The NCAA tournament is no more. But to commemorate Selection Sunday’s annual big reveal of the 68 March Madness teams, USA TODAY Sports will take its final bracketology projection and select winners for what could have been.
Our projected Final Four featured two No. 1 seeds — one you’d expect (Kansas) and one that was more of an underdog (Dayton) — as well as a No. 2 seed (Florida State) and No. 4 seed (Oregon).
But it wasn’t all chalk leading up to it. There were bracket-busters. No. 10 seed East Tennessee State and No. 13 seed Belmont were projected Sweet 16 finishers, while double-digit seeded mid-majors Liberty, Northern Iowa, Utah State, Stephen F. Austin and Richmond all pulled off first-round upsets in favorable matchups.
Some other projected breakthroughs: Big East co-champion Creighton reaching the Elite Eight for the first time since 1941 (by beating Kentucky) and co-champ Seton Hall reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.
The Dayton Flyers (29-2), who had vaulted to the final No. 1 seed in USA TODAY Sports’ final bracketology, saw their magical season continue in the projection by reaching the national title game against Kansas after claiming the East Regional over No. 3 seed Duke in the projected Elite Eight.
Led by national player of the year front-runner Obi Toppin and a veteran core, Dayton went a perfect 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play and only lost twicein 2019-20 — to Kansas in overtime and Colorado in overtime.
► UPSET: No. 12 Liberty over No. 5 Butler.
► UPSET: No. 10 East Tennessee State over No. 7 Penn State.
The Kansas Jayhawks, who would have secured the tournament’s No. 1 seed regardless of any outcomes in conference tournaments, were unsurprisingly the Midwest Regional winners and eventual 2020 NCAA champions in our final projection.
Coach Bill Self was best positioned to win his first national title since 2008 with a 28-3 overall record. Behind All-Americans Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson, KU returned as regular-season Big 12 champions with a 17-1 stance.
► UPSET: No. 13 Belmont over No. 4 Louisville.
► UPSET: No. 12 Northern Iowa over No. 5 Ohio State.
In the West Regional, projected No. 1 seed Gonzaga got bounced in the Sweet 16 round by Pac-12 regular-season champion Oregon, the No. 4 seed. The Ducks, powered by All-American guard Payton Pritchard, then went on to outlast Cassius Winston and No. 3 Michigan State, the preseason national title favorite.
San Diego State, which narrowly lost out on a top seed to settle for a No. 2 seed in USA TODAY Sports’ final bracketology, came up short in the Sweet 16 vs. the Spartans.
Regular season ACC champion Florida State, a No. 2 seed, captured the South Regional by eliminating No. 1 seed Baylor. The Bears were dominant at times during 2019-20 but weren’t peaking heading into the NCAAs. They did get past Big Ten regular season champ Wisconsin, a No. 4 seed, in the Sweet 16
► UPSET: No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Auburn.