Image Source: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Using Joe Lunardi’s final bracket (pictured above), two of New Arena’s college basketball experts broke down the hypothetical field and determined the would-be 2020 NCAA Champion.
*The team in blue denotes the winner
South Region – Round of 64
(1) Baylor vs. (16) Winthrop
Among the 1-seeds, Baylor seems the most likely to allow the 16-seed to hang around for a half or more. Their offense is the least reliable of the four top-seeds, and they don’t have a whole lot of confidence after losing three of their last five to end the year. They don’t end up joining the 2018 Virginia team that lost to a 16-seed, but Baylor fans aren’t too thrilled entering their next matchup…
(8) Saint Mary’s vs. (9) Rutgers
Rutgers has won two games all year playing away from their home court. They simply can’t be trusted against anybody in a road/neutral environment. The Gaels let a Round of 64 matchup against Villanova slip last year, but their team is better this year and they’re shooting a blistering 39.6-percent from beyond the arc as a team. Go Gaels.
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) Stephen F. Austin
Ohio State was a preseason darling for many pundits across the college basketball landscape. After a disastrous start in Big Ten play, the Buckeyes picked it up late with strong wins over Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan. They also have the best player on either team in big man Kaleb Wesson who can single-handedly dominate this matchup.
(4) Louisville vs. (13) Vermont
Don’t get it twisted: This matchup is a lot closer than the seeds would infer. The Catamounts are a dangerous team, and Louisville has proven to crumble when faced with adversity. If Vermont can hit a few shots early, this game turns into an avalanche — with Catamount seniors Anthony Lamb and Everett Duncan leading the charge.
(6) Virginia vs. (11) Cincinnati
A matchup of two strong defensive clubs, this game could end up being ‘first to 50’ wins. From a glance, there has to be some trust put into a Virginia team that is coming off an unforgettable tournament run from last year. Reigning champs Mamadi Diakite and Kihei Clark do just enough to squeak by the Bearcats.
(3) Michigan State vs. (14) Bradley
In the span of about six weeks, the Spartans went from completely unraveling to emerging as a potential title favorite. Led by senior Cassius Winston, the Spartans have the look of a team that probably should be on the 1- or 2-seed line. They make quick work of Bradley — who inexplicably won their conference tournament after Northern Iowa’s shocking defeat in the first round of the MVC tourney.
(7) Illinois vs. (10) USC
A couple of big-time names who will likely be playing the NBA very soon in this one. USC’s Onyeka Okongwu is a lottery-bound big who played along side the vaunted Ball brothers at Chino Hills High School in California. Illinois’ Ayo Donsunmu is a sophomore who is picking up steam after lighting up virtually the entire Big Ten in conference play. Though Illinois has had the more impressive season in the tougher conference, the Trojans are simply more talented and better equipped for a lengthy tourney run.
(2) Creighton vs. (15) Little Rock
The Blue Jays of Creighton enter the tournament with a ton of injury question marks. Most notably, starting guard Marcus Zegarowski’s tournament future remained up in the air before play was suspended. Though it won’t matter much in a matchup against Little Rock, Creighton needs to be healthy if they want to make serious noise in the South Region.
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