2020 NCAA Tournament Collegian simulation: First Four

The 2018 NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Joshua Doering.  

DREW SANDIFER | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | dsandife@butler.edu

In real life, college basketball is over because of an evil, unseen enemy. However, in these trying times, it is sometimes best to allow your mind to wander to Fantasy Land and wonder, “What could have been?”. That’s exactly what we thought at the Collegian and are determined to explore an alternate reality where the coronavirus blew over like a storm cloud and allowed March Madness to continue as planned.

This will be an ongoing series with updated storylines and heroics from the days they were meant to play. The tournament is a reflection of Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s latest bracket projections. Each game is run through a single computer simulation to emulate the randomness of March. Schedule below.

First Four: March 18

Round of 64 games: March 19-20

Round of 32: March 21-22

Sweet 16: March 26-27

Elite Eight: March 28-29

Final Four: April 4

National Championship: April 6

Tuesday, March 17

6:40 p.m.: (16) Prairie View A&M vs (16) North Carolina Central, Dayton, Ohio

The two losers of the 16-seed First Four games last year kick the games off in 2020. It was the Prairie View A&M Panthers who jumped out to an early lead after putting up 41 points in the first half. The Panthers secure their first NCAA Tournament win in program history and celebrate this game with a locker room dance from head coach Byron Smith before they fly out to Spokane for a near-certain loss against Gonzaga.

Prairie View A&M 77, North Carolina Central 68

PVAM: Devonte Patterson 14 pts

NCC: Jibri Blount 18 pts, 10 rebs

9:10 p.m.: (11) UCLA vs (11) NC State, Dayton, Ohio

Mick Cronin’s Bruins from UCLA rode a hot streak towards the end of the regular season to snag one of the final at-large bids in the Big Dance. However, UCLA’s hot streak would end abruptly in Dayton as NC State forced the Bruins to just 25 points at halftime. UCLA’s 37% shooting from the field and 15 turnovers were their undoing. Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack move on to Albany for their Thursday Round of 64 game vs Penn State.

NC State 69, UCLA 59

NCST: Devon Daniels 13pts

UCLA: Cody Riley 10 pts, 5 rebs

Wednesday, March 18

6:40 p.m.: (16) Robert Morris vs (16) Boston University, Dayton, Ohio

While the rest of the country fills out their brackets, tiny schools are still trying to make history for their programs in the First Four in Dayton. This game, though, was anything but pretty. The Colonials out of Robert Morris made just two of their first 13 shots in route to a putrid 18 points at the half. While they stepped it up some in the second half, it was just too much of a deficit to overcome. Boston U wins its first NCAA Tournament game in over 60 years! Ironically, they leave Dayton to play top-seeded University of Dayton in the Round of 64.

Boston U 61, Robert Morris 44

BU: Walter Whyte 15 pts, 7 rebs

RM: Josh Williams 10 pts

9:10 p.m.: (12) Texas vs (12) Richmond, Dayton, Ohio

Butler watches on from its hotel in Greensboro, anxiously waiting to know who their opponent will be in the Round of 64. However, it did not take long for the winner of this game to be known. Like the losers in the first game, Texas struggled mightily from the field in the first half, down 33-22. The Spiders poured it on the second half, pulling away with ease. Richmond wins its first tourney game since being absent for a decade. The “Golden” matchup is set, with the Spider Grant and Butler’s Bryce primed to matchup in Greensboro, as Shaka Smart’s seat warms.

Richmond 72, Texas 47

RICH: Jacob Gilyard 17 pts, 6 stls, 5 asts

TEX: Jericho Sims 11 pts, 8 rebs

While none of these First Four games were competitive – nor was it good basketball – nail-biting and buzzer-beating hoops are sure to show itself in the Round of 64 games to come. Stay tuned for recaps of all 16 of Thursday’s packed action.



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