I have some bad news for you. Last night, a very specific type of alien invaded Earth and, while we all slept, wiped the game of basketball away from human consciousness. Though all knowledge of hoops was forgotten overnight, the concept of March Madness remained; office pools must be conducted and television contracts must be fulfilled. After a brief huddle at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Tuesday that, beginning with the First Four tonight in Dayton, the NCAA Tournament will be played as scheduled -- but with football teams taking the place of since-forgotten basketball teams.
It's now up to us to handicap how the tournament would play out.
- No. 1 seed Kansas earns its first victory of the David Beaty era, squeezing past FCS Austin Peay.
- The Jayhawks are quickly undone in the second round by upstart Connecticut, who survived Colorado in overtime in the opening round.
- California romps past Hawaii in the opening round, then blows out Maryland in the Round of 32. The Bears continue their run when Jared Goff fires four touchdown passes to lead Cal over Connecticut in the Sweet 16.
- In the bottom half of the bracket, Iowa survives a 20-17 lip-biter against Temple, then crushes Villanova in the second round.
- Arizona and Miami easily dispatch Vanderbilt and Buffalo, respectively, then stage a classic in the second round. The Hurricanes seemingly have the game won with a 15-yard Brad Kaaya touchdown dash with just eight seconds remaining but, in a bizarre twist of fate, Arizona successfully executes a 12-lateral touchdown run, finally crossing the goal line a full minute after the final horn blows.
- Iowa waltzes past an exhausted Arizona team in the Sweet 16, then shuts down Goff and company in the Elite Eight, advancing to the Final Four with a 27-20 victory.
- Oregon drops a basketball-like 77 points on Southern in the first round, then out-races Cincinnati in the second round, 56-45.
- Baylor does the same to Yale, crunching the Ivy representatives 63-14 without putting the ball in the air once, then racing past Duke in the second round to set up one of the most anticipated Sweet 16s in the tournament.
- Texas A&M and Texas stage a heated second round affair that sees more personal fouls than touchdowns. With the score tied at 10 with just one minute to go, Kyler Murray executes a juke on Texas freshman Malik Jefferson instantly immortalized on Facebook and Twitter profiles throughout the state as he glided into the end zone for a game-winning score.
- However, the Aggies' jubilee is short-lived after Murray announces immediately after the win he has changed allegiances to A&M's Sweet 16 opponent - Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma spends four hours exercising demons from the 2013 Cotton Bowl as Baker Mayfield tosses three touchdowns and rushes for two more in a blowout Sooners victory.
- In the other Sweet 16 matchup, Irresistible Force meets Irresistible Force as Baylor outlasts Oregon, 68-66.
- In a rematch of one of the most hotly-contested games of the 2015 season, Jarrett Stidham lasts the entire game against Oklahoma but the Sooners again prove to be too much, winning 44-41 and joining Iowa in the Final Four.
- North Carolina and USC each enjoy byes to the second round, then sit back in wonder as Adoree Jackson and Ryan Switzer take turns racing up and down the field. In a minor upset, USC advances.
- Reviving a rivalry played annually from the late '80's through 2005 but never since, Indiana and Kentucky square off in a heated game where observers on both sides are dogged by the feeling something's missing but can't quite put their fingers on it. Nevertheless, Kentucky surges to a halftime lead but Indiana storms back for a 38-27 win.
- Michigan dispatches Tulsa in the First Four but, run ragged by Philip Montgomery's spread attack, look dead two days later and the hyped match between Notre Dame and Michigan never materializes. The Irish cruise, then do the same against West Virginia in the second round.
- Pittsburgh scores a minor upset over Wisconsin, then a favorable draw in grabbing Weber State as a second round opponent. Pat Narduzzi strolls into the Sweet 16.
- USC easily handles Indiana in the Sweet 16, and Notre Dame does the same to Pittsburgh. The Trojans and Irish trade haymakers in the Elite Eight, with the lead changing hands five separate times in the second half, including an Adoree Jackson score with 34 seconds left to give USC a 41-38 lead. But Jackson, exhausted from playing every offensive, defensive and special teams snap throughout the game, trips and falls while attempting to match steps with Notre Dame speedster Will Fuller, and DeShone Kizer's rainbow easily finds him wide open for the game-winning score. Notre Dame advances to Houston.
- Virginia crushes Hampton in a game properly relegated to TruTV, and Texas Tech becomes the first team to drop 80 points against Butler.
- Purdue earns a bye past football-less Arkansas-Little Rock, and Iowa State receives essentially the same when matched with Iona. The Cyclones down the Boilers to reach the Sweet 16.
- A lack of football teams at both Seton Hall and Gonzaga means the Utah-Fresno State winner moves straight to the Sweet 16. Knowing those stakes, Kyle Whittingham's team drops a performance similar to when it grabbed a 35-0 lead over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, dominating the overmatched Bulldogs.
- Dayton pulls the stunner of the first round, upending Syracuse 24-23. However, it all goes for naught as Michigan State crushes Middle Tennessee and the upstart Flyers on its way to the Sweet 16.
- Thanks in large part to the friendliest draw imaginable, Patrick Mahomes and Jakeem Grant toy with Virginia in the second round, then Iowa State in the Sweet 16. Mahomes tops 500 yards in both wins, and Grant scores touchdowns by reception, rush and return.
- Utah proves a formidable match for Michigan State, but the Spartans' bronze will allows them to fight back from 10 down in the fourth quarter to scratch out a 28-24 victory.
- Texas Tech learns, quickly, that the Elite Eight will not go as the first three rounds did, and the Spartans stop the Red Raiders in their tracks, setting up a matchup with Notre Dame in the Final Four.
THE FINAL FOUR
vs. Iowa musters a better performance than it brought to the Rose Bowl, but it's still not enough to hold off the supremely talented Sooners. Mayfield breaks open a close game when Sterling Shepard breaks free on a double move, pushing the OU lead to 24-13. Iowa would never seriously threaten again and Oklahoma books a 38-20 victory.
vs. Notre Dame moves the ball up and down the field but stalls repeatedly at the goal line, and a 280-105 yardage advantage results in just a 9-3 halftime lead. Michigan State opens the second half with a touchdown, but Notre Dame grabs the lead back on the next possession. The Spartans and Irish traded scores until Michigan State notches the last points, a 4th-and-1 play-action toss from Connor Cook to a wide open defensive end-turned-goal line fullback Shilique Calhoun. Michigan State wins, 31-30.
vs. In a game historians insist would have been possible in an ancient sport called "hoopsketball," Oklahoma takes the better part of three quarters to crack Mark Dantonio's defensive code, but the floodgates open when they do. A 21-7 Michigan State lead with 15 minutes remaining turns into a 35-28 Oklahoma win, clinched when Samaje Perine powers in from three yards out with just 13 seconds remaining in the game.
On the stage at NRG Stadium in Houston, Bob Stoops hoists the first NCAA Football Tournament trophy, then immediately passes out due to exhaustion. The NCAA agrees to table the 64-team football tournament idea for next year.