Teams that could claim a national championship after the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled

No team will be cutting down nets while wearing commemorative hats and t-shirts after a six-game run spanning three weekends of the NCAA Tournament. But there are three programs that could make an unofficial claim to a national title as the dust settles on the 2019-20 college basketball season.


Where it finished No. 1: AP Top 25, Coaches Poll,

The Jayhawks finished No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll. There was a time in college football history when such a feat would constitute a national title, or at least a widely recognized claim to one. But college basketball’s normal process of deciding a champion is significantly more perilous in that – even if you finish the regular season as the nation’s top-ranked team – you still have to win six games to be crowned a champion.

So while the Jayhawks certainly would have been a favorite to make the Final Four, it’s quite a leap of faith to assume they would have won their second national title under coach Bill Self. After all, KU has been a No. 1 seed eight times since Bill Self took over in 2003. Only once have the Jayhawks won it all.

Still, there is little debate that Kansas’ 28-3 regular season and 17-1 record in Big 12 play stands out as the best regular season in college basketball. And, in retrospect, the Jayhawks’ Nov. 27 overtime win over Dayton at a neutral site and Feb. 22 win at Baylor feel like the closest things we got to Final Four-caliber games.


Where it finished No. 1: NCAA’s NET rankings 

The Bulldogs finished the season ranked No. 1 in the NET, which for the last two seasons has been the NCAA’s primary tool for evaluating teams. The NET is based on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.

Offensive efficiency stood out for the Bulldogs this season. A team that was not expected to be among the best that Mark Few has fielded averaged 87.4 points per game, which was 4.9 points per game more than the country’s second-highest scoring team (Duke). Gonzaga finished 31-2 (15-1 West Coast Conference) with its only losses of the Quadrant 1 variety coming against Michigan and BYU. 

Claiming a national championship based on the final NET ranking would be a tough sell to the rest of the country. But the Zags deserve to be recognized in some way for what was arguably their most impressive run in Few’s 21-year tenure.


Where it finished No. 1: SportsLine simulation

A Sportsline simulation based on a bracket from CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm crowned the Flyers champion. For Dayton fans, that is likely of little solace considering how capable this team seemed of winning a real championship. 

Sure, Dayton has a strong basketball history and a seemingly bright future with CBS Sports Coach of the Year and former Dayton player Anthony Grant as coach. But the likelihood that the program will ever have a player as dominant as Obi Toppin again feels slim.

The CBS Sports National Player of the Year led the Flyers to a 29-2 record with their only losses coming at neutral sites in overtime games against Kansas and Colorado.

So, sure, claiming a national title based on a simulation might feel a little cheap. But if nothing else, the Sportsline results should reassure Dayton doubters that the Flyers would have continued their magical run deep into March and possibly even April if the NCAA Tournament had continued as scheduled.

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