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Simulating the 2020 NCAA Tournament: Who would be the real national champion?

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So here’s what happened.

I was bored on Monday night.

Bored, trapped in my house and wondering how in the world I was going to survive without college basketball and the NCAA tournament, so I decided to make one of my own.

Using the most recent bracket projection from our Dave Ommen to put together the field and something called NCAA Game Sim, I played out the entire NCAA tournament.

All 68 teams.

All 67 games.

All the madness, all the upsets, everything that we are all missing right now.

Let’s dive into it.

Programming note: I’ll be posting the bracket as it looks after every single round. If you’re interested in who played well, the box score for every game is linked.

Cue the music.

FIRST FOUR

11. Texas 72, 11. Xavier 60
16. Robert Morris 72, 16. NC-Central 64
16. Siena 70, 16. Prairie View A&M 65
11. N.C. State 76, 11. Texas Tech 75

FIRST ROUND

EAST

1. Dayton 82, 16. Winthrop 60
8. LSU 68, 9. Arizona State 60
5. Butler 75, 12. Liberty 65
4. Maryland 63, 13. Yale 56
6. West Virginia 83, 11. UCLA 68
3. Duke 90, 14. Hofstra 66
7. Michigan 75, 10. Florida 60
15. Northern Kentucky 69, 2. Villanova 64

Things went pretty smoothly in the East Region on the first day of the tournament until the final game, when No. 15 seed Northern Kentucky added to Villanova’s long legacy of winning national titles or getting upset in the first weekend. Jalen Tate led the way with 16 points for the Norse.

MIDWEST

1. Kansas 87, 16. Robert Morris 54
8. Saint Mary’s 87, 9. Houston 73
5. BYU 74, 12. Stephen F. Austin 63
4. Louisville 62, 13. Vermont 60
6. Iowa 85, 11. N.C. State 55
3. Kentucky 83, 14. Bradley 65
7. Illinois 68, 10. Utah State 67
2. Creighton 67, UC Irvine 66

The Midwest Region had all of the action in the first round, as three games were decided by a single possession. Vermont came within a missed Everett Duncan three of upsetting No. 4-seed Louisville while Creighton’s Denzel Mahoney hit a jumper at the buzzer to avoid becoming the second No. 2-seed to lose in the first round. Illinois and Utah State were decided by a single point, but that was thanks to a late Brody Miller three that did nothing but make sure that the Aggies covered the spread.

SOUTH

1. Baylor 62, 16. Boston U. 57
9. Indiana 71, 8. USC 70
12. Cincinnati 72, 5. Auburn 68
13. North Texas 77, 4. Wisconsin 76
6. Penn State 73, 11. Texas 68
3. Seton Hall 84, 14. Belmont 60
10. Rutgers 63, 7. Providence 47
2. Florida State 83, 15. North Dakota State 71

More upsets and more buzzer-beaters thanks to the South Region. No. 9-seed Indiana got to the second round of the tournament thanks to a game-winning bucker from Damezi Anderson while Thomas Bell his a shot to put No. 13-seed North Texas ahead of No. 4-seed Wisconsin. Brad Davison missed the would-be game-winner.

WEST

1. Gonzaga 83, 16. Siena 51
9. Oklahoma 77, 8. Colorado 72
5. Ohio State 80, 12. Akron 58
4. Oregon 88, 13. New Mexico State 58
6. Virginia 72, 11. East Tennessee State 60
3. Michigan State 90, 14. Little Rock 64
10. Marquette 76, 7. Arizona 63
2. San Diego State 74, 15. Eastern Washington 66

Nothing all that crazy happened in the West Region in the first round. Markus Howard scored 26 points to get the Golden Eagles past No. 7-seed Arizona in the opening round, but that was the biggest upset out west.

SECOND ROUND

EAST

1. Dayton 77, 8. LSU 72
5. Butler 65, 4. Maryland 62
6. West Virginia 86, 3. Duke 70
7. Michigan 87, 15. Northern Kentucky 49

Dayton was the only top four seed to get to the second weekend in the East. The Flyers held off LSU, but things got weird elsewhere. Miles McBride scored 19 points to lead No. 6-seed West Virginia past No. 3-seed Duke while Bryce Nze’s 16 points and 10 boards were enough to get the Bulldogs past No. 4-seed Maryland.

MIDWEST

1. Kansas 79, 8. Saint Mary’s 66
4. Louisville 79, 5. BYU 72
6. Iowa 86, 3. Kentucky 74
7. Illinois 86, 2. Creighton 72

Luka Garza and Joe Weiskamp combined for 45 points as the No. 6-seed Hawkeyes steamrolled No. 3-seed Kentucky in the second round, but they were bested by Ayo Dosunmu (22 points, six assists, six boards) and Kofi Cockburn (21 points, 16 boards) as they blew past No. 2-seed Creighton.

SOUTH

1. Baylor 78, 9. Indiana 48
12. Cincinnati 63, 13. North Texas 56
6. Penn State 82, 3. Seton Hall 68
2. Florida State 68, 10. Rutgers 62

Cincinnati won the battle of the double-digit seeds to become the “Cinderella” No. 12-seed in the Sweet 16 while Penn State’s win over No. 3-seed Seton Hall ensured that there would be a Big Ten team in the Sweet 16 in each and every region.

WEST

9. Oklahoma 89, 1. Gonzaga 71
5. Ohio State 91, 4. Oregon 66
3. Michigan State 68, 6. Virginia 51
10. Marquette 66, 2. San Diego State 61

Six Big Ten teams made it out of the first weekend in total after No. 5-seed Ohio State blew out Oregon and No. 3-seed Michigan State advanced past Virginia, but that was the most normal past of the West Region’s second round. Kristian Doolittle went for 30 points as No. 9-seed Oklahoma upset No. 1-seed Gonzaga and Markus Howard added 21 points as the Golden Eagles held Malachi Flynn to a 2-for-11 shooting performance in a win over the No. 2-seed, San Diego State.

SWEET 16

EAST

1. Dayton 71, 5. Butler 68
7. Michigan 59, 6. West Virginia 50

Eli Brooks, who averaged 19 points through the first two games of the tournament, was once again Michigan’s leading scorer with all of nine points as the Wolverines advanced to the Elite Eight with a win over West Virginia. On the other side of the bracket, Obi Toppin’s 17-point afternoon sent the Flyers to the Elite Eight over No. 5-seed Butler.

MIDWEST

1. Kansas 79, 4. Louisville 64
7. Illinois 74, 6. Iowa 55

Devon Dotson continued his torrid tournament by putting up 23 points in a win over No. 4-seed Louisville. Ochai Agbaji added 19 points as Udoka Azubuike struggled with Louisville’s size. In a battle of Big Ten teams, Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kofi Cockburn got the best of Luka Garza, holding him to eight points on 3-for-10 shooting as the Illini reached the Elite Eight.

SOUTH

1. Baylor 58, 12. Cincinnati 54
2. Florida State 85, 6. Penn State 77

Scott Drew made it back to the Elite Eight for the third time in his career by knocking off Cincinnati, and he’ll take on No. 2-seed Florida State, who ran past No. 6-seed Penn State to get back to the Elite Eight. Someone from the South Region is going to get to their first Final Four this year.

WEST

9. Oklahoma 66, 5. Ohio State 53
3. Michigan State 75, 10. Marquette 71

Rocket Watts had 19 points to lead No. 3-seed Michigan State as Markus Howard outdueled Cassius Winston but still came up short as the Wolverines beat Marquette. Kristian Doolittle didn’t slow down a bit in the Sweet 16, going for 18 points as the No. 9-seed Sooners advanced to within a game of the Final Four.

ELITE EIGHT

7. Michigan 72, 1. Dayton 67
1. Kansas 64, 7. Illinois 60
1. Baylor 71, 2. Florida State 61
3. Michigan State 76, Oklahoma 56

Isaiah Livers finished with 16 points, Zavier Simpson added 15 points and Franz Wagner went for 13 points and 12 boards as the Wolverines, the No. 7-seed in the East Region picked off No. 1-seed Dayton, ending a dream season for the Flyers.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, Udoka Azubuike had his best game of the tournament to date, finishing with 14 points and eight boards as Bill Self beat his old program, No. 7-seed Illinois, to get back to the Final Four.

Baylor put four players in double-figures as they advanced to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Freddie Gillispie led the way with 12 points and 14 boards for the Bears.

And in the West, Brady Manek went for 27 points, but Xavier Tillman shut down Kristian Doolittle and Cassius Winston went for 21 points and five assists as the No. 3-seed Spartans got to the Final Four.

FINAL FOUR

1. Kansas 73, 7. Michigan 66
3. Michigan State 72, 1. Baylor 71

In the first game at the Final Four, Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett combined for 32 points and eight assists as the No. 1-seed Jayhawks ended No. 7-seed Michigan’s dream season. It’s the third time Bill Self has been to a national title game.

Meanwhile on the other side of the bracket, we had a thriller. Michigan State blew a late seven-point lead but Freddie Gillispie missed the would-be game-winning shot at the buzzer. Cassius Winston had 16 points and nine assists in the win.

NATIONAL TITLE

1. Kansas 77, 3. Michigan State 61

In what was billed as one of the most anticipated National Title games in recent memory, Devon Dotson ended up outplaying Cassius Winston — 21 points and five assists to 13 points and three assists — as the Jayhawks finished off a dream season. I hope they enjoyed it. This may be the last time that we’ll see them in postseason play for a long time.

So here it is.

The full, complete 2020 NCAA Tournament, with your national champions: The Kansas Jayhawks.

Here’s to hoping Snoop Dogg is invited to the parade.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.