2020 March Madness Bracket Results (What Would Have Been)
Today should have been the day we were finalizing our brackets and feeling that excitement for what was to come. This is, of course, in a normal world where CoVid-19 doesn’t exist. Selection Sunday might just be the second-best sports day of the year. The first, of course, being the Thursday (would have been tomorrow) when 32 teams fight to make it into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
So here is what I decided: maybe we can’t watch it unfold, but I’m going to make March Madness happen anyways. After all, this bracket is what I publicly recommended last year. So in case you can’t tell, I am clearly a March Madness fortune teller and should have no trouble forecasting the exact results of 2020’s March Madness (I’m joking, of course, but roll with it, folks). This bracket finished among the top 1,000 out of 23 million entries.
So here is the game plan for today’s article: I wrote a final bracketology article after the tournament was canceled. You can read about the methodology here if you want. We are going to use that bracket (see below) as the official 2020 March Madness bracket and I’ll tell you about all of the upsets. I’m not going for the most likely situation, but rather a historically realistic scenario. The average tournament has 12.7 upsets during the course of the bracket so I have 13 of them built into the outcome. I’ll explain why on a handful of them before we get to the final bracket results at the bottom.
First Round Upsets
Historically, there have been 6.1 first round upsets per year. This data does not factor in 9 seeds beating 8 seeds. In 2020’s March Madness there are just five upsets but one of them is a whopper.
(14) North Texas > (3) Kentucky
I’m not writing this for hyperbolic effect but rather because it would have very much been a possibility. Kentucky was near-certain to get a 3-seed or even a 2-seed after going 25-6 and playing an SEC schedule, but efficiency metrics all tell us that this would have been one of the weakest 3-seeds in a decade. KenPom.com had them as the #29 team this year behind 15-16 Minnesota, who didn’t even make the field. Not only that but North Texas is a heck of a 14-seed. They played 1-seed Dayton fairly close in Dayton and won 14 of their final 17 games. This team placed higher in efficiency metrics than UCLA (who many had landing an at-large bid) and 28-3, 11-seed, Stephen F. Austin. Most importantly, they shoot the heck out of the ball from behind the arc, making 8 per game at 37.5%. This team could knock off anyone on a hot night from deep, especially a vulnerable Kentucky team.
(12) Purdue > (5) Virginia
After smashing the Wichita State Shockers in the play-in game, Purdue knocks off the defending National Champs to the surprise and heartbreak of many. It shouldn’t be that unbelievable, however, considering every efficiency metric has Purdue as the stronger team. KenPom.com, for instance, considers 16-15 Purdue to be the 24th best team in the country while 23-7 Virginia is ranked as their #42 team. Not only did Virginia play just the #60 strength of schedule but their offensive efficiency wasn’t even among the top 200 Division-1 teams. Purdue, meanwhile, played the sixth toughest schedule in the country, putting up a top 50 offense and the #11 defense in the country. The two team’s luck metrics were the extreme opposites as well and you can bet Vegas would have taken note and even made Purdue the betting favorites despite the 12/5 seeds.
Other First-Round Upsets
- (12) Texas Tech > (5) Auburn
- (11) Ste F Austin > (6) Providence
- (10) Indiana > (7) Houston
Sweet Sixteen Sleepers
Much like the first round, the data doesn’t include 4/5 “upsets” but in all other seedings, there have been 3.6 upsets in the second round per year. This year’s contest has just three of them.
(6) West Virginia > (3) San Diego St.
A lot of people would have been upset with San Diego State’s draw, as they were a likely 1-seed before the conference tournament loss (only their second of the season) to Utah State. Realistically, however, that is what the committee tends to do with teams who don’t have a top 100 strength of schedule and don’t win their conference tournaments. The 3-seed isn’t the bad part of their draw, though, it’s a powerhouse defensive team (3rd most efficient in the nation) waiting for them in the second round. The Mountaineers had a rough stretch towards the end of the season but finished it off with a 12-point win over 1-seed Baylor. Their balanced scoring attack even kept it close in Kansas, they won by 38 against Texas and knocked off the then #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The team can play for sure and their suffocating defense would be dangerous for any team, let alone a San Diego State squad who didn’t face a ranked opponent all year.
Other Second-Round Upsets
- (12) Texas Tech > (4) Maryland
- (7) Michigan > (2) Villanova
Elite Eight Cinderellas
On average, there have been 1.7 upsets in the Sweet Sixteen per season. The first round and second round of my 2020 bracket gave us fewer than usual but this is where we catch up, as there are four more upsets to add to the tally.
(12) Texas Tech > (1) Dayton
You’ve been watching play-in team, Texas Tech, roll through last year’s Final Four team, Auburn then the 4-seed Maryland and have probably been wondering why I haven’t explained why quite yet. Well, it’s because I wanted to save them for their biggest upset yet. The Red Raiders were brilliant last year, advancing to the NCAA Championship game before losing in overtime but they lost a lot of talent and just barely squeaked into the field this year after losing four-straight to end their season. Let’s not look beyond the fact, though, that one of those games was in Baylor and in overtime. The other was by just four points against the #1 overall seed, Kansas. Texas Tech also lost in overtime against Kentucky and by 3 in Kansas earlier in the year. They knocked off the then #1 team in the nation, Louisville, back in December too. To put it plainly, this team sure can hoop! The efficiency metrics back it up, as they rank among the top 20 teams in TeamRankings’ predictive metric (just behind San Diego State, Oregon, Creighton and Kentucky). Yes, Dayton and Obi Toppen are ridiculous but if Texas Tech can play right with Kansas, Baylor and other top teams, you can bet they’d have a shot to knock off a Dayton team who doesn’t have a ranked win all season.
Other Third-Round Upsets
- (7) Michigan > (3) Oregon
- (4) Louisville > (1) Gonzaga
- (6) West Virginia > (2) Creighton
(3) Michigan State > (1) Kansas
Going into the season, Michigan State received 60 of the 65 first-place votes in the AP-preseason rankings so clearly they have all the talent in the world. They finished the season with 9 losses but when you consider the gauntlet they went through, that’s surely understandable. They lost to Duke, Kentucky and six hard-fought games in what may have been the single toughest conference of all-time this year. This team won more games against top-50 programs than any team in the country. That isn’t to say Kansas is a push-over or anything close to it, but Cassius Winston would be the best player in this game (sincere apologies to Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson). Kansas finished on a hot streak and often looked like the best team in the country but both Baylor and Villanova provided a blueprint on how to beat them: slow the game down and we know the Spartans can do just that.
(1) Baylor > (4) Louisville
Much like Michigan State, the Louisville Cardinals were top-five in the preseason rankings and were actually #1 into mid-December. They are one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country and can surely beat anyone any given night. They closed the season on a rough note, but efficiency metrics have them neck and neck with their Elite Eight opponent, Gonzaga, who didn’t play a top 100 schedule. Baylor, meanwhile, plays like the most well-coached team in the country. Their ball movement, off-ball cuts, shot selection and defensive intensity each and every play are all a sight to behold. The Bears won 23-straight at one point including big wins in Kansas, against Villanova, Arizona and West Virginia. Everyone on their roster is a threat to score and Baylor just may have the best defense in the country which as we saw last season, served Texas Tech and Virginia quite well.
Want to know who wins it all? Check out the full bracket results below!