Imagination is seemingly more important than ever in times like this — you’ve likely seen the meme going around about how William Shakespeare wrote King Lear while under quarantine.
The desire to use imagination as a counter to a dim reality explains why so many people around college basketball maintained hope that the NCAA selection committee would still release a tournament bracket for a tournament that would never happen. After all, coaches and players deserved some recognition for what they accomplished this season even if they never got the chance to finish what they started.
But tournament selection committee chairman Dan Gavitt officially squelched those hopes on what was supposed to be Selection Sunday — one of the five finest holidays on the American calendar.
Gavitt released the following statement on the NCAA website:
When NCAA winter and spring championships were cancelled Thursday afternoon, the women’s basketball committee had yet to even commence their selection meeting, and the men’s basketball committee had only just begun their selection process. There were 19 men’s and 18 women’s conference tournaments that had yet to be completed when the NCAA championships were cancelled. A total of 132 men’s games and 81 women’s games were never played, resulting in those automatic qualifiers not being determined on the court.
The important work of the basketball committees is to set up competitively-balanced brackets to determine national champions. I don’t believe it’s responsible or fair to do that with incomplete seasons — especially for tournaments that unfortunately won’t be played. Therefore there will not be any NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball championship selection shows or tournament brackets released this year.
I have heard from many coaches and athletics directors who are trusted colleagues and friends that would like to see brackets released to recognize the successful seasons of their teams and student-athletes and to see who and where they would have played. Players and coaches want to see their school name on the bracket. Members of the media want to dissect matchups. Bracketologists want to compare the work of the committees versus what they’ve predicted. Fans are curious for those same reasons. All of us want something to fill the void we’re feeling.
However, anything less than a credible process is inconsistent with the tradition of the NCAA basketball championships. Brackets based on hypotheticals can’t substitute for a complete selection, seeding and bracketing process. There will always be an asterisk next to the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championships regardless if brackets are released. There is not an authentic way to produce tournament fields and brackets at this point without speculating and that isn’t fair to the teams that would be positively or negatively impacted by manufacturing March Madness.
Gavitt is right. Any bracket released by the NCAA would amount to a pointless sham.
Fortunately, I am not the NCAA, and therefore I can be as pointless as I please.
I’ve filled out a bracket every year since my dad handed me one two weeks after my eighth birthday. Since I’m not able to do that this year, I’ve decided to do the best option available: create one.
It should be noted that I attempted to fill this out as a prediction of how the tournament committee would have done it based on where things stood when the season was suspended.
That means automatic bids defer to regular-season champions. Duke has a better seed than it deserves. It also means that Texas and Texas Tech, who were likely meeting in a do-or-die Big 12 quarterfinal when the season was wiped, both snuck into my imaginary field. Sorry, Wichita State.
Without further ado, we present the MetroNews selection committee of one’s 2020 NCAA tournament bracket.
1) Kansas vs. 16) Northern Kentucky or North Carolina Central
8) Saint Mary’s vs. 9) Providence
4) Kentucky vs. 13) North Texas
5) Wisconsin vs. 12) East Tennessee State
3) Villanova vs. 14) Bradley
6) Illinois vs. 11) Texas or UCLA
2) Florida State vs. 15) Winthrop
7) Ohio State vs. 10) Oklahoma
As the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas would have its choice of region, and the near-consensus is the Jayhawks would have preferred Houston over Indianapolis. There is a sizable chunk of KU alums in the region, plus less potential interference from Big Ten fans.
A potential blueblood Sweet 16 matchup against Kentucky would have been the highlight of this regional.
1) Gonzaga vs. 16) Siena
8) Arizona State vs. 9) Rutgers
4) Oregon vs. 13) New Mexico State
5) Virginia vs. 12) Liberty
3) Michigan State vs. 14) UC-Irvine
6) BYU vs. 11) Richmond
2) San Diego State vs. 15) Eastern Washington
7) USC vs. 10) Indiana
This would settle the season-long debate over whether Gonzaga or San Diego State is the best team on the west coast — provided either were to reach the regional final. I’m also a sucker for interesting first-round matchups, and an in-state meeting between Virginia and Liberty would fit that bill for multiple reasons.
1) Baylor vs. 16) Boston University
8) Arizona vs. 9) LSU
4) Louisville vs. 13) Vermont
5) Auburn vs. 12) Stephen F. Austin
3) Creighton vs. 14) Belmont
6) Iowa vs. 11) Texas Tech or Xavier
2) Maryland vs. 15) North Dakota State
7) Houston vs. 10) Marquette
Every year it seems like one region devolves into complete chaos, and it feels like this would be the most likely candidate to fill that role. Half this region (or more) would be capable of a Final Four run depending on how things would shake out.
1) Dayton vs. 16) Prairie View A&M or Robert Morris
8) Florida vs. 9) Colorado
4) Butler vs. 13) Akron
5) Penn State vs. 12) Yale
3) Seton Hall vs. 14) Hofstra
6) West Virginia vs. 11) Cincinnati
2) Duke vs. 15) Little Rock
7) Michigan vs. 10) Utah State
The selection committee always claims it doesn’t try to intentionally create interesting matchups, but I have never once believed it. And if they had an opportunity to match Bob Huggins against his former employer… I tend to believe they would take it.
WVU fans have also previously noted that any bracket featuring the Mountaineers needs to guarantee a chance of facing either Duke or Kentucky to be accurate, so I made sure to comply.
Unfortunately, we will never know how this tournament would have played out, or even if it would have looked anything like what is written above. But if you still want to pick a Final Four and a champion, have at it.
It’s no King Lear, but at least it’s something concrete to fuel your imagination and love of sports debate.