Recapping the Selection Sunday that won't happen

St. Patrick's Day will go on as scheduled, but the country lost an unofficial holiday with the cancellation of Selection Sunday.

As much as everyone has accepted the need to “flatten the curve” during the coronavirus pandemic, it's still tough to lose the NCAA Tournaments.

So let's recap the fictional Selection Sunday 2020 and try to relive what we'll miss.

Year of the mid-major

Kansas was likely to be the No. 1 overall seed, but there were some unprecedented schools at the top of the brackets. Between Dayton, Gonzaga and San Diego State, two of the four No. 1 seeds were likely to come from mid-major conferences.

Baylor, Creighton and Florida State were also projected to be top-two seeds. This year's tournament had a chance to be wide open, with nontraditional powers appearing in the Final Four.

There are sad stories everywhere, but it's easy to feel for Dayton, with possibly the top player in the country in sophomore power forward Obi Toppin. The Flyers aren't even tournament regulars and hadn't experienced a season like this since losing the title game in 1967.

There are plenty of seniors who had great careers and younger players that will get another chance. But there's no telling when Dayton will ever have another season like this.

“I wish all of this was just a dream that I could wake up from,” Dayton senior Trey Landers wrote on Twitter. “Wish I could play one more game with my brothers.”

San Diego State lost its conference title game. At the time, the players knew there would be a chance to redemption in the NCAA Tournament, but that's gone.

“We were mentally gearing up for a Selection Sunday,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “Even a small moment like that, you sit there and watch the kids celebrate and see their faces when their name comes up on the board. And now to realize your kids don't even get that.

“As a coach, you always have next year. As a player, you have that small window to do it. To have it taken is hard.”

Return of the Illini

This would have been Illinois' first trip to the tourney since 2013 and the return was significant. Between 1981-2013, the Illini made the field 25 times in 33 years and the longest drought was two years in a row. This was a redemption season in Champaign and coach Brad Underwood was well-aware.

“This team achieved a lot. I'm extremely proud,” he said. “We've got Illinois back in the NCAA Tournament. We've got Illinois back on the national stage. I had fun this year. I had a blast coaching this team.

“When you get to enjoy those moments, to have it end abruptly and for something that is so big, it is hard. It's crushing. It's devastating. I had a sick feeling the night before. It's just hard to put that in the right perspective.”

The good news for Illinois is many of their key players should be back next season. It's possible they could end up turning pro, but guard Ayo Dosunmu is a sophomore and center Kofi Cockburn a freshman. Senior Andres Feliz was the team's third-leading scorer.

Celebration complete

Bradley has a happier story. The Braves had their moment of glory when they won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. They got to cut down the nets and were unlikely to advance beyond the first round of the NCAA as a 14 or 15 seed.

“When we found out there would be no fans in the arena, I was honestly kind of done with the NCAA tournament,” Bradley guard Darrell Brown said, according to the Peoria Journal Star. “The fans are the best part of the experience. Once the major (professional) leagues suspended their seasons, I knew it would be canceled. At the end of the day, I think it was the best decision.”

The NCAA initially announced the tournament would be played in empty arenas, before canceling completely.

The other schools that won conference titles before the flurry of cancellations were Liberty, Winthrop, Hofstra, Northern Kentucky, Utah State, Robert Morris, Belmont, Boston University, East Tennessee State, North Dakota State and Gonzaga.

Bubble watch popped

Some of the teams that would have been sweating out a spot in the tournament were Indiana, Purdue, Marquette, UCLA, Stanford, Texas, Memphis and Northern Iowa.

A few more were set for huge celebrations. Rutgers was going to make the tournament for the first time since 1991, Penn State for the first time since 2011.

Won't miss it

On the other end, the timing couldn't be better for North Carolina, which somehow finished last in the ACC this year and wasn't making the tournament.

As far as NBA prospects, there certainly wasn't a group like Duke's trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish — three stellar one-and-dones who would get one chance.

The best freshman prospects — Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards, Memphis center James Wiseman and North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony — weren't going to play in the tournament. Wiseman quit school, while the other two played for teams that weren't getting an invite.

Home games lost

Of course, the women's tournament was also canceled. Would this have been the year Oregon rose to the top behind Sebrina Ionescu? Or maybe Connecticut would have ended it's mini-drought.

The cancellation hit two local teams hard. ESPN had Northwestern projected as a No. 3 seed and DePaul a No. 4. Both schools had a chance to host early-round games.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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