2020 NCAA Tournament Collegian simulation: Second Round, Day Two

The NCAA Tournament bracket following the Collegian’s simulation of the second day of second round games. Graphic by Joshua Doering.

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

At this point in the weekend, basketball is gluttony, and we’ll have more, please. On to the games! 

12:10 p.m.: (12) Richmond vs (4) Maryland, Greensboro, NC

After an upset-filled Saturday, there are not quite as many opportunities for more applications for Cinderella of the tournament. Richmond, however, could be more dangerous to go on a run than any of the others. They have a balanced scoring attack and have faced decent competition throughout the year to test them for these games in March. They’ll need every bit of it in this one as the Spiders play their third game in 114 hours. This opponent, though, will be their toughest yet. Led by super senior Anthony Cowan and sophomore stud Jalen “Stix” Smith, the Spiders will have their hands full on both ends of the floor. 

The Spiders held their own, turning a 14-all tie in the early first half to a seven-point lead later on in the frame. The Spiders led 39-34 at the break. After the Terrapins pulled within striking distance again, the Spiders had an answer ballooning the cushion out to nine, their largest of the game. The Terps would not go out without a punch, though, tying the game with two minutes remaining. A big time Jacob Gilyard 3-pointer from the corner followed up by a Andre Gustavson bucket would give the Spiders a lead they would not let go. An Anthony Cowan three with five seconds brought things within one, but the Terps could not get the rebound on the missed front-end of the one-and-one and that would be all she wrote. The clock was not Maryland’s friend in the end. Spiders advance to New York to face the Florida-Dayton winner. 

Richmond 81, Maryland 79

RICH: Blake Francis 19 pts

MARY: Eric Ayala 13 pts 

2:40 p.m.: (6) Iowa vs (3) Duke, Greensboro, NC

With upsets rampant in this first weekend of the 2020 NCAA Tournament, it was a nice feeling to get back to some blue bloods who have made it a routine to be busy during March. With a marquee matchup between two of the top players in college basketball, Iowa’s Luka Garza and Duke’s Tre Jones, it was Coach K and the Blue Devils that came out swinging in this one. With Duke leading at one point 25-10, the energy in the arena at Greensboro was too much for Iowa to try to make a comeback in this one. 

Down 42-24 at the half, the Hawkeyes did put forth a valiant effort in the second half outscoring the Blue Devils 46-37. However, it was too little, too late for Fran McCaffery’s black and gold. Duke advances to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis to take one one of the stories in the tournament in North Dakota State, a team they beat in the round of 64 in last season’s tournament. It’s Coach K’s milestone 25th trip to the Sweet 16 and the Blue Devils’ fifth trip in the last six years. Along with Kansas, Gonzaga, Dayton and Michigan State, Duke has to be considered one of the favorites to win the championship with how the supporting cast is contributing for this team. In the midst of so much unfamiliarity, college basketball’s king is still here.

Duke 79, Iowa 70

DUKE: Cassius Stanley 17 pts

IOWA: Luka Garza 15 pts, 11 rebs

5:25 p.m.: (11) Cincinnati vs (3) Michigan State, Cleveland, OH

Speaking of the blue bloods, Tom Izzo and Michigan State are looking to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend with a win over a tough-nosed Cincinnati team who will look to control the pace in this game. The Bearcats struggled to slow down play in the first half, but give credit to them, they were able to keep up with the run-and-gun Spartans in the first half, trailing 40-37 at the break. 

In the second half, though, the Bearcats could not get production out of their leading scorers as Tre Scott, Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams combined to shoot 8-for-29 from the field in this game as Michigan State made it very difficult for UC to get anything easy close to the basket. While Michigan State did not get heroic numbers out of their star, Cassius Winston, this game proved that the green and white can win in a variety of ways, which is crucial for winning six games in a row in route to a national championship. They’ll advance to Houston next weekend to square off against the equally-hot Creighton Bluejays in one of the few chalk matchups we will see in the Sweet 16.

Michigan State 74, Cincinnati 62

MSU: Xavier Tillman 14 pts, 9 rebs

CIN: Jarron Cumberland 12 pts

6:10 p.m.: (9) Marquette vs (1) Kansas, Omaha, NE

More blue bloods! This round of 32 tilt between Marquette and Kansas was surely a treat for those who love good guard play. Between the Golden Eagles’ Markus Howard and the Jayhawks’ Devon Dotson, this was probably the matchup of the entire tournament for veteran guards who know how to put the ball in the hoop. Unfortunately, each player scoring 30 points and getting the high-scoring game was not the script that we got for this one, but it was entertaining nonetheless. 

Coaching move of the tournament so far goes to Bill Self for an adjustment made at halftime. Howard had scored twelve first-half points on Dotson, which is actually not on pace for Howard’s average, but Self made the switch. Allowing Marcus Garrett to guard his similarly-named counterpart, Howard scored just two points in the entire final 20 minutes which allowed Kansas to turn a 32-all tie at the half to a runaway win for the Jayhawks. KU will advance to Indianapolis next week to face the winner of the Auburn-Wisconsin game still to come. With Dotson and Azubukie playing as well as they are together, no one wants to step in front of the Jayhawks right now.

Kansas 71, Marquette 58 

KAN: Udoka Azubukie 15 pts, 10 rebs

MARQ: Sacar Anim 14 pts

7:10 p.m.: (7) Arizona vs (2) San Diego State, Sacramento, CA

These teams oftentimes did not get the national attention they deserved because of the fact that they played so late for an East Coast audience, but make no mistake: these were two very good basketball teams. Led by their point guards, SDSU’s Malachi Flynn and UA’s Nico Mannion, it was a matchup for the ages in Sacramento. If you followed along with Friday’s recaps you heard that Malachi Flynn had suffered an ankle injury. While he wasn’t the Aztecs leading scorer at the end of the night, his play made it possible for San Diego State to come out with a win on Sunday night. 

An offensive show put on by Nico Mannion had the Wildcats leading at the break 36-33. In the second half, there was a bizarre stretch where neither team scored for over three minutes but once the teams snapped out of it, they were back to playing ball. Arizona trailed by just four points before a crucial Matt Mitchell tip-in extended the lead before a dagger try from Mitchell put the SDSU win on ice. They will advance to Los Angeles in the Sweet 16 with a highly-anticipated matchup with Indiana.

San Diego State 68, Arizona 63

SDSU: Matt Mitchell 16 pts

ARIZ: Nico Mannion 14 pts 

7:45 p.m.: (9) Florida vs (1) Dayton, Cleveland, OH

Heading into a Cleveland arena filled with red and blue, all eyes were on eventual National Player of the Year Obi Toppin and his upstart Dayton Flyers in a dangerous matchup with a Florida team who underachieved in the regular season. Toppin played no small part to the first part of this game, stringing together six straight points in a stretch, including a putback dunk that brought the oohs and ahhs out of the Ohio crowd. 

Mike White’s Gators would not lay down for Dayton, though. Andrew Nembhard balled out again on Sunday, proving to be Florida’s most important player if they want to keep playing basketball games into April. Nembhard found guys in opportune times to make key baskets that spurred their run. Although Florida led by just a single point at halftime, they were able to slowly pull away from the favored Flyers in the second half to quietly advance to their sixth Sweet 16 in the last decade. They will face off against another upset-minded team in Richmond at Madison Square Garden next weekend for the chance to go to their sixth Elite Eight in the last decade. Watch out for the Gators.

Florida 76, Dayton 66

FLA: Andrew Nembhard 18 pts, 8 asts

DAY: Obi Toppin 18 pts, 5 rebs

8:40 p.m.: (16) Winthrop vs (9) Rutgers, Omaha, NE

On Friday, Winthrop made history as the second 16-seed ever to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, but they would look to venture into uncharted waters for a team of their seed: to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. It would be a tough accomplishment considering this is a Rutgers team that has not made the second weekend since 1979, so they will be looking to make history for their school. It was an ugly-looking first half with both teams needing to go on a bit of a scoring run just to eclipse the 20s by the break. Winthrop led 23-21 as the teams filled the halftime locker rooms. 

It would be the offensive explosion that would bring the newly-found Winthrop fans in Omaha to their feet. The Eagles would go on to score 49 points in the second half. As the clock winded down to history made in the NCAA Tournament, Jim Nantz was quoted as saying, “I saw Kris Jenkins’ shot, I’ve seen a young Tiger. I watched the lights go out in the Super Bowl. THIS is the most surreal I have felt watching sports in my life.” Not only is 16-seed Winthrop going to the Sweet 16, they have the best point differential of any team in the tournament. This 16-point win is considered a close game compared to their 27-point shelling of top-seeded Baylor. They’ll have their work cut out for them as they meet possibly the other hottest team in this tournament in Ohio State, but people doubted them in their first two games, too. Winthrop basketball, must-watch television. Who knew?

Winthrop 72, Rutgers 56 

WIN: Hunter Hale 17 pts, 6 rebs

RUTG: Ron Harper 10 pts

9:40 p.m.: (5) Auburn vs (4) Wisconsin, Sacramento, CA

Almost lost in the craziness of 16-seed Winthrop winning yet another NCAA Tournament game was a quietly good game between two good teams. Auburn is coming off a Final Four appearance in last year’s tournament, but Wisconsin is the Big Ten’s regular season champion. Like Ohio State-Louisville, this seemed too early to be having this matchup. Nevertheless, these teams played close throughout the entirety of the 40-minute war. The Badgers’ regular scoring leader Nate Reuvers struggled mightily in this game shooting just 5-for-13 from the field, but then again, Wisconsin was forcing Auburn’s leading scorer to an even worse night from the field. At 2-for-9, Auburn’s Samir Doughty started deferring the ball to his teammates, which played right into Wisconsin’s hands. 

UW would spark a 14-3 run in the second half to break open a tie game. Playing slow, conservative basketball proved to be the best move for Greg Gard’s team after that, suffocating Auburn and forcing them to take undesirable shots. The Badgers advance to their seventh Sweet 16 of the decade, but their first since 2017. They draw the short stick next weekend, as they’ll have to find a way to upend the number one overall seed in Kansas in Indianapolis. Not a sure win by any means for the Jayhawks.

Wisconsin 72, Auburn 67 

WISC: D’Mitrik Trice 17 pts, 7 rebs

AUB: Danjel Purifoy 15 pts

When I started this simulation, I had no idea this was the way the opening weekend would turn out. 15-seeds so far are 4-2 overall and just half of the remaining teams in the tournament are top-four seeds. For reference, the 2019 NCAA Tournament had 14 top-four seeds move on to the second weekend. That tournament had one double-digit seed, Oregon, reach the regional semifinals; this simulation advanced SIX double-digit seeds to the second weekend. There is no one Cinderella, we have three. And if you count Richmond and Yale, make it five. There are storylines in all eight games, and we can’t wait to see how this “lost tournament” will play out in the end. 

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