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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Here's your "what-if" March Madness scenario for your favorite local team

Screencapture of 2005 NCAA Basketball simulation. 

Just because your favorite local team isn't playing, doesn't mean you can't support local! Midway Cafe, 1017 S. Fort Thomas. Ave. 

Being a local basketball fan isn't much fun right now. 

With local teams being left out of the tournament, rooting interest and ratings locally will surely be down. Kentucky, Cincinnati, NKU, Xavier, Louisville, Indiana, Dayton and Butler are all on the outside looking in. You've probably filled out your bracket and picked a bandwagon to jump on (I'm fully aboard the San Diego State Aztecs because my buddy, Erika, went to school there), but March feels a little strange this year. 
Me officially jumping on the San Diego State bandwagon for March 2021. 

With that said, Fort Thomas Matters is hosting a completely fake basketball tournament that literally means nothing. 

The seeds were randomized. The teams weren't well thought out. It was literally conceived after the realization that our region was left behind from the madness this year. Saying that, I fully understand you crazies will still argue over this. 

Here's the bracket: 

Kentucky got the 1 seed, followed by Louisville, Cincinnati, Xavier and NKU. But if you want to be real, none of these teams were very good this year. The randomizer penalized NKU and Xavier by having to play another game, but that's the extent of how I'd like to describe the seeding. 

I used WhatIfSports to simulate the games, which is actually an incredibly time-suck of a website. I didn't, because I'm very productive, of course, but if you wanted to, you could spend a few hours on this site playing fake games against fake teams and then sending them to your real friends as if the results mean something. But again, I would never do that. 

WhatIfSports uses real models and statistics from real games and applies them against other variables like home court, neutral court, away court and simulates games. You can pick any team and play any other team, even pitting teams in different years against each other. 

For instance the 1996 University of Kentucky team vs. the 1986 University of Louisville team. By the way, can someone simulate that one and get back with me? 

So for these games, I obviously used the current 2020-2021 rosters and put them on a neutral court. I didn't take transfers or NBA entries into consideration, so I think for this, it's as close as we're getting. Without further adieu, now that the rules are displayed, here's how the FTM Invitational played out:

First Round - Xavier vs. Northern Kentucky University:
Xavier 112, NKU 109 (2OT)
click to enlarge

An absolute instant classic. A double-overtime win for the Muskies over the Norse. This one will be talked about for years, especially in Highland Heights as this would've been one of the biggest wins in NKU history. A valiant effort for Trevon Faulker, Marques Warrick, Bryson Langdon and David Bohm, but just not enough to overcome Zach Freemantle and Paul Scruggs's combined 56 points. 

Final Four - Louisville vs. Cincinnati: 
Cincinnati 84, Louisville 76
click to enlarge

Coach Chris Mack just could never get his horses to run this year. Covid-19 delays and a young squad still coming together had this team just on the brink of the tournament, but just missed an NCAA bid. Is this pretend loss a result of a snub-hangover? Not sure because it's not real, but a few of the graduate transfers had games for the Cards. Evenly distributed scoring was enough for the Bearcats to beat them in this first Final Four matchup. 

Final Four - Kentucky vs. Xavier: 
Kentucky 76, Xavier 72
click to enlarge

This result surprised me a bit. As a UK alum, I was pleasantly surprised after that disaster of a year by Coach Calipari and crew. The first losing record since 1989 will do that to you. Kentucky was okay in this game, led by grad transfer Davion Mintz. Neither team was impressive, which was the case all year. With Kentucky's win, that sets up a finals matchup between the Wildcats and the Bearcats to take the FTM invitational glory. 

Finals - Kentucky vs. Cincinnati: 
Cincinnati 91  Kentucky 72
click to enlarge

Okay, Bearcat fans, this is when you share this link with your friends and brag about this fake tournament. It does base it's simulation on stats and analytics, so it's not completely a farce, but then again I've already written about 1,000 words on this and it's probably time to stop. 

If you've gotten this far, please take this as your call to action: just because your local team isn't in the tournament, doesn't mean you shouldn't support local. Play hooky, take a long lunch and have an afternoon beer. If you need an excuse for your boss, blame it on me.

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