The Mystery of the 2020 NCAA Men’s Tournament
When the news came out that March Madness had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had the same reaction I believe many others did. I was sad that the tournament was canceled, but ultimately I knew it had to be done. After watching old tournament games throughout March, I was left wondering who would’ve won the tournament this year had it been played. This past college basketball season was incredible. There was no one true dominant team throughout the season. Sure teams like Kansas, Baylor, and Dayton looked like powerhouses throughout the year, but every team showed it could be beaten. That is what would’ve made this years tournament so exciting. Instead, we are all left wondering what could’ve been. I however decided to give my top picks of who would’ve been champions at the end of the season. Below I will name four teams, and one sleeper team, which I believe would’ve had the best shot at cutting down the nets.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The Jayhawks finished the season as the number one ranked team in the country, and were on a 16 game winning streak. Kansas only lost three games all year (Duke, Villanova, Baylor), and only one of those losses were by more than two points (Baylor). Kansas also had balance as a team. According to KenPom, the Jayhawks were the only team in the country to finish in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive efficiency (8th), and adjusted defensive efficiency (2nd). Along with the great balance on offense and defense, Kansas also had a Naismith Award finalist in Udoka Azubuike. The superstar averaged 13.7 points on 74.8% shooting to go along with 10.5 rebounds per game. Put all of this together, and you have a team which would’ve been the favorite to win it all.
Florida State Seminoles
The fourth ranked, and possible one seed Seminoles are another team which would’ve been dangerous come tournament time. Florida State finished the season as ACC regular season champions, and were the favorite to win the ACC tournament. The main reason for this is defense. Like most other years, Florida State was a force on the defensive side of the ball. According to KenPom, the Seminoles were 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Part of this was due to Florida State’s length. The Seminoles were the tallest team in Division one. Along with size and great depth, Florida State also had two backcourt players who could’ve led them to the title. Devin Vassell and Trent Forrest would’ve caused issues for opposing teams, and very well could’ve secured a championship for the Seminoles.
The Wildcats are typically a favorable pick to win it all every year, and this season should be no different. Kentucky was 8th in the final rankings for the college basketball season, and for good reason. They had just won the SEC regular season title, and were favored to win the postseason title as well. According to KenPom, The Wildcats were in the top 30 of adjusted efficiency margin. The main reason Kentucky could’ve finished March Madness as champions however, is because of their talent. Four Wildcats could easily be selected in the upcoming NBA draft, most notably Tyrese Maxey. Maxey is a projected top-ten pick, and averaged 14 points and 3 assists per game as a freshman this past season. Maxey showed he could be a matchup problem against good teams as well. He scored 26 against Michigan State, and 27 against Louisville earlier in the season. If that trend continued, he very well could’ve helped win a championship for Kentucky.
Michigan State Spartans
While the preseason number one ranked Spartans had some struggles throughout the season, they were starting to find their groove at the right time. Michigan State finished the season on a five game win streak, and were ranked 9th in the final polls. Like Kansas, Michigan State also had great balance as a team. According to KenPom, the Spartans were 7th in adjusted efficiency margin, and ranked in the top-15 in both offensive efficiency (10th), and defensive efficiency (13th). When it comes to March, guard play is key, and Michigan State had one of the best in the country. Cassius Winston averaged 18.6 points and 5.9 assists per game this past season. The senior guard had the talent and experience to help lead Michigan State to a national championship.
Seton Hall Pirates (Sleeper)
Casual fans may look at the idea of Seton Hall winning the title as outrageous, but that’s why they’re casual fans. This past season, the Pirates were ranked as high as 8th at one point, and finished the season ranked 15th. According to KenPom, Seton Hall were ranked 20th in adjusted efficiency margin for the season. But let’s not kid ourselves, the real reason Seton Hall had a chance at cutting down the nets is senior guard Myles Powell. The Naismith Award finalist averaged 21 points per game this past season, and showed he could perform against the best competition (37 points against Michigan State). While they definitely weren’t the favorite to win it all, it’s not crazy to think Powell could’ve went on a Kemba Walker-like run, and led Seton Hall to a championship.