news 4 days ago

Canceled sports bracket: Fans will miss March Madness most in world without sports

Sporting News — (Zac Al-Khateeb)

So, this is a world without sports.

Myriad events have rightfully been canceled or postponed over recent weeks as several leagues chose to prioritize the safety of players, coaches and fans amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns. It’s a hard truth, but sporting events must take a back seat to public health.

That doesn’t mean we won’t miss them.

MORE: List of athletes, sports figures who tested positive for COVID-19

But because we at Sporting News write about sports, and because they sometimes take on a tribalistic nature, we wanted to find out exactly which sport we’ll miss the most. More accurately, you did — via SN's social poll. And, since we'd normally be in the middle of 2020 NCAA Tournament, it only made sense to do this tournament-style.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, SN decided to limit events that either take place or start in June. So the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were set to start in late July but will be postponed, weren't a part of our bracket.

With that, let’s take a look at the regions, seeding for which was determined by SN’s panel of experts:

Madness Regional

  1. March Madness (canceled)
  2. Kentucky Derby (postponed until September)
  3. NFL OTAs/minicamps (postponed)
  4. XFL (canceled)

Rundown: There's no doubt March Madness takes the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament. This is the first time since the NCAA Tournament began in 1939 that it has been canceled, leaving a massive hole in the American sports conscience in its wake. But you can't discount the popularity of the Kentucky Derby, which serves as the first leg of the Triple Crown and is as much a social event as a sporting one. It will take on the indefinitely postponed NFL OTAs and minicamps. While they're not "events" per se, they provide fans a glimpse at new additions, such as Tom Brady with the Buccaneers or Darius Slay with the Eagles. The XFL rounds out the Madness region after it canceled its inaugural season with plenty of intrigue remaining in 2020.

Swing Away Regional

  1. The Masters (postponed)
  2. Stanley Cup playoffs (suspended)
  3. College World Series (canceled)
  4. Major League Soccer (suspended 30 days)

Rundown: A tradition unlike any other takes the No. 2 overall seed, but finds itself in much the same boat as every other sporting event. We'll just have to wait to eat our pimento cheese sandwiches in Augusta. The 2-seed Stanley Cup playoffs have added intrigue, considering several ideas have been floated as to how the NHL's postseason will take place with a truncated season. It will take on 3-seed College World Series, which has produced three-game championship series in five of the last six seasons in Omaha. MLS rounds out the "Swing Away" region as a regionally based underdog — but there's no denying interest has increased in recent years.

Nice Weather Preferred Regional

  1. MLB Opening Day (suspended)
  2. NASCAR (postponed)
  3. French Open (postponed)
  4. College football spring games (canceled/suspended)

Rundown: MLB's is a long season, but its Opening Day is so prevalent in the U.S. sports lexicon that it claimed SN's third No. 1 seed. The MLB opener will face off against canceled/suspended college football spring games, which are more interesting to fans of individual teams than sports fans in general. This region also introduces a compelling first-round matchup in NASCAR vs. the French Open. The former has suspended its usual operations, pivoting to iRacing in the meantime. The French Open, the second major of the ATP tennis tour, has been postponed till September. Spain's Rafael Nadal has won the event each of the last three seasons.

Euro Step Regional

  1. NBA playoffs (postponed)
  2. Champions League (postponed)
  3. UEFA Euro 2020 (postponed till 2021)
  4. Boxing (multiple bouts postponed, canceled)

Rundown: The NBA playoffs claim SN's final No. 1 seed with a postseason that remains, at best, in the air. The NBA is hoping for a return to play in mid-to-late June, which is normally when the playoffs would be going strong. The playoffs will take on boxing, which has seen several bouts large and small postponed or outright canceled. Rounding out the first-round matchups is the 2020 Champions League vs. Euro 2020. The Champions League is particularly interesting, considering it was midway through the Round of 16 when COVID-19 forced its postponement. But Euro 2020 is a strong contender considering it's played once every four years and won't be played till 2021. We'll get to see what fans are more loyal to: Their individual club, or the nation's team.

MISSING MARCH MADNESS: Playing out full schedule, scores for 2020 NCAA Tournament

Round 1

(Review voting recaps here).

Madness Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) March Madness vs. (4) XFLMarch Madness (92.9 percent)
(2) Kentucky Derby vs. (3) NFL OTAsKentucky Derby (68.6 percent)

Rundown: Football took a big loss in the first round of our bracket, particularly in the Madness Regional. It was too much to expect the rebooted XFL to take on the March Madness institution — the top overall seed won 92.9 percent of the vote, the highest total of any of our eight first-round matchups. The Derby was similarly dominant, winning in a runaway against NFL OTAs.

Swing Away Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) The Masters vs. (4) Major League SoccerThe Masters (83.6 percent)
(2) Stanley Cup playoffs vs. (3) College World SeriesStanley Cup playoffs (61.9 percent)

Rundown: Another case where national events beat down on sports with more niche audiences. There's a reason the Masters is known as a tradition unlike any other, and it stands to reason MLS — which has neither the following nor the standing of its European counterparts — just couldn't stand up to it. It also makes sense that the Stanley Cup playoffs, which features 16 of the NHL's 31 teams, would draw more national attention than the College World Series, which fields just eight.

Nice Weather Preferred Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) MLB Opening Day vs. (4) College football spring gamesOpening Day (85.1 percent)
(2) NASCAR vs. (3) French OpenFrench Open (59.6 percent)

Rundown: And we have our first — and only — upset of the first round. The French Open upended NASCAR in what was the most closely contested matchup of the first round. NASCAR still has 34 events — not all of which are created equal — left on its Sprint Cup schedule through early November. Compared to the two-week frenzy that takes place at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, it's understandable the French Open won. No surprise in the 1-4 matchup either: There was no way college football spring games were going to upend an event people regularly skip work and school to attend.

Euro Step Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) NBA playoffs vs. (4) BoxingNBA playoffs (89.5 percent)
(2) Champions League vs. (3) Euro 2020Champions League (66.2 percent)

Rundown: The first round of the Euro Step Regional might have produced a favorite to win our missed sports bracket: The NBA playoffs demolished boxing, winning by the second-highest first-round percentage (89.5) and garnering the most votes (230). The starpower behind players such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonhard — plus the potential return of Kevin Durant — is going to be difficult to overcome. But if any event can do it, it might be the Champions League, which represents the best of European football and claims a global viewership that dwarfs any other in sports.

MORE: 15 things we miss most about baseball, ranked

Regional finals

(Review voting recaps here).

Madness Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) March Madness vs. (2) Kentucky DerbyMarch Madness (97.2 percent)

Rundown: For the second straight round, March Madness came away with the highest voting percentage of any sporting event — 97.2, an increase of roughly four percentage points from its Round 1 win over XFL play. The NCAA Tournament is building momentum heading into what could be the most hotly contested matchup of our bracket.

Swing Away Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) The Masters vs. (2) Stanley Cup playoffsThe Masters (58.5 percent)

Rundown: This was the most closely contested second-round matchup, but it was a tough ask for the Stanley Cup playoffs to upend the Masters, considering there's still a good chance they'll take place after if/when the NHL season resumes. But by the time golf's most prestigious events takes place, it will have been a year-and-a-half since it was last played. What would a fall Masters look like, anyway?

Nice Weather Preferred Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) MLB Opening Day vs. (3) French OpenOpening Day (88.5 percent)

Rundown: The more accessible MLB Opening Day scored a resounding win over the Paris-based major, earning the most votes in the regional finals. But there's something to be said for the French Open scoring the only upset of the tournament so far — it's the closest we'll get to a Cinderella. With Opening Day and the NBA playoffs winning the "Nice Weather Preferred" and "Euro Step" regionals, respectively, we're guaranteed an all-American final four.

Euro Step Regional

MatchupWinner
(1) NBA playoffs vs. (2) Champions LeagueNBA playoffs (75 percent)

Rundown: So much for the Champions League's global staying power — it couldn't get enough help from its European constituency to even keep this close. What looked like it could be a captivating second-round contest turned into a rout, and we have to wonder at this point whether the NBA playoffs were underseeded. Regardless, that sets up an interesting all-basketball semifinal.

Semifinals

Wednesday, March 25

(Review voting recaps here).

MatchupWinner
(1) March Madness vs. (4) NBA playoffsMarch Madness (86.4 percent)

Rundown: The NBA playoffs after two rounds looked like a strong contender to challenge March Madness before getting blown out of the water by its amateur counterpart. There's no denying the NBA's baseline talent, level of play and starpower are all superior to college basketball, but its postseason structure and top-heavy teams allow for allow for fewer upsets. Did anyone think it would be anyone other than the Lakers or Clippers in the West or the Bucks in the East? Compare that to March Madness — built as it is off upsets, Cinderella runs and general chaos — and it's no surprise the NCAA Tournament continued its dominant run into the final.

Thursday, March 26

(Review voting recaps here).

MatchupWinner
(2) The Masters vs. (3) MLB Opening DayMLB Opening Day (58.5 percent)

Rundown: Opening Day became just the second lower seed to win in our canceled sports bracket, and it's easy to see why: Our poll ran the same day MLB was supposed to start its 2020 season. Baseball fans are clearly in withdrawal, but it also shows how important Opening Day is in the American sports lexicon. The Masters is a tradition unlike any other, but baseball is Americana. That leaves only one, final matchup to see what the most-missed sporting event will be:

Final

Friday, March 27

(Review voting recaps here).

MatchupWinner
(1) March Madness vs. (3) MLB Opening DayMarch Madness (57.9 percent)

Rundown: And there you have it — the month of March really does belong to college basketball. With this win, the NCAA Tournament outlasted the XFL and such American institutions as the Kentucky Derby, NBA playoffs and, now, Opening Day. Even fans who don't consistently follow the sport can appreciate the Madness that is March, from filling out brackets to basking in upsets as the season culminates in one of the best postseason formats in organized sports. MLB Opening Day was able to knock out college football spring games, the French Open and the Masters, but not even America's Pastime could outdo the universality of the NCAA Tournament.

With that, we have our winner. The event we will mist most in this world without sports: March Madness.