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Parallel University: March Madness, Day 1

The Tournament should have started today. I am kind of in denial. But, here’s how Day 1 might have gone...

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Somewhere out there in the multiverse, there is no COVID-19 and the NCAA Tournament started Thursday as scheduled. Earlier in the week, I released a possible bracket that exists some subsets of the multiverse. Then, I proceeded to analyze that bracket, complete with upset, Final Four, and the eventual champion. Today, it is time to take a look at how Day 1 might have gone down.

My method for this fun little exercise was simply to pick one of the outcomes of my Monte Carlo simulations of the tournament. I used a random number generator to make the picks using the Kenpom projected point spreads for each game. In this way, the amount of Madness to this particular version of March should be reasonable.

That said, how did the day shake out? Let’s actually start with action on Tuesday and Wednesday night in the First Four:

  • On Tuesday, Nicholls State defeated Southern easily, 81-59 and will face Dayton on Friday in Cleveland.
  • Xavier edged Richmond, 70-69 and will next face West Virginia
  • On Wednesday, Robert Morris easily topped Norfolk State, 78-58 in the early game. They will face Kansas in Omaha on Friday.
  • Stanford pulled away late to defeat Cincinnati, 73-65. The Cardinal move on to face Auburn on Thursday in St. Louis

All four of those teams were favored, so there were no surprises in the First Four.

Moving on to the action on Thursday, starting in Albany where the outcomes were:

  • No. 11 East Tennessee State upsets No. 6 Penn State, 77-62
  • No. 3 Seton Hall takes care of No. 14 Hofstra, 76-63
  • No. 3 Villanova got a bit of a scare from No. 14 Belmont, but survived by a score of 73-67
  • No. 6 Iowa takes out No. 11 Wichita State, 74-67

The Nittany Lion’s late season slide continued right up until the end. They got out of the gate slow and could never quite gain their footing, offensively. Other than Villanova’s relatively close game against Belmont, the other three games went to plan.

St. Louis also saw action on Thursday and the results there were:

  • No. 2 Creighton cruises to victory over No. 15 Princeton, 82-55
  • No. 7 Colorado beats No. 10 Indiana, 73-64
  • No. 4 Maryland blows by No. 13 Bradley by a score of 76-59
  • No. 5 Auburn defeats No. 12 Stanford, 73-66

No upsets were recording in St. Louis, and this includes two picks that I would have made: Indiana and Stanford.

Moving on to the simulated action in Tampa we have

  • No. 4 Louisville beats No. 13 Western Kentucky, 79-57
  • No. 5 BYU survives No. 12 Vermont, 71-65
  • No. 2 Florida State crushes No. 15 Winthrop, 79-62
  • No. 7 Arizona blows out Oklahoma, 86-55

Again, no upsets here either. But, at least I didn’t lose my dark-horse Final Four team, Arizona, in the first round.

Finally, the action in Spokane went down as follows:

  • No. 5 Ohio State takes down No. 12 Liberty, 67-60
  • No. 4 Oregon blows out No. 13 Northern Colorado, 78-54
  • No. 9 Rutgers edges out No. 8 Houston, 68-66 on a late three-pointer to score a minor upset
  • No. 1 Gonzaga easily handles Siena, 81-59

Rutgers’ managed to play the game of the day to earn their first win in the Tournament since 1983. But, with only that one upset in Spokane, Day One of Parallel Universe March Madness went into the books with the higher seeds at 14-2, with the only upsets happening is an No. 8 / No. 9 game (Rutgers over Houston) and a No. 6 / No. 11 game (East Tennessee State over Penn State). Moreover, No. 5 seeds were a perfect 3-0 on Thursday.

If this were the real tournament, I would likely be saying to expect a wild Friday, as the statistics suggest a regression to the mean of seven to eight total upsets in the first Round. How wild will Friday be? Stay tuned.