As the world continues to fight and soldier on through the current tragedy and global crisis, we could all use a bit of a distraction. For me, it is therapeutic to think about a world without COVID-19 and in this world, the NCAA Tournament has reach the end of its second weekend. For the last few weeks, as I hang out under lock-down at home with the fam in Michigan, I have been presenting the results of a single Monte Carlo simulation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Here are the results of the Four Regional Final contests:
No. 2 Michigan State downs No. 1 Kansas, 72-65
It was an epic battle in a game that many stated before hand might be the defacto National Title game. For two straight days, all the talk in the tournament was about MSU-Kansas and the game lived up to it billing. Both teams battled for 40 minutes and neither team led by more that 4 points for the first 38 minutes. Kansas took the odd approach of focusing much of their defensive efforts on Rocket Watts.
As far as that goes, the strategy was reasonably effective, as Rocket was held to only seven points off five shots (all from three). But, when the brightest lights were on, MSU’s brightest lights shined. Cassius Winston scored a game-high 26 points and six assists, including making six shots on nine attempts from the three-point line, two of which he sunk in the final two minutes to push the lead from one to seven.
Cash won the Midwest Regions Most Outstanding Player, based largely of his performance tonight. So far in the tournament, Winston has averaged 17.3 points a game, and 6.3 assists
Aaron Henry once again was outstanding on defense and put up a reliable 12 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. For the tournament, Henry averaged 10.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists.
Xavier Tillman managed his second double-double with 10 points and 11 rebound, bring his average to 10.5 points and 10.8 rebound. Tillman was also named to the All-Midwest Region team.
Meanwhile, Malik Hall chipped in seven points. Foster Loyer and Gabe Brown put up five points apiece off the bench. In total, MSU shot 51 percent from the floor and 41 percent (11 for 27) from three. Coach Izzo advances to his ninth Final Four in 25 magical seasons.
No. 5 Ohio State beats No. 3 Kentucky, 75-60
Despite the seeds, the Buckeyes actually entered the game as a slight (-3) favorite and blew the doors off the Wildcats with red-hot shooting from three. This was a rematch of late December game between the two squads and the results were much the same. Ohio State advances to their 12th overall Final Four, their fourth of the modern tournament era (since 1979) and their first since 2012.
No. 4 Maryland ends the run of No. 7 Arizona, 77-61
The Terps will move on the Atlanta to face a Michigan State team that already beat then twice in three tries this year (at least in the Parallel Universe). Maryland advances to their third overall Final Four, making their first appearance since going back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.
No. 8 Saint Mary’s upset No. 2 Creighton, 73-61
Cinderella is alive and well, and headed to Atlanta to face Ohio State next Saturday. This is Saint Mary’s first Final Four in program history and the farthest that they have advanced in the modern tournament since making the Sweet 16 in 2010.
In summary, the updated tournament bracket looks like this:
My simulated Final Four wound up being made up of a No. 2, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 8 seed. This seed distribution is a bit low, but not as extreme as 2011 (3,4,8, and 11) and similar to 2006 (2,3,4,11).
While I certainly would have been surprised to see three of the Final Four participants from the Big Ten, The B1G was clearly the strongest league in the country all year, so it would not have been a shock. As for my Final Four picks... I went o-fer. Better luck next year...
That is all for now, but next weekend is still the Final Four... somewhere. Will MSU cut down the nets? Tune in next Monday night to find out.