Due to the global COVID-19, or Coronavirus, pandemic, the annual NCAA March Madness tournament has been fully cancelled out of an abundance of caution. Clearly this is heartbreaking for the players who sacrificed so much and worked so hard throughout the season, the school’s fans, and fans of college basketball in general. However, there are bigger things at stake right now.
I take this annual tournament seriously. I look forward to it the way children anticipate Christmas. In the days between Selection Sunday and Thursday’s first tip off, I am surrounded by analysis, statistics, crumpled brackets, and betting odds. Last year I introduced my son to the tournament, though being only eight months old, it was partly lost on him. This year would be no different, though I look forward to (God willing) teaching him the ins and outs of this special event when he’s older.
The tournament was set to be a good one. Early mid-major conference championships burst a few bubbles sooner than expected. Belmont was on track to receive another low double digit seed but played well enough to shake things up, possibly creating a scenario against a a not-so-dominant Duke. Dayton had a one seed. Dayton. That never happens. And Seton Hall had a chance to make a run, one of the Big East’s strongest teams this year.
But we’ll never know. My beloved alma mater, Marquette University, seemed to repeat last year's end-of-conference-play skid. While my usual March Madness circle was dearly rooting for a Marquette-Illinois match-up (there are more than a few of us on either side of that line), it was likely not meant to be. Maybe this cancellation is a blessing in disguise of sorts.
With that, I am going to attempt some semblance of normalcy. I have taken filled out the last bracket from ESPN’s Bracketology. Can’t let tradition be severed by something like a global pandemic after all. The funny thing is, I didn’t get too crazy with my picks. I picked Kansas to win it all. Yes, I could have chosen Marquette because – who cares? But I didn’t. I played it fairly normal. Going off the reservation felt like giving the virus a slight upper hand. And in this game, you don’t do that. You play every second like it matters.
With that, here’s my hypothetical picks for 2020.