If it had gone off as planned, you know exactly where you’d be right now. Same place as Coach Rick.
March Madness 2020
Parked in front of a television somewhere, an adult beverage in hand. Possibly a remote control that allowed you to toggle between all of the NCAA tournament games that would have been televised.
Ahh, the thought.
Instead, here we sit, quarantined by something called COVID-19, affectionately known as the coronavirus. In the U.S., the virus has yet to peak, though there is some hope in an effective treatment that hopefully has the country – and the rest of the world – back to normal soon.
With echoes of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the background - “Coronavirus can take away our basketball, but it will never take away our ability to “what if”!” – Coach Rick wonders about a tournament that will never take place.
So, with blue and white face paint (sorry ladies, no kilt) I dream of a 2020 March Madness that we will never experience. What if this virus hadn’t come around?
The first step in the annual March Madness routine is Selection Sunday.
It’s awesome to watch as schools find out they have made the tourney. It’s especially awesome when schools on the bubble find out they’re in.
This year, teams like Indiana, N.C. State, and Texas would have been among the final selections to make the tourney. The news would have been especially good for the Longhorns where head coach Shaka Smart has yet to work his magic on turning around the program.
As fun as it would have been to see Marquette and NCAA leading scorer Markus Howard announced as a 2020 March Madness participant, it would have been equally as interesting to spend Monday discussing why Xavier, Wichita State, Memphis, and Purdue didn’t make the cut.
The First Four is taking some time to get used to.
Is it really the NCAA tournament?
I mean, it’s Tuesday night. Can I really pound these eight beers and watch basketball when I should be watching Jack Pearson and This Is Us?
The best of the First Four games would have been N.C. State taking on UCLA.
The Wolfpack won 20 games, the biggest of which was an 88-66 thumping of a No. 6 Duke. The Bruins actually had three wins over ranked opponents (Colorado twice, Arizona) and won eight of their last nine games.
The First Weekend
There would have been some quality upsets during the first weekend of play in March Madness. No No. 16 seeds would have won a game, but you could have bet that a No. 12, No. 11, or No. 10 seed would have won at least one game.
Last year’s runner-up Texas Tech would advance to the Sweet Sixteen once again with wins over No. 7 Arizona and an even bigger upset of No. 2 San Diego State. The Aztecs easy schedule would come back to haunt them.
Texas Tech at Baylor Men's Basketball Highlights
After winning its First Four game, UCLA would advance to the second round by stomping Penn State. The Nittany Lions, who finally figured out what a basketball was in 2020, disappointed down the stretch and found themselves headed back to Not So Happy Valley after a first-round exit.
New Mexico State would do exactly what it did a year ago – battle its first round opponent in a one-point game. The Aggies, who lost to Texas Tech by one last year, would lose to No. 4 Oregon in the first round.
In fact, Texas Tech would be the biggest surprise of the first weekend. No. 11 East Tennessee State would beat No. 6 Iowa, but then lose to No. 3 Duke for a shot to go to the Sweet Sixteen. All top seeds would advance as well as three of the No. 2 seeds.
I’ll be back with more face paint next time as we see how the second weekend of the NCAA tournament would have played out. Look out for Part 2 tomorrow (Sunday).
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.