Four teams remain in my bracket picked from Joe Lunardi’s projections. Here’s how I declared my national champion.
The National Semifinals: No. 1 Dayton over No. 1 Kansas, 75-67 and No. 3 Seton Hall over No. 6 Virginia, 67-55.
Kansas and Dayton first met in the championship of the Maui Invitational in late November. The Jayhawks got the win in overtime 90-84 thanks to a combined 60 points from Udoka Azukuike and Devon Dotson, who made 23 of 31 shots. Unfortunately, I don’t think the two Kansas stars could have repeated that performance in the Final Four.
Making the Final Four after winning a national title a year ago would have been seen as a successful season for Virginia. With an always stout defense and an offense built on ball security, the Cavs could have played with anyone in the country. However, there were a handful of teams, like Seton Hall, who would have eased past them.
The National Championship: No. 1 Dayton over No. 3 Seton Hall, 78-73.
This was the first year Seton Hall won a share of the Big East regular season title since 1993. The last time they made the Sweet Sixteen was in 2000, and in the last four years they’ve made the second round just one time. My point is, national titles don’t come from having one good season, but rather after years of progress and momentum gained.
Dayton’s NCAA tournament experience in the past decade has been solid for a mid-major, having made the Elite Eight in 2014 in the first of four-straight NCAA tournament appearances. Had the tournament been played in 2020, it was the best chance Dayton had, and may ever have, of winning it all.
Final Four Most Outstanding Player: Obi Toppin, Dayton PF.
The 6-foot-9, 200-pound redshirt sophomore from Brooklyn is as tough as they come in the NCAA. At 22 years of age, Toppin scored 20 points a game and made over half of his shots this season on his way to being named the AP National Player of the Year. There is no doubt had Dayton won the title, Toppin would have been the biggest reason why.
Editor’s Note: The preceding are the opinions of the writer and do not reflect the views of the U.S. Marine Corps or Department of Defense.