Yes, we don’t have March Madness, but because of great minds like Joe Lunardi at ESPN, we can have a glimpse at what the bracket may have looked like. In the latest State News series, we analyze and project what the NCAA tournament may have looked like, round by round, region by region.
Here is our projection of the East Region second round:
#1 Dayton vs. #9 Florida
Preview: Newly named AP Player of the Year Obi Toppin led Dayton to a brisk first round win over Boston University. The six-foot-nine-inch forward averages 20 points per game, good for the 27th leading scorer in the nation and 18th best FG percentage, shooting .633 overall. Toppin and Head Coach Anthony Grant, who earned AP Coach of the Year, started an electric run for the Flyers, sending them to the round of 32 for the first time since 2015.
Florida defeated 8-seeded Colorado in a fairly evenly matched first round competition. The Gators are more familiar with the tournament as they will be making their fourth straight run in 2020. The Gators leading scorer Keyontae Johnson averages 14 points per game off of a .544 field goal percentage.
Prediction: The Gators will struggle offensively in this one. Johnson will be no match for the Toppin powerhouse. As a team, the Gators are edged out significantly in shooting, holding a .457 FG percentage overall against Dayton’s .525. Dayton 87 – Florida 73
#5 Butler vs. #4 Maryland
Preview: Butler defeated Texas in their first round matchup. The Bulldogs’ Bryce Nze’s .629 FG percentage is good for 21st in the country. Nze’s consistency contributes to Butler’s .460 overall shooting percentage and .341 percentage from the three.
Although Maryland is topped by Butler’s shooting percentages their defense will keep them competitive in this round. The Terrapins’ Jalen Smith ranks 24th in the country for blocks, recording 2.35 per game. Maryland also edges out the Bulldogs on the boards, snatching 38.3 per game as opposed to Butler’s 34.8.
Prediction: As a team, Butler ranks 11th in the country for scoring defense, meaning they can hang on both sides of the court. This will go pretty back and forth but in the end, Maryland’s defense will crack, and their shooting just can’t compete to Butler’s. Butler 72 – Maryland 71
#11 NC State vs. #3 Villanova
Preview: NC State pulled off an upset against sixth-seeded Penn State to find themselves in this second round matchup. The Pack is defensively led by redshirt freshman Manny Bates, who ranks 7th in country for blocks, averaging 2.86 per game. He leads NC State to an average of 4.5 blocks per game, which just about doubles three-seeded Villanova’s average of 2.6.
Villanova is led offensively by sophomore Saddiq Bey. Bey ranks 17th in country for three-point percentage, shooting .451. He helps Nova just enter the top 50 teams for three-point FG percentage in the country shooting 35.9% as a team.
Prediction: Bates will stun Villanova's offense and put a stop to Bey's consistency. The Pack's defense will help them pull off an upset here. NC State 80 – Villanova 75
#10 Utah State vs. #2 Florida State
Preview: Utah State defeated 7-seeded West Virginia to find themselves in the second round for the first time since 2001. As a team, the Aggies are notable. Averaging 30 defensive rebounds per game they rank first in the country for defensive boards along with ranking eighth for total rebounds per game at 40.76. Offensively they're ninth in the country for assists per game, led by senior Sam Merrill who averages 3.9 per game and ranks 39th in the country for leading scoring at 19.7 points per game.
Florida State stands out defensively. The Seminoles rank 12th for blocked shots per game at 5.2. Sophomore guard Devin Vassel was named to District 2 First-Team by the NABC. He shoots a 48.98% overall, paired with a 41.51 percentage from behind the arc.
Prediction: Utah State will bring toughness and give the Seminoles a run for their money here. Ultimately, FSU’s schedule consisted of harder matchups and will better prepare them for this game. Florida State 88 – Utah State 85
Sweet sixteen Matchups:
#1 Dayton vs. #5 Butler
#11 NC State vs. #2 Florida State