Michigan State crowned national champion in simulated NCAA Tournament

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

The national championship game was supposed to be played on Monday night in Atlanta, and though we can only dream about what might have been, one simulation says Michigan State fans would have been pretty happy.

In a simulation from FiveThirtyEight.com, the Spartans were crowned national champions, beating Kansas in a virtual national championship game.

Michigan State celebrated a share of the Big Ten regular-season title here, but a simulation from FiveThirtyEight.com had the Spartans winning the NCAA Tournament.

With March Madness on the shelf thanks to COVID-19, the folks at FiveThirtyEight have been running a simulated tournament.

“We built an NCAA Tournament bracket using ESPN’s Bracketology, and we’re simulating the results of each game by using a simple '100-sided dice roll' against our forecast probabilities,” the writers explained. “We’ve played out our first and second rounds, the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight and the Final Four; here’s how the title game might have gone down.”

After Michigan State, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, beat San Diego State in the Final Four, the Spartans beat top-seeded Kansas by one point in the title game, maintaining a trend that developed throughout the simulated tournament. Michigan State “grew comfortable under the gun, with the team’s final three wins coming by single digits. Meanwhile, Kansas hadn’t played a game tighter than 10 points entering the final.”

It would have continued quite a trend for the Spartans, who were just starting to find their groove over the final couple weeks of the regular season, winning five straight to capture a share of the Big Ten title. According to Pivot Analysis, over the final 10 games of the regular season, Michigan State had outscored opponents by 40.2 points per 100 possessions with its starters on the court.

It would have been a fitting end for a team that began the season ranked No. 1 in the country, fell out of the top 25 while battling tragedy and off-court obstacles, then hit its stride when it mattered most.

“You can say a lot of teams had a chance,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo recently told The News. “But I think we seriously, seriously, seriously had a legitimate chance.

I mean, wouldn’t this have been such poetic justice? Ranked No. 1, then unranked, then went through death and babies being born and came back and won it all? Tell me that wouldn't have been a book.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau