March Madness is upon us, and it’s always an exciting month of basketball.
For most of these players, college basketball is the highest level they ever play. But a select few will make it to the NBA.
It’s an honor for a school to have even one player in the NBA, but some schools have enough to fill out a whole roster. And who would win if the alumni of all these teams played in a March Madness-style tournament? Let’s find out.
I took the 20 schools who had at least five alumni in the NBA to start this season, constructed a roster for each of these teams and seeded them 1-20. Full health was assumed, and each team was only allowed players who played in the NBA this season. The max amount of players on one roster is 10. Here are the matchups.
#16 Michigan State vs. # 17 Michigan
Michigan St. Starters: Keith Appling, Alan Anderson, Draymond Green, Adreian Payne, Zach Randolph
Bench: Branden Dawson
The tournament starts with a rivalry matchup between two imperfect rosters. Appling had a couple of 10-day contracts this year, so he gives the Spartans a much-needed point guard presence. Green has to play small forward due to four of the six players being big men.
Michigan Starters: Trey Burke, Jamal Crawford, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary
Bench: Nik Stauskas
Michigan has the opposite problem of its rival, with only one big man. Michigan also lacks the star power of a Draymond Green, and would thus be the underdog.
#15 USC vs. #18 Washington
USC Starters: O.J. Mayo, DeMar DeRozan, Nick Young, Taj Gibson, Nikola Vucevic
Bench: Dewayne Dedmon
USC would have to have its perimeter players play virtually the whole game, because Dedmon-Gibson-Vucevic together wouldn’t work at all. But the offense is in good shape with DeRozan and Vucevic, and Gibson gives them an internal defensive presence.
Washington Starters: Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday, Terrence Ross, Quincy Pondexter, Spencer Hawes
While USC has just Dedmon on the bench, Washington has no one. And with Spencer Hawes being the only big man on the team, defense will be an issue. But Thomas can run the offense with Holiday and Ross spotting up around his playmaking.
#14 Ohio State vs. #19 LSU
Ohio St. Starters: D’Angelo Russell, Mike Conley, Evan Turner, Kosta Koufos, Jared Sullinger
Ohio State only has five players, but the roster balances out pretty well. Russell and Conley can run the show offensively, and Koufos and Conley are good enough defensively to keep them respectable.
LSU Starters: Marcus Thornton, Garrett Temple, Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin, Brandon Bass
This team has three bigs and no spacing, as the roster doesn’t mesh at all. Five NBA players got LSU on this list, but it’d likely be a one-and-done for the Tigers.
#13 Syracuse vs. #20 UNLV
Syracuse Starters: Michael Carter-Williams, Wesley Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Jerami Grant, Chris McCullough
Bench: Dion Waiters, Tyler Ennis
Anthony and Waiters wouldn’t mesh well, so Dion comes off the bench. Anthony gives Syracuse a star to build around, which plenty of other teams lack.
UNLV Starters: Rashad Vaughn, Anthony Bennett, Christian Wood, Lou Amundson, Joel Anthony
It’s impressive that UNLV had five players in the NBA this year, but I got nothing else to say about this squad.
#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Michigan State/#17 Michigan
Kentucky Starters: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
Bench: Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nerlens Noel, Patrick Patterson
There isn’t a ton of shooting in the starting lineup, but that’s the only nitpick of the clear favorite of this tournament. I took Patterson over Julius Randle because he gives the Wildcats a different look. That’s right, this team is so loaded, Julius Randle didn’t make it.
#2 Texas vs #15 USC/ #18 Washington
Texas Starters: Cory Joseph, Avery Bradley, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Myles Turner
Bench: D.J. Augustin, P.J. Tucker, Tristan Thompson
Maybe Texas isn’t the university most expected to be #2, but this team is loaded. It has three bench players who fit, and a dynamic starting lineup around Durant. If anyone can challenge UK, it’s this squad.
#3 Duke vs. #14 Ohio State/ #19 LSU
Duke Starters: Kyrie Irving, J.J. Redick, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Mason Plumlee
Bench: Jahlil Okafor, Luol Deng, Lance Thomas, Tyus Jones, Mike Dunleavy
A Parker-Okafor front line would bleed too many points, so Okafor can dominate off the bench. There’s plenty of shooting on this team, and the bench is deep. Duke is a real contender.
#4 UCLA vs. #13 Syracuse/#20 UNLV
UCLA Starters: Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Arron Afflalo, Trevor Ariza, Kevin Love
Bench: Darren Collison, Zach LaVine, Matt Barnes, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ryan Hollins
This team is going to have to win 140-138 games, but the offensive talent is remarkable. Hollins is the only real center, so UCLA embraces small ball around Love.
#5 Florida vs. #12 Marquette
Florida Starters: Bradley Beal, Corey Brewer, Chandler Parsons, Al Horford, Joakim Noah
Bench: Matt Bonner, Udonis Haslem, Marreese Speights, Mike Miller, David Lee
Florida is big-heavy and doesn’t have a real point guard, although Beal can handle the ball handling duties. Brewer, Horford and Noah can start together just like they did during Florida’s back-to-back championships.
Marquette Starters: Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Wesley Matthews, Jae Crowder, Steve Novak
Marquette is the highest ranked of the no-bench teams, as the sheer talent of this team’s top four could overcome having no subs. The size of the four perimeter players would cause plenty of matchup issues.
#6 Arizona vs #11 UConn
Arizona Starters: Jerryd Bayless, Andre Iguodala, Stanley Johnson, Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon
Bench: Jason Terry, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Derrick Williams
Channing Frye’s shooting helps a team without great shooting wings. This team’s athleticism would give teams headaches.
UConn Starters: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Rudy Gay, Charlie Villanueva, Andre Drummond
Bench: Shabazz Napier, Caron Butler
Walker-Drummond pick-and-rolls would be awesome, and the starting lineup’s talent makes up for the lack of great bench options.
#7 Kansas vs #10 Wake Forest
Kansas Starters: Mario Chalmers, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris
Bench: Kirk Hinrich, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Paul Pierce, Jeff Withey
Kansas is deep in rotation players, and Wiggins is a dynamic scorer. But there aren’t a ton of elite options, capping the Jayhawks’ upside.
Wake Forest Starters: Chris Paul, Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson, Tim Duncan
Bench: Ish Smith
Poor Tim Duncan would have to play 48 minutes, but this is a talented team that could easily pull off the upset.
#8 North Carolina vs. #9 Georgia Tech
North Carolina Starters: Raymond Felton, Danny Green, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Williams, Tyler Zeller
Bench: Ty Lawson, P.J. Hairston, Ed Davis, Brandan Wright, John Henson
North Carolina has plenty of options and depth, but no stars. Maybe Michael Jordan could come out of retirement?
Georgia Tech Starters: Jarrett Jack, Iman Shumpert, Anthony Morrow, Derrick Favors, Chris Bosh
Bench: Thaddeus Young
Another team with only one bench option, but the big combination of Favors and Bosh would be awesome.