July Madness (imaginary sports imaginary update plus brief COVID-19 update CXIII)

The first casualty of COVID-19 in the American sports world was the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. “March Madness” is one of the joys of the American sports calendar, and this year, it was gone.

Five Duke basketball players take the court
Aw crap, not these guys again (the 2020 Duke men’s basketball team)

I decided to take up the challenge and simulated the entire 2020 tournament – from announcing the teams to playing the final. Sadly, Duke won. And then I had an even better idea.

The NCAA Cup is the college basketball tournament for everyone, designed after European soccer tournaments like England’s FA Cup. Every team qualifies. At the beginning of each round, all matchups for that round are selected randomly.

I simulate each game on the whatifsports.com college basketball simulator, and announce the results in real time on Twitter at @fixthemadness.

Winners advance to the next round, and the process repeats until one team wins it all. The NCAA Cup has been going on since early April. I’ve given an update once before, but now it’s time for a more thorough update.

Rounds 1 and 2 are in the books, and round 3 has just started. I won’t cover everything here, but you can see the full and complete results on my NCAA Cup page.

Round 1

A Naval Academy basketball player attempts a shot
This is probably what it looked like when Navy won the play-in game

Round 1 began with the play-in game on April 7th, the day after Duke won the imaginary 2020 NCAA tournament. Because there were an odd number of teams (351), two teams were randomly selected for a play-in game Navy upset Virginia Commonwealth to advance to the first round proper, along with every other team.

Each of the 350 remaining teams was randomly paired one against another, and the home team for each was selected randomly too. That made 175 games, which were played between April 9th and May 31st.

The games in round 1 proper went mostly as expected, with a few minor upsets. Nebraska beat Oklahoma in Norman, LSU won at highly-ranked Penn State, Missouri beat Texas in Austin. No great surprises – until there was.

On May 9th in Las Vegas, UNLV shocked overall number one seed Gonzaga 82-71, behind 27 points by sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton. The Runnin Rebels’ tight defense held Gonzaga’s star power forward Filip Petrusev to just 15 points. Gonzaga, which had come into the Cup as the favorite to win it all, was knocked out at the first stage. It was an upset on par with UMBC’s win over Virginia in 2018.

I wish I had video of the UNLV’s win over Gonzaga, but it was imaginary. It probably looked like this, though.

The last first round game was held on May 31st at 10 PM ET, when Lamar beat Washington State 90-81.

Some facts about the first round:

The 175 first round winners advanced to the second round.

Round 2

Once again there were an odd number of teams (175), so a play-in game was required. In the play-in game, Radford beat Toledo. Radford, along with the rest of the round 1 winners, advanced to the second round. Once again, all the matchups and home teams were chosen randomly.

A tall white guy in a number 55 Iowa Hawkeyes basketball uniform
This is probably what it Luka Garza looked like after his team lost to Central Arkansas

The second round proper began with another titanic upset. Iowa, ranked #34 in the NET rankings and led by All-American center Luka Garza, lost the first game to #315 Central Arkansas in overtime. Rylan Bergersen had 21 points for the Bears, and Hayden Koval had 16 points and 15 rebounds.

The next day, in a matchup of top 10 teams, Louisville beat Florida State 72-68. The rest of the second round went mostly as expected, until…

Remember UNLV? In the first round, they pulled off a stunning upset, knocking off top seed Gonzaga. In the second round, the same thing happened to them, as the Runnin’ Rebels lost on the road to the #302 team in the NET rankings, the Longwood Lancers. Jaylon Wilson scored 16 points for the Lancers, who won 65-55.

Some facts about the second round:

The 87 second round winners advanced to the third round.

Round 3

There were 87 winners of round 2 – one again an odd number, so once again a play-in game. East Tennessee state beat Oakland in the play-in game to advance to round 3 proper.

And that’s where we are now! One great game has been played already: #8 Louisville followed up its second round win over Florida State with a third round upset of #2 Kansas.

For the full list of round 3 matchups, see the NCAA Cup page. I won’t list them all here, but here are some of the most interesting games coming up:

Date and TimeMatchup
Saturday July 11th at 8 PM (#302) Longwood at (#44) Virginia
Friday July 17 at 8 PM(#22) Texas Tech at (#7) Michigan State
Saturday July 18th at 8 PM(#49) Saint Louis at (#36) East Tennessee State
Sunday July 19th at 8 PM(#16) Ohio State at (#4) San Diego State
Tuesday July 21st at 8 PM(#39) Illinois at (#52) Notre Dame
Thursday July 23rd at 8 PM(#295) McNeese State at (#6) Duke
Schedule of some of the most anticipated games of round 3

Who will win it all? The championship game is on Saturday, August 29th. Join us every step of the way at @fixthemadness!

Quick COVID-19 update

Lastly, a quick update on COVID-19 cases around the world and in New York State.

Graphs day 113, pandemic day 120, day 190 since the first cases were diagnosed.

Total cases of COVID-19 diagnosed worldwide: 11,829,602

Total deaths: 544,163

Here is the graph of countries where the epidemic is getting worse:

Countries where the COVID-19 epidemic is getting worse: number of cases reported per day vs. time. Labels show deaths per million people.

Things do seem to be getting better is Sweden. But they’ve fooled me before; let’s hope it’s for real this time? If the downward trend continues for another two days, I’ll move Sweden to the “headed in the right direction” category.

You know who’s not getting better? The United States and South Africa.

Lastly, I discovered I made a mistake in yesterday’s graph of cases in different parts of New York – my case fatality rates were wrong. The corrected graph, including data for today, is shown here. I’ll update yesterday’s post with the correct graph as well.

Cases per million people per day in three regions of New York state: New York City, Westchester County, and the rest of the state

NCAA Cup updates throughout the third round and beyond. COVID-19 updates until the end of the pandemic or until I lose my mind.

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