In ESPN’s simulated NCAA March Madness Tournament, behind an improbable run, the Wisconsin Basketball team is the last one standing.
Despite the inconsistent play through the first half of the season, the long scoring droughts, Kobe King transferring, among other things, the Wisconsin Basketball team rallied during that final month. They would finish the season on an eight-game winning streak, they claimed a share of the Big Ten’s regular-season title, and they were the No.1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.
And to get to that point, it took a total team effort. D’Mitrik Trice was playing some of the best basketball of his career, we saw Aleem Ford and Brad Davison have career nights against Purdue and Nebraska, respectively. On top of that, Brevin Pritzl came up big at the end of games, Nate Reuvers was the team’s leading scorer, and the addition of Micah Potter was a huge boost.
It was shaping up to be a magical March for the Wisconsin Basketball program, but with the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments were canceled.
However, with no basketball to be played, over at ESPN based on Joe Lunardi’s bracket and using their own Basketball Power Index, they simulated the 2020 NCAA Tournament. And let’s just say it’s time to put up a new banner in the Kohl Center.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the term “BPI” – here is a breakdown from ESPN:
“The College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward. BPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.
Strength of Record (SOR) is a measure of team accomplishment based on how difficult a team’s W-L record is to achieve. Game predictions account for opponent strength, pace of play, site, travel distance, day’s rest and altitude, and are used to simulate the season 10,000 times to produce season projections. Numbers update daily.”
Typically when these simulations are ran, each game is played many times so they find the most likely outcome. So for example, according to the BPI, Kansas had an 18 percent chance of winning the entire tournament. Meaning, if the tournament was played 100 times, Kansas should win it 18 times.
But as the article points out, that isn’t how March Madness works. So just like in the real tournament, they ran just one simulation for each game. Which of course, leads to upsets and in the Badgers case, a National Championship.
As the four seed in the Midwest Region, in Round 1 the Badgers knocked off North Texas behind their strong defense that proved to be just too much for the Mean Green to overcome. In the next round, Wisconsin would face 12 seed Liberty who was coming off of an upset win in the first round. While the game was fairly close (single digits), the Badgers were able to secure the win.
Then in the Sweet 16, the Badgers would take on in-state rival Marquette and behind another strong defensive performance, Wisconsin comes away with yet another win. In the Elite Eight, Wisconsin would face Duke and an incredible D’Mitrik Trice 3-pointer at the buzzer would give Bucky the win. That is peak March Madness!
Now in the Final Four, Wisconsin plays a familiar opponent in Maryland who they had beaten at the Kohl Center earlier in the season. And once again, Brad Davison comes through with a huge bucket in the final seconds that gives the Badgers the lead. Maryland misses their shot at the buzzer and Wisconsin moves on the National Championship!
Up against BYU, led by a 16 point effort from Nate Reuvers, the Badgers come away with the win and somehow, someway, they are the (simulated) 2020 NCAA National Champions! Back in January, many wondered if Wisconsin would even make the big dance and now they are the last team standing.
Realistically, the odds of Wisconsin actually pulling this off are slim and we will never know how it would have really played out. But what we do know is that this team was red-hot at the end of the season and anything can happen in March. So until next season, being the 2020 simulated National Champion will have to do.