All the madness: the imaginary 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament

One of the first effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to cancel the most fun event in American sports: the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It’s nicknamed “March Madness” because of, well, the significant about of sheer craziness involved.

From first-round upsets to the championship game, it’s four weeks of constant excitement. If you don’t believe me, check out this highlight reel of the 2019 NCAA tournament (long but worth it!).

And then in 2020, it was gone.

Just four days before the selection committee was set to announce the 68 teams who qualified, right in the middle of a conference tournament game, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cancelled the whole thing. And while professional sports leagues are planning to finish out their seasons (AFL season restarts tomorrow!), college basketball’s seniors have already graduated and moved on. So this year’s tournament is definitely gone for good.

While certainly not as big a deal as the 4,619 people who had died as of then (and it’s nearly 100 times that now!), the tournament’s cancellation still came as a disappointment to millions of college basketball fans. Including me.

My March Madness

I decided that, if we can’t have March Madness in reality, we can at least have it in our imaginations. And so I picked a field of 68 team, taking into account all the factors that the real selection committee does: record, ranking, strength of schedule, and conference tournament results.

And here is the bracket:

The 2020 imaginary NCAA tournament bracket
The official 2020 NCAA imaginary tournament bracket (click for a larger version)

I then simulated the entire tournament using whatifsports.com’s college basketball simulator. I announced the results, in real time, at my appropriately-named Twitter account, @fixthemadness.

Results

As each round of the tournament completed, I reviewed the results as a post on this blog. Read the posts linked in the list below to see how it all played out, round-by-round:

…except that as the COVID-19 crisis worsened, I turned my attention to that and never posted the Final Four results. Here they are. The Final Four consisted of the winners of each of the four regions (East, South, Midwest, and West). Both Final Four games were played on Saturday, April 4th – the first at 6:07 PM ET and the second at 8:07 PM ET.

The results were (click on the score to see the box score and play-by-play from whatifsports.com):

East Tennessee State 90 Creighton 78

Duke 82 Oregon 78

That set up an exciting matchup between the historical powerhouse team, the Duke Blue Devils (#1 seed in the South), and the surprising Pirates of East Tennessee State.

The game was close throughout the first half and early in the second, but then Duke pulled away. The final score (with link to the box score and play-by-play):

Duke 96 East Tennessee State 76

Congratulations to the imaginary Duke Blue Devils on winning the imaginary 2020 NCAA men’s basketball championship!

The full bracket

Here is the full bracket with all results, leading up to imaginary Duke’s imaginarily historic imaginary win:

All results from the imaginary 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament (click for a larger image)

What’s next?

I had a blast doing this. It went on for a month, and then it was over, and @fixthemadness wasn’t ready for it to be over. What could I possibly do for an encore?

Find out Friday!

Also, coming tonight: today’s daily update of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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