The 2018 NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Joshua Doering.
DREW SANDIFER | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Butler Collegian simulation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament is complete. From the first round to the national championship, there were twists and turns, and players stepped up to allow their teams to advance further than they’ve ever gone before. Today, we wanted to recognize the players who showed out the most and represented their schools, albeit through a computer screen. Listed below are the first, second and third teams without considering positions for the nonstop action.
Devon Dotson, G, Kansas — Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player
The sophomore guard out of Charlotte was far and away the best player in this tournament. From his 32-point outburst in the opening round versus Siena to his team-high 20 points in the national championship, Dotson shined in every pressure moment. His buzzer-beater over Duke in the Elite Eight should go down as an iconic moment in college basketball simulation history. Dotson seemed to barely break a sweat and was the biggest reason Kansas brought home its fourth championship in the NCAA Tournament era.
Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga
While Filip Petrusev was the leading scorer for Gonzaga over the course of the season, Zags fans knew that Tillie would be their leader come tourney time. Tillie was the only player for Gonzaga to play in their 2017 National Championship loss to North Carolina and he sought revenge in his final season. Tillie nearly brought the Bulldogs to the promised land single-handedly, scoring a game-high 23 points in the title game.
Blake Francis, G, Richmond
Even the most diehard college basketball fans probably didn’t know who Blake Francis was going into this tournament, but you’d have to be living under a rock to not know him after. Francis was the main catalyst for a Richmond team that went from playing in the First Four as a 12-seed to playing in the Final Four in Atlanta. Francis did it all without seeming like a fluke, either, which gives him the first team nod.
Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton
Had Devon Dotson not sunk the buzzer-beater in the Elite Eight against Duke, the moment of the tournament would probably go to Marcus Zegarowski. In an epic duel with Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, Zegarowski provided the final dagger at the buzzer to send Creighton to its first Elite Eight, since there were only eight teams in the tournament in the first place. He didn’t stop there, either, as he had at least a share of the team-high in points in Creighton’s final three games to bring them to heights never seen before.
Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Udoka Azubuike probably was the most dominant player in this tournament. When Kansas played a team they wanted to expose in the frontcourt, the Jayhawks dumped it down to the big man from Nigeria — and he converted. While he played Robin to Dotson’s Batman, Kansas most likely does not win the whole thing without his constant contributions. The senior goes out of the college ranks with a championship, but more importantly, a nod to this first team.
Saddiq Bey, F, Villanova
While we definitely could stop at one All-Tournament team, there were just too many players that we feel needed more recognition. Saddiq Bey from Villanova was one of those players. In a tournament where heavy favorites were getting upset night in and night out, Villanova seemingly cruised to the Elite Eight from the steady hand of Bey. While his tournament-high came in the first round against Hofstra, we didn’t fail to recognize his impact for the Wildcats.
Cassius Stanley, F, Duke
If you had a first guess at who the main player Duke would lean on this tournament, you might pick Tre Jones. If you had a second guess, it would probably be Vernon Carey. Cassius Stanley is the third option on his own team and lands a spot on this team because of his impact for the Blue Devils. Stanley provided high-flying throwdowns, but more importantly produced at the right time for Duke to survive and advance.
Justin Smith, F, Indiana
Indiana has high expectations for itself when it comes to its men’s basketball program. However, not even the most die-hard cream and crimson fans thought that IU could make a trip to the Elite Eight. Justin Smith was reason number one that the Hoosiers were able to accomplish that. While Joey Brunk may have hit the game-winner against San Diego State, it was his frontcourt running mate that did the heavy lifting in this tournament.
Kaleb Wesson, F, Ohio State
Sure, you could make the case that Ohio State’s run to the Elite Eight is overstated, considering it beat a 16-seed to get there. However, that Winthrop team pounded on Baylor and Rutgers to get there and the Buckeyes still had to get past Louisville to make the second weekend. Kaleb Wesson was the player that provided those much-needed buckets down the stretch to set OSU up for great success in the coming years.
Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga
Corey Kispert is known around the college basketball world as a knockdown 3-point shooter, but his performance against Creighton in the Final Four is what gets him on this list. Long range, midrange and at the rim, Kispert was unconscious from the field in the first half that gave Gonzaga a fighting chance to come back in the second half. Without him, Gonzaga is left for dead.
Ochai Agbaji, F, Kansas
Consistent production over the entire course of the tournament is preferred when it comes to deciding who gets to make it on to this list, but you get a break when your best performance of the season is what helps your team win the national championship. That’s exactly what Ochai Agbaji did against Gonzaga. Without him, they lose. Period. He gets a nod for that fact alone.
Jacob Gilyard, G, Richmond
The often-forgotten second player in Richmond’s power trio is Jacob Gilyard. While Blake Francis hit the big shots in the second weekend, the Spiders likely don’t get to that point without the play of Gilyard against Richmond’s murderer’s row of opponents in the first weekend. Against Butler and Maryland, Gilyard was arguably Richmond’s best player and thwarted UR to their surprising run to Atlanta.
Mitch Ballock, G, Creighton
Ironically, Mitch Ballock is probably higher on this list if not for Corey Kispert. Ballock was unstoppable for Creighton in the first half of their Final Four game versus the Zags. It wasn’t just his performance in one half that got him on this list, though. Consistent big plays in wins over Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State kept the Bluejays alive on their way to a Final Four appearance in Atlanta.
Cassius Winston, G, Michigan State
It is very difficult to make this list as a player on a team that lost in the Sweet 16. However, rules bend when a player performs like Cassius Winston did in this tournament. He was Sparty’s leading scorer in a win over upset-minded Bradley but struggled in their win over Cincinnati. His performance against Creighton in a loss, though, is what gets him on this list. His 35 points held on to become a tournament-high as the senior Winston carried MSU on his back to the very end.
Andrew Nembhard, G, Florida
Along with Winston, Nembhard makes a surprise appearance on this list, but he was simply Florida’s best player in each of their three games of the tournament. He led the team in scoring and assists over the course of the tournament, defeating Colorado and Obi Toppin’s top-ranked Dayton Flyers in the process. While the Gators ran through a buzzsaw in Richmond, their loss was not due to the play of Nembhard. He gets the nod here.