The NCAA men’s basketball season is just under six weeks away and there has been plenty of buzz about this year’s freshman recruit class. Now is a great time to look ahead to the 2020 NCAA Championship and analyze who might be winning it all this season.
Last year, Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers required overtime to defeat the Texas Tech Raiders and claim their first national championship. This came after a heartbreaking performance in the 2018 NCAA tournament in which they became the only 1st-seeded team in history lose to a 16th seed (UMBC).
Now the Cavaliers are a very different team, losing their three most important players to the NBA draft. Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, and Kyle Guy were all critical in helping the Cavaliers overcome their disappointing performance in 2018. Without them, seniors Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key will have bigger roles, especially considering that they had a relatively underwhelming recruiting period.
Despite earning a 1st seed in the last two NCAA tournaments, it is extremely unlikely that Virginia does it for a third consecutive year. As a matter of fact, Virginia doesn’t have very good odds to win this year either. The 2020 NCAA Championship will feature a new champion, but just what school will it be?
Last Year’s Elite Eight
A decent place to start with picking a winner is by looking at some of the best teams from last year’s tournament. Some of them are missing key players (Duke), but others (Michigan State) still hold a relatively similar roster to last year. Here’s all the schools that made it to the Elite Eight last year:
- Duke (1)
- Michigan State (2)
- Gonzaga (1)
- Texas Tech (3)
- Virginia (1)
- Auburn (5)
- Kentucky (2)
Michigan State aside, the other seven teams all underwent significant roster changes since the end of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Duke lost three stars in Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish. They did retain 5-star recruit Tre Jones and added the rank 6 freshman recruit, Vernon Carey, and 12th ranked Matthew Hurt.
Gonzaga lost star players Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke. The rest of the roster and new recruits are both fairly weak in comparison.
Texas Tech lost two stars in Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney. The returning roster and freshman players are both average.
Virginia lost three stars in Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, and Kyle Guy. Their seniors are good, but recruiting didn’t go very well.
Purdue lost their biggest star in Carsen Edwards and also Ryan Cline. The rest of the roster for this season is decent, but recruiting was pretty average.
Auburn lost three stars in Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, and Chuma Okeke. Their returning roster is pretty good, but recruiting for the 2019 class was fairly weak.
Kentucky lost two stars in PJ Washington and Tyler Herro. However, they have four returning 5-star recruits on the roster and also picked up the rank 10, 11, and 24 recruits (Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Keion Brooks respectively).
Questionably Promising Schools for the 2020 NCAA Tournament
With those seven teams facing significant changes, only Kentucky is looking strong for the upcoming season. Michigan State’s roster is fairly similar to last season, so they are looking pretty good too. In addition to Kentucky and Michigan State, two other teams to watch out for include Memphis and North Carolina.
Kentucky definitely had one of the best recruiting efforts of any school. They did lose PJ Washington and Brandon Clarke, but that should be no problem because they still have a great supporting cast and plenty of star freshman to compensate. Kentucky has consistently been an excellent program for producing great NBA players, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the NCAA Tournament. There is a great chance that Kentucky picks up a 1st seed and loses very few games throughout the regular season, but they will probably miss out on the Final Four.
If not for Kentucky, then the freshman class of Memphis would be the best by far of any team. The reason for this? The number 1 recruit in the country: James Wiseman. As if that wasn’t enough, they also added the rank 15 recruit in Precious Achiuwa. To go along with these two star freshmen, the rest of the roster features several 4-star recruits across the board. Just like Kentucky, a majority of the team is made up of freshmen, meaning that they are another good candidate for missing out on the Final Four.
Michigan State has an excellent chance of winning it all this year. They still have Xavier Tillman, Cassius Winston, and Joshua Langford on the team from last year. At the current moment, there aren’t even any active freshman on Michigan State’s roster, meaning that Tom Izzo is trying to run it back with another year of experience for his team. Considering that they fell short in the Final Four last year and haven’t changed much, Michigan State looks to have the best odds of any team to actually claim the title this year.
North Carolina also lost some very important players in Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, and former freshmen Coby White. They do still have some solid players on their team and they also added two key freshmen. Cole Anthony is the number 4 recruit from the 2019 class and Armando Bacot is 27th. Roy Williams has been fantastic at North Carolina and there’s no question that he can assemble a dominant team come March. The fate of North Carolina laregely rests on Cole Anthony’s shoulders, but don’t be surprised if they do make the Final Four this year behind great coaching.
NCAA Mens College Basketball Championship Betting Odds
as of 9/30/19
Prediction: Michigan State wins their 3rd NCAA Championship (2nd under Tom Izzo)
History has shown that many NCAA championship teams feature an experienced roster. Most of the powerhouse teams for the upcoming season are lined with extremely skilled freshmen. The talent is absolutely there for them, but they lack the maturity that comes from playing in March. Because of that, Michigan State has everything they need to seal the deal this year. They lost to the Texas Tech Raiders in the Final Four last year, and three of their most important players from that team are returning to try again this season. Michigan State’s roster screams experience and Tom Izzo will lead them to a 3rd NCAA Championship.