The Arizona Wildcats are your 2020 What-If Tournament Champs!

(1) Kansas 72-77 (7) Arizona

In a tournament with so many unexpected results, it somehow makes sense that a 7 seed would go on a run to win the whole thing. After taking down Oklahoma, Florida St., Seton Hall, and Liberty on their way to Atlanta, the high-scoring Wildcats outshot both Iowa and Kansas in order to cut down the nets. Their two standout freshmen led the way, with Nico Mannion leading all scorers with 26 points, and Zeke Nnaji contributing 17 points and 18 rebounds. Kansas stayed in the game until the end, but shaky outside shooting (5-23 from 3) proved costly. The only thing left to say is…CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS!!!

arizona-kansas playbyplay

arizona-kansas boxscore

2020 What-if Final Four

After two weekends of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and overtime classics, incredible stories and great teams surviving for four games, we’ve made it to Atlanta. In the first matchup, two 7 seeds in Arizona and Iowa will meet up. For Arizona, despite having some very talented teams that produced a number of NBA players, this is their first Final Four since 2001, and coach Sean Miller makes the first Final Four of his coaching career after a difficult couple of years. Iowa breaks an even longer streak, with player of the year candidate Luka Garza leading the Hawkeyes to their first Final Four since 1980. The second game sees two of 2019-20’s elite teams, although only one could be described as a blue blood. Bill Self leads Kansas to the program’s 16th Final Four, while Dayton, powered by the high-flying Obi Toppin, returns to the Final Four for the first time since 1967.

Saturday night’s games, with box scores and second half play-by-play attached as PDFs, are now posted. Check back in tomorrow night around 9pm ET to see who emerges as the 2020 What-If NCAA Tournament Champion!

(7) Arizona 90-80 (7) Iowa

Iowa led at halftime, but Arizona established a double digit lead late in the second half, and made just enough shots to keep the Hawkeyes from mounting a real comeback. Zeke Nnaji goes for 20 and 13, while Dylan Smith contributes five 3-pointers.

iowa-arizona playbyplay

iowa-arizona box score

(1) Kansas 79-74 (1) Dayton

Dayton’s great run comes to an end. Despite trailing by 17 at the half, the Flyers made a great comeback effort, with Jalen Crutcher missing a 3 with 28 seconds to go that would have tied the game at 77. Kansas moves on to face Arizona on Monday night.

dayton-kansas playbyplay

dayton-kansas box score

Elite 8

Saturday

West                     (7) Iowa 81-69 (8) Florida                           6:09                       Los Angeles                       The Gators led midway through the second half, but Iowa pulls away with a 13-0 run to take control. Luka Garza leads the way with 33 points, leading the Hawkeyes to their first Final Four since 1980.

Midwest              (1) Kansas 77-74 (2) Creighton                           8:49                Indianapolis                    Kansas takes it in a nail-biter, despite some missed free throws giving Creighton a chance to tie late in the game. Udoka Azubuike puts in 23 points, with two key baskets down the stretch.

Sunday

South                    (7) Arizona 78-51 (12) Liberty                      2:20                     Houston                            Leading by 1 with under 9 minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats finished the half on a 26-5 run, and the game never really got close in the second half. Sean Miller makes the Final Four at last.

East                        (1) Dayton 104-103* (2) Duke                         5:05                New York City                     Dayton’s dream season continues in this instant classic, with Tre Jones going from hero to villain. After Jones tied the game with a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to send the game to OT, he misses two free throws with 8 seconds to go, allowing Rodney Chatman to bring the ball up the floor and hit the game-winning 3.

Sweet 16 schedule and updated bracket

Thursday

Midwest              (1) Kansas 86-83 (13) Akron                                7:09                 Indianapolis                    Akron hangs in there the entire way, even missing two attempts to tie the game in the final 10 seconds, but 26 points from Devon Dotson helps the Jayhawks survive.

West                     (5) West Virginia 60-67 (8) Florida                     7:29                 Los Angeles                  Are the Gators starting to look like the team that was a consensus top 10 pick in the preseason? Another back and forth affair, Florida clinches it with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.

Midwest              (2) Creighton 80-62 (6) Houston                        9:39                  Indianapolis                  Despite not having a great shooting night, it’s an easy victory for Creighton, Ty-Shon Alexander leading the way with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

West                     (6) Virginia 53-80 (7) Iowa                                    9:57                 Los Angeles                   In a fairly shocking result, Iowa blows out the defending champs. Luka Garza scores 23, but with only one other Hawkeye in double figures, it’s all about their defense tonight.

Friday

East                        (1) Dayton 73-72 (4) Kentucky                   7:09                      New York City                 In a game where neither team led by more than 5 points in the second half, the Flyers scrape by as Nick Richards misses a potential game winner at the buzzer.

South                    (9) Providence 72-80 (12) Liberty                      7:29                Houston                         Liberty’s Cinderella run continues. After nearly blowing a 17 point halftime lead and letting Providence get back to within 1, clutch shooting takes the Flames to the Elite 8.

East                        (2) Duke 79-73 (3) Villanova                              9:39               New York City                   Duke’s offense was running on all cylinders, building a 21 point halftime lead, and not letting Villanova get within single digits until the waning minutes.

South                    (3) Seton Hall 75-86 (7) Arizona                         9:57                Houston                          A close game midway through the second half, Arizona hit a barrage of 3-pointers to pull away and send the Pirates packing. Zeke Nnaji led the way with 22 points and 16 rebounds.

MIDWEST WEST SOUTH EAST
1. Kansas (Omaha) 1. Gonzaga (Spokane) 1. Baylor (Omaha) 1. Dayton (Cleveland)
2. Creighton (St. Louis) 2. San Diego St. (Sacramento) 2. Florida St. (Tampa) 2. Duke (Greensboro)
3. Maryland (Greensboro) 3. Michigan St. (Cleveland) 3. Seton Hall (Albany) 3. Villanova (Albany)
4. Louisville (Tampa) 4. Oregon (Spokane) 4. Wisconsin (Sacramento) 4. Kentucky (St. Louis)
5. Butler 5. West Virginia 5. Auburn 5. Ohio St.
6. Houston 6. Virginia 6. BYU 6. Michigan
7. LSU 7. Iowa 7. Arizona 7. Penn St.
8. Colorado 8. Florida 8. Illinois 8. Saint Mary’s
9. Rutgers 9. Marquette 9. Providence 9. Texas Tech
10. Utah St. 10. Arizona St. 10. Oklahoma 10. USC
11. Indiana 11. Richmond/UCLA 11. Cincinnati 11. East Tennessee St.
12. Yale 12. Stephen F. Austin 12. Liberty 12. NC State/Wichita St.
13. Akron 13. Vermont 13. New Mexico St. 13. Belmont
14. Eastern Washington 14. Bradley 14. North Texas 14. Hofstra
15. North Dakota St. 15. UC Irvine 15. Arkansas-Little Rock 15. Northern Kentucky
16. Robert Morris/NC Central 16. Siena 16. Winthrop 16. Boston University/Prairie View A&M

Round of 32

Saturday

Midwest              (2) Creighton 90-81 (10) Utah St.                                 12:10           St. Louis                   Utah St. keeps it close throughout the second half, but Creighton shoots the lights out from 3, and Ty-Shon Alexander puts in 21 to seal the win.

East                        (4) Kentucky 69-63 (12) NC State                    2:40                        St. Louis                     The Wolfpack led with 5 minutes to go, but some lockdown defense from Kentucky helps them get through to the Sweet 16.

East                        (3) Villanova 86-83 (11) East Tennessee St.  5:15                        Albany                       East Tennessee St. took the lead with 42 seconds to go, but Jeremiah Robinson-Earl hits a go-ahead basket and the Wildcats hang on for the victory.

Midwest              (12) Yale 76-85* (13) Akron                                    6:10                     Tampa                     Paul Atkinson sent a back and forth game to overtime with 5 seconds left, but Akron dominated in the extra period to make the Sweet 16 as a 13 seed.

West                     (5) West Virginia 83-74 (13) Vermont              7:10                     Spokane                       Vermont led by as many as 15 in the second half, but West Virginia ends the game on a 19-5 run, led by a double-double from Derek Culver.

South                    (3) Seton Hall 75-66 (6) BYU                                7:45                     Albany                      BYU made it a one point game with 2:05 left, but clutch shooting and some key turnovers from the Pirates help them to their first Sweet 16 since 2000.

South                    (2) Florida St. 97-101 (7) Arizona                          8:40                  Tampa                      Max Hazzard hit a 3-pointer to tie the game in regulation, before the Wildcats outpaced the Seminoles in OT, lef by 23 from Nico Mannion.

West                     (1) Gonzaga 89-93 (8) Florida                              9:40                     Spokane                    Another #1 goes down, as the Gators upset the Zags in their own backyard, with Noah Locke hitting six 3s to power the upset.

 

Sunday

Midwest              (3) Maryland 70-78 (6) Houston                        12:10               Greensboro                     Nate Hinton goes for 21, as the Cougars ride a big second half comeback to claim a place in the Sweet 16.

East                       (2) Duke 89-82 (10) USC                                        2:40              Greensboro                     A back and forth game for most of the second half, the Blue Devils eventually pull away thanks to 31 points from Tre Jones.

West                     (3) Michigan St. 66-73 (6) Virginia                     5:15                 Cleveland                       After establishing the lead with a 13-3 run midway through the second half, Braxton Key ices the game for Virginia to quell a late Spartan comeback effort.

South                    (9) Providence 75-59 (16) Winthrop                6:10                     Omaha                         Winthrop goes cold from 3, and Luwane Pipkins leads with 16 points, as Providence reach the Sweet 16.

South                    (12) Liberty 71-68 (13) New Mexico St.          7:10                Sacramento                       After New Mexico St. tied the game on a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz wins it at the buzzer to send the Flames to the Sweet 16.

East                        (1) Dayton 76-58 (9) Texas Tech                        7:45                Cleveland                      Dayton’s magical season continues as Jalen Crutcher puts in 22 to help east the Flyers past Texas Tech.

Midwest              (1) Kansas 83-69 (9) Rutgers                                  8:40                  Omaha                         Rutgers pulled as close as 4 points down the stretch, but Kansas manages to hang on with the help of Udoka Azubuike’s 19 points and 18 rebounds.

West                     (2) San Diego St. 91-96* (7) Iowa                         9:40            Sacramento                       Despite Malachi Flynn’s 28 points and the Aztecs hitting a buzzer-beater to send the game to overtime, Iowa, led by Luka Garza’s 23 and 17, comes through in the clutch.

Friday’s games

Here’s the full lineup for the rest of the first round games taking place tomorrow. The results of Thursday’s games can be seen in the previous post.

West                     (3) Michigan St. 81-73 (14) Bradley                   12:15                     Cleveland             Bradley led by 6 at halftime, but Cassius Winston and Rocket Watts lead the Spartans to avoid the upset.

Midwest              (6) Houston 99-91* (11) Indiana                          12:40                Greensboro               Down by 6 with 16 seconds remaining, Trayce Jackson-Davis missed two free throws and Houston hit a pair of threes (including a buzzer-beater by Nate Hinton) to force overtime, and the Hoosiers were unable to recover in the extra period.

South                    (8) Illinois 90-96 (9) Providence                         1:30                        Omaha               Down by 15 with 4:35 remaining, the Illini hit enough shots to make it interesting, but Providence holds on.

South                    (5) Auburn 61-67 (12) Liberty                             2:00                  Sacramento                Another 12-5 upset, with Auburn going cold in the second half and only scoring three points between 13:46 and 1:18.

West                     (6) Virginia 68-65 (11) Richmond                       2:45                    Cleveland                 Trailing by 13 midway through the second half, Virginia finishes the game on an 18-2 run to avoid the upset.

Midwest              (3) Maryland 79-65 (14) Eastern Washington 3:10                    Greensboro                 The Terps win easily as Anthony Cowan leads all scorers with 20 points.

South                    (1) Baylor 76-78 (16) Winthrop                           4:00                        Omaha                   Wow. Despite trailing by 10 at half, Winthrop makes a comeback behind 24 points from D.J. Burns, and Baylor becomes the 2nd 1 seed in the last 3 years to fall to a 16 seed. This is March!

South                    (4) Wisconsin 72-77* (13) New Mexico St.      4:30                 Sacramento               Despite leading by 20 in the second half, the Badgers blow a huge lead and allow Ivan Aurrecoechea to hit a buzzer-beating 3 to force overtime, where the Aggies pull away to set up a matchup with Liberty.

East                        (1) Dayton 89-74 (16) Boston University        6:50                    Cleveland                 Efficient performances from Obi Toppin and Jalen Crutcher ensure that Dayton don’t fall victim to the same fate as fellow #1 Baylor.

East                        (7) Penn St. 62-79 (10) USC                                 7:10                 Greensboro               53 second half points for USC turn a close game into a blowout in favor of the Trojans.

Midwest              (8) Colorado 71-73* (9) Rutgers                           7:20                        Omaha                Tyler Bey hits a late 3 to send the game to overtime, but Rutgers finds a way as Myles Johnson denies McKinley Wright from tying the game at the buzzer in OT.

West                     (7) Iowa 84-75 (10) Arizona St.                           7:27                 Sacramento                A late run helps the Hawkeyes pull away late, despite 32 points from Remy Martin in a losing effort.

East                        (8) Saint Mary’s 66-81 (9) Texas Tech              9:20                   Cleveland                  Kyler Edwards scores 18 points as Texas Tech coasts to an easy victory.

East                        (2) Duke 107-77 (15) Northern Kentucky         9:40              Greensboro                  Five Duke players score in double digits, with Vernon Carey leading the way with 28, as the Blue Devils blow out Northern Kentucky.

Midwest              (1) Kansas 81-48 (16) NC Central                       9:50                        Omaha                    Another blowout, with Devon Dotson’s 21 points helping Kansas into the next round.

West                     (2) San Diego St. 84-56 (15) UC Irvine              9:57                Sacramento                    A wild first couple days ends with a lot of chalk, as Yanni Wetzell scores 26 in an easy win for the Aztecs.

2020 What-If NCAA Tournament

I’m sure we’re all still going through college basketball withdrawals right now, especially since tomorrow is supposed to be the start of the best three weeks of the year. My way of coping was to still complete what I thought would have been the best possible bracket based on games completed, create a schedule for the tournament, and run a simulation for every game through the whatifsports.com SimMatchup tool. Just like in real life, it’s win and advance, and on April 6th I’ll crown the virtual champ! I’ll be trying to update a few times a day so you can check in for all of the upsets, incredible performances, and buzzer beaters.

I’ve already done simulations for the play-in games:

Midwest – (16) Robert Morris 69-82 (16) NC Central

East – (12) NC State 75-71* (12) Wichita St.

East – (16) Boston University 96-92* (16) Prairie View A&M

West – (11) UCLA 83-89 (11) Richmond

And here’s the schedule for the first full day of games:

Thursday

Midwest              (5) Butler 55-75 (12) Yale                             12:15                     Tampa.                               This looked like a close matchup on paper, but the 12 seed ends up running away with it in the second half.

South                    (3) Seton Hall 83-67 (14) North Texas      12:40                     Albany                           Myles Powell scores 29 points to lead the Pirates to a comfortable victory.

Midwest              (7) LSU 81-87 (10) Utah St.                                   1:30                        St. Louis                    LSU led by as many as 11 in the second half, but Sam Merrill and Justin Bean made key shots to clinch the upset.

West                     (1) Gonzaga 93-71 (16) Siena                              2:00                        Spokane             The Zags had five players score in double digits on their way to an easy win.

Midwest              (4) Louisville 70-79 (13) Akron                            2:45                        Tampa                     Another big upset, as Akron takes down the Cardinals. After trailing by 13 at halftime, Louisville cut the lead to 3 with 5:01 on the clock, but three consecutive 3-pointers by Akron took the game out of reach.

South                    (6) BYU 96-79 (11) Cincinnati                               3:10                        Albany              Another high-scoring game, with BYU riding balanced scoring to the win.

Midwest              (2) Creighton 73-63 (15) North Dakota St.     4:00                        St. Louis                     Unusually poor 3-point shooting from Creighton kept this one interesting, but they were eventually able to pull away from the Bison.

West                     (8) Florida 80-78 (9) Marquette                         4:30                        Spokane             The wildest game of the tournament so far, as Marquette comes back from a double digit deficit to take the lead in the final minute, only to be beaten by an Andrew Nembhard buzzer-beater.

South                    (7) Arizona 84-74 (10) Oklahoma                       6:50                        Tampa                Arizona pulls away in the second half, as Zeke Nnaji leads the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

East                        (4) Kentucky 69-56 (13) Belmont                     7:10                        St. Louis               A close game until the second half, the Wildcats were eventually able to keep Belmont at arm’s length to take the W.

East                        (6) Michigan 69-71 (11) East Tennessee St.  7:20                        Albany                 A popular upset pick, the Bucs came back back from down 11 in the second half to send the Wolverines home.

West                     (5) West Virginia 78-68 (12) Stephen F. Austin 7:27                        Spokane            19 forced turnovers helped West Virginia ease to a victory that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.

South                    (2) Florida St. 75-59 (15) Ark.-Little Rock        9:20                        Tampa                 Unexpectedly close midway through the second half, the Noles eventually pull away thanks to 27 points from Devin Vassell.

East                        (5) Ohio St. 65-73 (12) NC State                         9:40                        St. Louis               A huge game from C.J. Bryce (24 points, 12 rebounds) means the Wolfpack carry their momentum from the play-in game on to the next round.

East                        (3) Villanova 79-66 (14) Hofstra                         9:50                        Albany              Tied at halftime, a barrage of 3-pointers in the second half helps Villanova to a comfortable win.

West                     (4) Oregon 87-97 (13) Vermont                         9:57                        Spokane                 Going 18 for 26 on 3s is usually a good recipe for an upset, as the Catamounts shock Oregon with their outside shooting  and move on to a matchup with West Virginia.