College Hoops: How Friday's First-Round NCAA Tournament Games Might Have Played Out? -- Day 4
After a wild Day 3 of our fictional NCAA tournament it's on to Day 4 and the remaining 16 emotion-packed first-round games. As we all know, upsets are part of the package in the opening round.
The actual men's NCAA basketball tournament would have been in its fourth day on Friday, March 20, but the tournament was canceled because of COVID-19.
We decided to provide a substitute to fill in the vacant days, giving you scenarios on what might have happened on the days those games were scheduled to take place. We began with the preliminary-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and reported on the first-round games that would have been played on Thursday, March 19.
Today (Friday) we finish the first round with the remaining 16 games to be played.
We used the bracketology and pairings projected by Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com, which projected that seven Pac-12 teams would be invited to the tournament.
So let's get started with our predictions of how the 16 games on the second day of first-round play might have gone as you frantically change channels to catch every exciting moment. (Psst, the upsets come late in the day.)
Day 4, Game 1
No. 7 USC (22-9) vs. No. 10 Indiana (20-12) at Albany, N.Y.
Preview: The USC Trojans finished tied for third in the Pac-12 and won their final three games, all against teams that made the NCAA tournament field.
The Indiana Hoosiers wound up tied for 10th in the Big Ten and went 2-3 in their final five games.
The game: Still feeling confident after hitting the game-winning shot against UCLA in the final regular-season game, USC's Jonah Mathews scores 12 points in the first half to stake the Trojans to a five-point halftime lead.
Trayce Jackson-Davis leads the Hoosiers' second-half rally, and they take a two-point lead midway through the second half. Indiana has kept USC's best player, Onyeka Okongwu bottled up, preventing him from getting the ball in the paint.
Indiana still leads by three points with a minute left before Okongwu blocks a shot by Justin Smith, leading to fastbreak hoop by the Trojans. After Jackson-Davis misses an 18-foot shot with 16 seconds left, the Trojans head upcourt without taking a timeout. Mathews dribbles to the top of the key, and lets fly with a 16-foot shot from the left elbow. It hits the front rim, bounces up and falls through at the buzzer.
Mathews gets the hero treatment again.
Final score: USC 73, Indiana 72.
Day 4, Game 2
No. 1 Dayton (29-2) vs. No. 16 Winthrop (24-10) at Cleveland
Preview: Dayton enters the postseason riding a 20-game winning streak, and the Flyers went 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play. Forward Obi Toppin was the Atlantic-10 player of the year, and was named to the Associated Press first-team All-America team on Friday.
Winthrop finished tied for first in the Big South Conference, then won the conference tournament. The Eagles rank fifth in the nation in scoring offense (81.3 per game) but have no one averaging more than 13.9 points.
The game: The Flyers know Wintrhop is dangerous, so they try to squash the Eagles' hopes immediately. Toppin scores 15 points in the first half to stake Dayton to a nine-point lead at halftime.
Winthrop uses its depth (nine players average more than 14 minutes) to make inroads in the second half, but Dayton, which ranks 12th in the nation in scoring, has too many weapons to allow Winthrop to seriously threaten. The Flyers pull away in the closing minutes for their first NCAA tournament win since 2015.
Final Score: Dayton 81, Winthrop 67
Day 4, Game 3
No. 6 Virginia (23-7) vs. No. 11 Richmond (25-7) at Greensboro, N.C.
Preview: Richmond beat Wichita State in the preliminary round after it finished second in the Atlantic 10. The Spiders own a 10-point, neutral-court win over Wisconsin.
The Virginia Cavaliers are the defending national champs, one year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round. Virginia started ACC play 4-4 but wound up tying for second place. The Cav enter the postseason on an eight-game winning streak.
The game: The Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense, and, as alway, they keep the score down, which leaves little room for error. The first half ends with Richamond holding a 27-25 lead.
Kihei Clark hits a three-pointer that puts Virginia ahead by two points five minutes into the second half, and the Cavaliers then grind out possession after possession, stayng just ahead of the Spiders. Richmond is still within three points with a minute left, but does not score again.
Final score Virginia 52, Richmond 47
Day 4, Game 4
No. 8 Houston (23-8) vs. No. 9 Colorado (21-11) at Spokane, Wash.
***Colorado coach Tad Boyle discussed Buffaloes' slump after losing to Cal
Preview: The Houston Cougars finished in a three-way for first place in the American Athletic Conference, but were just 3-3 in their final six games. No Houston players were on the first-team all-AAC squad.
The Colorado Buffaloes looked like a Pac-12 title contender until they collapsed down the streth, losing their final five games to finish tied for fifth.
The game: The Buffaloes try to bounce back from their season-ending slump and move out to an early 14-8 lead, thanks largely to the work of point guard McKinley Wright IV.
But that fades quickly, as Houston, which ranks seventh in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, puts the clamps on the Colorado attack. The Buffaloes' confidence disappears, and they revert to their late-season vulnerability. The Cougars tie the game by halftime and dominate the second half.
Final score: Houston 76, Colorado 65
Day 4, Game 5
No. 2 Villanova (24-7) vs. No. 15 North Dakota State (25-8) at Albany, N.Y.
Preview: Villanova won the national championship two of the previous four years and finished in a tie for first place in the Big East this season. They won seven of their last eight games.
The North Dakota State Bison finished tied for first place in the Summit League, then won the conference tournament.
The game: The Bison's two all-conference players, Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward, get off to quick starts as North Dakota State takes a 30-27 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats depend on their three-point shooting, and they are not hitting from long range in this game. Their three top scorers, Saddiq Bey, Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore, are a combined 2-for-13 from beyond the arc with 10 minutes left in the game and the Bison leading by five.
Villanova resorts to pushing the ball inside, and they finally tie the game with 1:10 remaining.
Bey scores from close range with 23 seconds left to put Villanova up by two, and Shahid attempts two shots on the Bison's final possession, but he misses both and Villanova escapes.
Final score: Villanova 69, North Dakota State 67
Day 4, Game 6
No. 8 Saint Mary's (26-8) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma (19-12) at Cleveland
***Saint Mary's Jordan Ford celebrates his game-winning shot
Preview: Saint Mary's finished in third place in the West Coast Conference and lost to Gonzaga in the conference tournament finals. Jordan Ford ranks 12th in the nation in scoring at 21.3 points per game.
Oklahoma finished in a four-way tie for third place in the Big 12 and won three of its last four games. Kristian Doolittle was a first-team all-Big 12 selection.
The game: This game is close from the start, with neither team able to break away. Doolittle scores 11 first-half points as the Sooners grab a two-point halftime lead.
Malik Fitts scores eight points early in the seond half to put Saint Mary's ahead, as the lead seesaws back and forth. With 50 seconds left the score is tied. and Austin Reaves, who scored 41 points in the Sooners' final regular-season game, makes a 15-footer to put Oklahoma head by two with 23 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Fitts takes a 15-foot shoot that misses, but the ball goes out of bounds off Oklahoma with 3.1 seconds to go. The ball is inbounded to Ford, who fakes a shot to get a defender in the air, then dribbles once to his left before launching a three-point shot at the buzzer. The ball goes in, and the Gaels players celebrate, but the officials signal that they have to check whether the ball was released in time.
Replays show that it was extremely close as to whether the ball left Ford's hand before the red light around the backboard was illuminated. After examining replays for five minutes, one official steps to center court amid a hushed crowd, then signals that the basket is good. Jordan and the Gaels celebrate again. Doolittle and several other Sooners cry.
Final score: Saint Mary's 72, Oklahoma 71
Day 4, Game 7
No. 3 Maryland (24-7) vs. No. 14 UC Irvine (21-11) at Greensboro, N.C.
Preview: The Maryland Terrapins finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten, but they went 2-3 in their final five games. Forward Jalen Smith was named an AP third-team All-American.
The UC Irvine Anteaters finished first in the Big West one year after upsetting fourth-seeded Kansas State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The game: Smith leads the Terps to a seven-point halftime advantage by scoring 12 first-half points. Tommy Rutherford, the only starter back from the Anteater team that beat Kansas State last year, scores on a couple of put-backs early in the second half to get Irvine within three.
But Maryland does not panic and its superior talent is beoming evident. The Terps push the lead to 13 points with four minutes left before coasting home.
Final score: Maryland 71, UC Irvine 59
Day 4, Game 8
No. 5 Ohio State (21-10) vs. No. 12 Yale (23-7) at Spokane, Wash.
Preview: Ohio State finished in a four-way tie for fifth in the Big Ten, and Kaleb Wesson was a second-team all-Big Ten selection.
The Yale Bulldogs won the Ivy League title and own a road win over Clemson this season.
The game: Yale is familiar with the underdog role, upsetting fifth-seeded Baylor in 2016 when the Bulldogs were a No. 12 seed, as they are this time.
Yale and Ohio State both take and make a lot of three-point shots, but the Bulldogs seem more relaxed in this game and hit more of their long-range shots in the first half. That helps the Bulldogs take a four-point halftime lead.
The Buckeyes are more intense defensively in the second half, forcing a few turnovers that help them tie the game midway through the seond half.
But Wesson picks up his fourth foul with eight minutes left and has to sit for a while. He eventually fouls out with 2:14 remaining and the Buckeyes holding a one-point lead.
The Buckeyes appear to be tight in the closing moments, fearing the upset, and Paul Atkinson scores from close range to put Yale ahead by a point with 1:01 to go. The flustered Buckeyes don't get a good shot on their ensuing possesion, and Yale's Azar Swain, an 82.2 percent foul shooter, makes two free throws with 8.3 seconds left to make it a three-point game.
Yale decides to foul rather than allow a tying three-point shot, and Duane Washington Jr. (the Pearl's son) makes the first free throw with 2.1 seconds left and purposely misses the second. Yale's Jordan Bruner grabs the rebound and is fouled with 0.5 seconds to go. He makes the first and misses the second, but Ohio State, with no timeouts left, can't do anything but attempt a fullcourt shot. It comes after the buzzer and is well off line as the Bulldogs converge at center court to revel in the upset.
Final score: Yale 69, Ohio State 67.
Day 4, Game 9
No. 6 BYU (24-8) vs. No. 11 UCLA (20-12) at Albany, N.Y.
***BYU's Tyler Haws drives on UCLA's Cody Riley
Preview: These teams met during the regular season, with BYU beating the Bruins 78-63 in Hawaii on November 25.
The BYU Cougars finished second in the West Coast Conference, and they had won nine straight games, including a victory over Gonzaga, before losing to Saint Mary's in the WCC tournament semifinals. Yeoli Childs did not play in a game until Dec. 4 because he was serving a nine-game suspension, but he leads the Cougars in scoring (22.2 points per game) and rebounding (9.0)
UCLA beat Stanford in the preliminary round earlier this week after finishing second in the Pac-12. They are playing their best basketball at the end of the season.
The game: BYU leads the nation in three-point shooting percentage, at 42.2 percent, and they rain some threes down on the Bruins defense in the first half, helping the Cougars to a 39-33 lead at halftime.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin has his team playing better perimeter defense in the second half, and the Bruins get physical with the Cougars. Chris Smith scores baskets on consecutive possessions to tie the game with eight minutes left.
Tyler Haws of BYU and Smith continue to trade baskets until Haws drains a three-pointer that puts the Cougars ahead by two with 1:29 left. UCLA freshman Tyger Campbell puts up a low-percentage shot that misses, and Yeoli Childs scores from close range to make it a four-point BYU lead. Childs scores again with 21 seconds to go to give BYU a six-point advantage, and that settles the issue.
Final score: BYU 71, UCLA 65
Day 4, Game 10
No. 6 West Virgina (21-10) vs. No. 11 Rutgers (20-11) at Cleveland
Preview: West Virginia finished in a four-way tie for third place in the Big 12 with a 9-9 conference record, but the Mountaineers went 3-6 over their final nine games. They ended the season with a win over Baylor, though.
Rutgers finished in a four-way tie for fifth in the Big Ten, and the Scarlet Knights won their final two games, against Maryland and at Purdue.
The game: Neither team is great offensively, and both are poor outside-shooting teams. West Virginia depends on steals to get transition baskets, and the Mountaineers get enough of those to take a four-point halftime lead.
Rutgers' Ron Harper Jr. has shot the three-ball well recently, going 16-of-28 from distance over the final seven games, and he makes a pair from beyond the arc to give the Scarlet Knights a one-point lead at the eight-minute mark.
Rutgers is doing its best to avoid mistakes on offense and sag back on defense, allowing the Mountaineers to attempt perimeter shots. With its players left open, West Virginia attempts several three-point shots, but they are not falling. It's not a surprise since the Mountaineers came into the game shooting 28.6 percent from behind the arc, which is 338th in the country and the worst of any team in the NCAA tournament.
That and the Scarlet Knights' ability to avoid turnovers help Rutgers expand its lead to six points in the final minute, forcing a desperate West Virginia team to foul. Rutgers makes enough free throws to close out the upset win..
Final score: Rutgers 73, West Virginia 67
Day 4, Game 11
No. 3 Duke (25-6) vs. No. 14 Little Rock (21-10) at Greensboro, N.C.
Preview: Duke finished tied for second place in the ACC, and it boasts the ACC player of the year in guard Tre Jones. The Blue Devils suffered a loss to last-place Wake Forest late in the season, but they won their last two games.
Little Rock won the Sun Belt regular-season title after being picked to finish 11th in the preseason poll.
The game: Duke is not taking Little Rock lightly, being reminded by coach Mike Krzyzewski that the Trojans upset fifth-seeded Purdue the last time they were in the NCAA tournament, in 2016.
The Blue Devils are second in the nation in scoring, and they sprint out to a quick 20-8 lead over Little Rock, which has no answer for center Vernon Carey Jr. A brief lapse by Duke allows Little Rock to get within eight points at halftime, but Duke is never taken out of its comfort zone by the Trojans. Little Rock cannot slow down the talented Blue Devils, especially with the crowd in Greensboro cheering on the Blue Devils.
Final score: Duke 90, Little Rock 64
Day 4, Game 12
No. 1 Gonzaga (31-2) vs. No. 16 Prairie View A&M (20-13) at Spokane, Wash.
Preview: Gonzaga won the West Coast Comnference regular-season and conference tournament titles, and Zags sophomore Filip Petruzev was named WCC player of the year.
Prairie View won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title and knocked off Siena in a preliminary-round game to earn the right to face Gonzaga.
The game: Not only does Gonzaga have a huge advantage in talent in this game, but the Panthers are forced to face the Bulldogs in Gonzaga's home town.
What is virtually a home game for Gonzaga quickly turns into a rout. The Zags, who lead the nation in scoring, are ahead by 11 at halftime and push the margin to 20 points midway through the seond half. Coach Mark Few is able to rest his starters for the final five minutes.
Final score: Gonzaga 88, Prairie View A&M 65
Day 4, Game 13
No. 3 Seton Hall (21-9) vs. No. 14 Hofstra (26-8) at Albany, N.Y.
Preview: Seton Hall finished tied for second in the Big East and feature Myles Powell, the Big East player of the year, who was also named an AP first-team All-American.
The Hofstra Pride won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season and conference tournament titles. Hofstra beat UCLA by 10 points in Los Angeles early in the season, and they went 12-1 over their final 13 games.
The game: Powell seems to be out to prove he is worthy of his All-America status and he forces a few shots early on. That helps Hofstra to jump ahead, taking a two-point lead into halftime.
Desure Buie is in his fifth year at Hofstra, and he is not bothered by the big stage. He scores three quick hoops early in the second half to increase the Pride's lead to seven point midway through the half.
The Pirates are feeling the pressure at this point, but a three-point basket by Sandro Mamukelashvili helps Seton Hall get to withing four points at the three-minute mark. Powell adds a bucket to close the deficit to one point before Hofstra's Eli Pemberton scores on a put-back to make it a three-point game again with 59 seconds left.
Seton Hall guard Jared Rhoden, a 62.3 percent foul shooter, misses the front end of a one-and-one with 36 seconds remaining, and Buie, who shoots 84.8 percent from the line, makes a pair with 10 seconds to go to increase the Hofstra lead to six points. Seton Hall scores on a layup with three seconds left, but it's too late.
Hofstra pulls the big upset, and the Pride players run into the stands to celebrate with family and friends.
Final score: Hofstra 71, Seton Hall 67
Day 4, Game 14
No. 3 Michigan State (22-9) vs. No. 14 North Texas (20-11) at Cleveland
Preview: The Michigan State Spartans were the AP preseason No. 1 team, but they dropped out of the top-25 in February before finishing in a tie for second in the Big Ten by winning their final five games, four of which were against ranked foes.
The North Texas Mean Green won the Conference-USA regular-season title, and Javion Hamlet was the conference player of the year.
The game: The Spartans are in the NCAA tournament for the 23rd consecutive year, and after getting to the Final Four last season, they are no about to let North Texas end their season.
Cassius Winston establishes the aggressive mindset from the start, and the Spartans score the first 10 points of the game against the Mean Green, which has not participated in March Madness since 2010. They are overwhelmed by the situation and the opponent, and they quickly fall by the wayside.
Final score: Michigan State 79, North Texas 59
Day 4, Game 15
No. 6 Illinois (21-10) vs. No. 11 Cincinnati (20-10) at Greensboro, N.C.
Preview: Illinois finished in fourth place in the Big Ten but ended up just a game out of first.
Cincinnati wound up in a three-way tie for first place in the American Athletic Conference and had two players -- Jarron Cumberland and Tre Scott -- named first-team all-AAC.
The game: Illinois is one of the top rebounding teams in the country, and offensive rebounding pushed the Illini to a three-point lead at halftime despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field.
The Bearcats' Scott is not much of a three-point shooter, making just 28.8 percent for the season and just 4-of-17 over the previous six games. But his 24-foot basket as the shot clock is running out bringst Cincinnati within a point with 10 minutes left. It also started a 12-2 Cincinnati run that gave it a six-point advantage with 5:04 left.
Ayo Dosunmu tried to bring the Illini back with some aggressive drives, but he committed two costly turnovers in the waning moments, allowing the Bearscats to hang on for the win, which is technically considered an upset but is not a surprise to many viewers.
Final score: Cincinnati 68, Illinois 62
Day 4, Game 16
No. 4 Butler (22-9) vs. No. 13 Bradley (23-11) at Spokane, Wash.
Preview: The Butler Bulldogs finished fifth in the Big East and ended the season with three straight wins, including a road victory over Xavier in the finale when Kamar Baldwin scored a career-high 36 points.
The Bradley Braves finished third in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season, but they won the conference tournament without having to face regular-season champion Northern Iowa.
The game: Bradley is a pretty good three-point shooting team, especially Nate Kennell, who hits a pair of three-point shots in the first half, which ends tied at 35.
Baldwin refuses to let Butler lose to a No. 13 seed, though, and his energy and intensity in the second half drive the Bulldogs into the lead. He finishes with 20 points, and his two free throws with 23 seconds left gives Butler an eight-point cushion and seals the deal.
Final score: Butler 64, Bradley 56