in the tournament.





MSU Spartans


3. Michigan State (#9 in the nation; 22-9)


Regardless of their record and a disappointing 2019-2020 campaign, the Michigan State Spartans were likely to have enjoyed a successful 2020 March Madness due to their experience and star power. Everyone saw what Cassius Winston (18.6 PPG, 5.9 APG, 43.2 3P%) was capable of last season when he essentially single handedly took down a Duke team, which had 3 top ten draft picks, including Zion Williamson, in the Elite 8. Winston additionally would have had a strong supporting cast of Xavier Tillman Sr. (13.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 55 FG%) and Aaron Henry (10.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG) who would have provided reliable defense and scoring for the Spartans in this year’s tournament while NBA-destined freshman Rocket Watts (22.3 MPG, 9.0 PPG) always has potential to take over a basketball game. The Spartans’ may have had a rough season, but their tournament-tested team and star power would have made them a strong contender for the 2020 NCAA tournament championship trophy.


Cinderella Story:





Arizona Wildcats


1. Arizona (unranked; 21-11)


The Arizona Wildcats record of 21-11 becomes extremely underwhelming once you catch a glimpse of their roster. A team that sports 3 projected top 25 first round picks in the NBA Draft should be sitting on top of the college rankings, but things just did not work out for the Wildcats this past season. Nonetheless, freshman stars Zeke Nnaji (16.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 57.0 FG%), Nico Mannion (14.0 PPG, 5.3 APG), and Josh Green (12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) would have been a handful for any team that could have faced the Wildcats in the tournament.





BYU


2. BYU (#18 in the nation; 24-8)


The BYU Cougars enjoyed a brilliant season which included an exciting win over 2 seed Gonzaga. No team would have wanted to play against the Cougars in this year’s March Madness given their ability to take down giants, as well as senior Yoeli Childs’ (22.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 57.4 FG%, 48.9 3P%) tendency to take over basketball games. Coach Mark Pope’s first season as the Cougar’s head coach was an enormous success, and there is little doubt that he would have brought a tough challenge to any giants that BYU could have played in this year’s March Madness.





NBA.com


3. USC (unranked; 22-9)


Coach Andy Enfield and the USC Trojans did well this season to bounce back from last season’s 16-17 record. 2020 Draft Lottery talent Onyeka Onkongwu (16.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 61.6 FG%, 2.7 blk) brought starpower to the Trojans and has the capability to outplay any big man on his day. A talented supporting cast of Jonah Mathews (13.4 PPG, 38.1 3P%), Nick Rakocevic, (10.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG), and 2019 McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Mobley also had the potential to outplay any core in college basketball.