Coach Rick was hoping that he could close his eyes, drift off into a deep sleep, wake up, and it would all be over. He would still have the face paint on and he would be parked in front of his TV the entire weekend drinking the finest adult beverages, gorging on a wide selection of delicious snacks, and watching the NCAA tournament.
Nope. Not happening.
The coronavirus is real, and it shut down this year’s March Madness.
Instead of long-range 3s and monster dunks, Coach Rick will do the COVID-19 pub crawl and pound a beer in each room of his house before gorging on the latest Netflix special, The Tiger King.
Back to reality and back to our dream of an NCAA tournament that could have been. It’s Sweet Sixteen time!
How Sweet It Is
Making the Sweet Sixteen is a huge accomplishment for any school but especially for those who weren’t supposed to be there. Defending national champion Virginia lost a ton of talent from last year’s squad and wasn’t expected to come close to having a shot at repeating.
Then, the Cavaliers ripped off eight straight wins, beating Duke and Florida State in the process. Head coach Tony Bennett’s team finished just one game behind the ACC-leading Seminoles in the final standings.
Duke vs. Virginia Condensed Game | 2019-20 ACC Men's Basketball
A No. 6 seed, Virginia would put the clamps on high-scoring Creighton. The Bluejays lost leading scorer Marcus Zegarowski (16.1 ppg, 5.0 apg) to a knee injury in the regular season finale, a win over Seton Hall. Even if Zegarowski would have made it back, it’s unlikely he would have been at full strength. Virginia is on to the Elite Eight in the South Region where they face No. 1 Baylor, a surprisingly easy winner over No. 4 Louisville.
No. 1 seed Dayton becomes the first top seed to check out of the tourney falling to Big Ten co-champion Maryland. Obi Toppin, a player of the year candidate, was not enough to overcome the duo of Terrapins guard Anthony Cowan (16.3 ppg) and forward Jalen Smith (15.5 ppg).
Maryland heads to the Elite Eight to face the ACC’s Florida State, which was simply more athletic than young Villanova. Head coach Leonard Hamilton continues his quest for his first-ever national title. Can he get it?
Rematch Out West
Back in November, No. 1 Gonzaga beat a then-No. 11-ranked Oregon 73-72. The fourth-seeded Ducks get the opportunity for some revenge. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard (20.5 ppg) is pretty good. The problem for the Ducks is that the Bulldogs are just better.
Behind Filip Petrusev (17.5 ppg) and company, Gonzaga advances to face one of the big Sweet Sixteen surprises. It wouldn’t be an NCAA tournament without a few of those.
Remember Seton Hall? Yeah, well, the Pirates ran into the buzzsaw also known as sixth-seed BYU. The Cougars, with Yoeli Childs back in the lineup, put a hurting on Seton Hall to advance for yet another rematch with…you guessed it…Gonzaga.
Who’s the last team to beat the Bulldogs? Yep, Childs had 28 points and 10 rebounds when the Cougars destroyed Gonzaga 91-78 in late February. This Elite Eight is going to be special.
The absolute best game of the Sweet Sixteen?
That would be No. 3 Duke versus No. 2 Kentucky. The teams have met five times in the NCAA tourney. The Wildcats have a 3-2 edge. They beat the Blue Devils in 1978 for the national title.
This isn’t a national title game and it sure as heck isn’t 1978 (though right now, 1978 might be nice). Duke entered the tournament with G Tre Jones (16.2 ppg, 6.4 apg) and Vernon Carey (17.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) tearing it up. They get the best of Kentucky to set up another blueblood Elite Eight showdown – Duke vs. Kansas.
The weekend closes with a slugfest in the East. Florida State locks down Maryland to advance to the Seminoles first Final Four since 1972. Gonzaga gets revenge for its loss to BYU and scores 100 in the process.
#2 Gonzaga vs. #23 BYU Highlights 2020 College Basketball
The Kansas-Duke Midwest Regional final is epic. Jones throws a half-court lob to Duke freshman Wendell Moore Jr. (who can jump through the roof), but Moore is blocked by Kansas 7-footer Udoka Azubuike at the buzzer. The Jayhawks advance with a one-point win.
The 2020 Final Four is set with two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2, and the surprise, No. 6 Virginia.
There are no surprises in Atlanta though. This was Kansas’s tournament to lose and they don’t. Head coach Bill Self leads his team to wins over Gonzaga and Virginia, which somehow managed to get back to the national final.
Wake up Dorothy, the NCAA championship is home in Kansas again!
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.
His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.
When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.