Who Would have Won the 2020 National Championship?
Written by Jonathan Lidskin
The college basketball season came to an abrupt end in March when the major conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament were cancelled. The year as a whole in college basketball was an interesting one to say the least with surprise mid major teams in the top 10 throughout the season. With the NCAA tournament a week away when the tournament was canceled, who really would’ve won the national championship? Here are the top five teams who would’ve had the best shot.
The Jayhawks were likely going to be the number one overall seed on Selection Sunday barring a catastrophic loss in the early rounds of the Big 12 tournament. They had lost 3 games in the 2019-2020 season none of which came when the Jayhawks were at full strength. Kansas was led this season by possibly the best point guard-center tandem in the entire country. Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike combined to average 31.8 points per game, not to mention Azubuike also averaged 10.5 rebounds a game. Kansas also had the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Garrett. Kansas was 6th in the country in points per game allowed. Teams only scored an average of 60.6 points per game on them. The Jayhawks great defense gave them the most likely chance out of any team to win the national championship.
The number one offensive team in the country might not have had the NBA talent that they did just a season ago, but the Zags could still really score the basketball. Gonzaga had already won the West Coast Conference tournament when the season was canceled and would have likely been the number one seed in the West region. The Zags had 6 players this season that averaged double figures and freshman Drew Timme was right below the 10 point mark at 9.8. Gonzaga’s success this season came because of their shooting ability, and because of the plethora of weapons they possessed. They shot 38.6% as a team which was 7th best of any team in the country. The problem for Gonzaga was at the defensive end of the floor as they were troubled this year with the losses of 4 out of 5 starters from the previous season. The most notable of those being Brandon Clarke who was an elite shot blocker. Despite the struggles from Gonzaga on the defensive end of the floor, the elite 3 point shooting allowed the Zags to finish the year 31-2 and have a decent shot to win the national championship.
This one might surprise some people just because they are a mid major school. Despite being 29-2 and pushing a full strength Kansas team to the limits early in the year, Dayton might have been the most slept on team in the country. They were thought of by many as a one man show with that one man being Wooden Award winner Obi Toppin. Toppin averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds this season and showcased his freakish athleticism many times. He was most definitely Dayton’s best player, but his supporting cast was severely underlooked and a huge part of the reason Dayton was as good as they were. Guard Jalen Crutcher averaged 15 points and almost 5 assists a game and was a huge reason the Flyers maintained constant success this season. If Dayton played in the NCAA tournament they had a legitimate shot at getting to Atlanta and possibly winning two games in Atlanta.
Kentucky is an interesting selection for this list. The end to the regular season was a bizarre one for the Wildcats and John Calipari has definitely had better teams in Lexington this past decade, but the speed of the Wildcats made them a matchup nightmare for many teams. Kentucky was possibly the hottest team in the country heading into the last week of the regular season, winning 8 games in a row. Many fans started hyping up the Cats to possibly win a national championship, but then Tennessee came into Rupp Arena and upset the Wildcats. That Saturday, it looked like Kentucky was going to finish the regular season ice cold as Florida led the Wildcats by 18 on the road with 11:48 to go. With Ashton Hagans not playing, Immanuel Quickley fouled out and John Calipari thinking he was ejected (but not actually), the Wildcats stormed back to beat Florida by one to end the regular season. This week proved a lot about Kentucky. If they were cold, they could get upset by a team that wasn’t very good. If they were hot, they were good enough to win a national championship.
5. Michigan State
The Spartans started the season number one in the country and lost their first game to Kentucky. From then on out, it was a very up and down season for Michigan State. Cassius Winston was not really the player everyone expected him to be at the beginning of the season due to his brother passing away, but throughout the season, Winston returned to normal form and the Spartans role players developed. Playing in a deep Big 10 that would’ve likely sent 10 teams to the NCAA tournament, the Spartans were bound to lose some games and even with a stretch where they lost 4 out of 5, they managed to win a share of the Big Ten regular season title. The reason they were a national championship contender, is due to the way they finished the season. The Spartans finished the season winning 5 in a row and beating 4 consecutive ranked teams. One of those teams was Maryland who was the number 9 team in the country at the time. The Spartans won that game by 12 on the road and looked the best they had all season. Michigan State likely would’ve been a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they were good enough to beat anybody and would’ve been my pick to win the national championship.