Plugged In

NCAA tournament sim

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It’s March, which can only mean it’s time for March Madness. And because you just can’t get enough college basketball this time of year, I’ve got a little something special.

I’ve recreated the entire NCAA men’s championship bracket using 2K Sports’ outstanding basketball game, “College Hoops 2K8.” All of the teams and matchups are accurate, even the play-in game between Coppin State and Mount St. Mary’s. I’m using a roster set put together by the fine community at OperationSports.com, which includes all players named and rosters edited to match those of their real-life counterparts. Can West Virginia survive its opening-round matchup with Arizona? Let’s find out.

Mount St. Mary’s won the play-in game 64-60 over Coppin State, thereby earning the right to get pounded by No. 1 overall seed North Carolina. And that’s exactly what happened, as the Tar Heels rolled 98-69 behind 35 points from Tyler Hansbrough. Elsewhere in the East Region, upsets abounded as No. 14 Boise State topped No. 3 Louisville, No. 12 George Mason (last year’s tournament Cinderella) bounced No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 11 St. Joseph’s narrowly got by No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 10 South Alabama ended the season of No. 7 Butler, and No. 9 Arkansas got the better of No. 8 Indiana as Hoosiers’ freshman Eric Gordon battled foul trouble most of the game and managed only 14 points.  

The Midwest Region went much more according to plan, as only two higher seeds fell — No. 7 Gonzaga came up short against No. 10 Davidson and, I’m not making this up, No. 2 Georgetown lost to No. 15 Maryland-Baltimore County 51-49 in a game that saw the Hoyas shoot just 3-of-12 from beyond the arc and super center Roy Hibbert score a measly seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.

Apparently 2K’s game does not think highly of this year’s No. 2 seeds. A second No. 2 went down in the first round as No. 15 Austin Peay turned the trick in the South Regional against Texas. And it wasn’t even close, 82-61. That was the only notable upset in the South, unless you count St. Mary’s win over No. 7 Miami (Fla.) and, frankly, I don’t. That brings us to the West Region, home to such perennial powers as UCLA, Duke and Connecticut. And West Virginia. One of those teams didn’t make it out of the first round.

It wasn’t WVU, which routed No. 10 Arizona by 20 points. The Mountaineers jumped on the Wildcats early, with Da’Sean Butler and Joe Alexander scoring 12 points apiece in the first half. Arizona apparently left its offense in Tucson, as the Wildcats struggled mightly from the floor, shooting only 29 percent as a team. Alexander finished with 26 points, Butler 21 and Darris Nichols 12 in the Mountaineers’ 72-50 romp.

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Remember what I said about “College Hoops” having a grudge against No. 2 seeds? Yeah, well it happened again in the West. No. 2 Duke was spanked by No. 15 seed Belmont, 93-72. I’ll be honest, this obvious two-seed bias is a little silly, but the rest of the sim has been fairly believable. Yes, there were several first-round upsets, especially in the East, but that’s not without precedent.

That said, I can’t imagine there’s a WVU fan out there who wouldn’t love to see the Blue Devils sent home in the first round. So let’s move on to Round 2.

North Carolina became the first No. 1 seed booted from the Big Dance, losing to No. 9 Arkansas. Only one of the top four seeds in the East reached the Sweet 16 — No. 2 Tennessee. Joining the Volunteers and Razorbacks were Boise State and George Mason.

Favorites continued to prevail in the Midwest, as No. 1 Kansas, No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 4 Vanderbilt reached the Sweet 16 along with No. 10 Davidson. (On a complete side note, these are the same four teams that I have advancing on my personal bracket that I’ve filled out solely for entertainment purposes.)

Wow. Apparently “College Hoops” doesn’t think too highly of No. 1 seeds, either. Two more top seeds fell in the Round of 32, as Memphis lost to Mississippi State and UCLA lost a 69-68 heartbreaker to Texas A&M. In the South, Mississippi State was joined by Michigan State, Stanford and Austin Peay (Let’s Go Peay!) in the Sweet 16. The final four in the West included A&M, UConn, Xavier and, yes, the Mountaineers, who dispatched Belmont 73-65 behind 19 points from Alexander and18 from Alex Ruoff.

In the Sweet 16, George Mason continued its run with a win over Arkansas and Tennessee sent Boise State packing in the East, Kansas and Davidson prevailed in the Midwest, and Stanford and Michigan State moved on in the South. In the West’s first regional semifinal, Texas A&M edged UConn 57-53. And in the second game, West Virginia’s unlikely tournament run … CONTINUED!!! Alexander stepped up with another 24 points and Wellington Smith added 11 off the bench as WVU scored an 82-65 upset of Xavier. (Just so we’re clear on this — I AM NOT PLAYING THESE GAMES! I have no impact on the outcome of any of these games. “2K8” is simulating the games and spitting out results based on matchups, talent, styles of play, etc. I’m just as surprised by this as you are.)

And now to determine this year’s Final Four … Well, if you thought things were looking a little out of whack earlier, you haven’t seen anything yet.

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According to “College Hoops”, this year’s Final Four will consist of No.12 George Mason, No. 10 Davidson, No. 3 Stanford and … NO. 7 WEST VIRGINIA!!! (I’ve included a picture of the tournament tree showing the Final Four in case there are any doubts.)

Sadly, the Mountaineers’ Cinderella run came to an end in the national semifinals against Stanford and the Lopez twins, who scored a combined 36 points in the Cardinal’s 79-78 win. Joe Alexander managed only 8 points while playing just 24 minutes due to foul trouble. Alex Ruoff carried the WVU offense with 22 points, including six 3-pointers.

For what it’s worth (and it’s not much, to be honest), the Cardinal went on to defeat George Mason in the national title game 76-75.

So there you have it. According to 2K Sports’ “College Hoops 2K8”, your 2008 National Champion will be the Stanford Cardinal. Hmmm….Maybe this is why there’s not going to be a 2K9?

Out of curiosity, I ran the entire tournament simulation again three more times to see if the results of my original sim were the exception or the rule. For the most part, things seemed to play out more realistically in the later runs. In the other sims I ran, tournament winners were No.1 seeds Kansas, North Carolina and Memphis. West Virginia won a grand total of one game in the other three sims, while Stanford reached the Final Four two out of three times.

Now sit back and enjoy the next few weeks of college basketball and don’t forget that when WVU makes it to the Final Four, you read about it here first!