Say what you want about college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, but you can’t ever say it’s less fair than the way college football determines a champion. Even with the new and improved four-team playoff, there’s still plenty of room for doubt, conjecture, and bias that can leave a worthy team on the outside looking in.

We now know that our Final Four is the North Carolina Tar Heels, Villanova Wildcats, Oklahoma Sooners, and Syracuse Orange. It’s a healthy mix of elite teams expected to be here, good teams who had to pull an upset or two to get here and a sleeper who came out of nowhere. It’s the kind of concoction that only works because of how the NCAA Tournament is set up.

So naturally, it makes one wonder… what if we ran college basketball as well as college football? What kind of post-season exhibition games that mean nothing would we have to look forward to? Who would the four teams in the playoff have been? Would Syracuse have even made a “bowl game?”

First, some ground rules…

  • We’ll use the 2015-2016 bowl game schedule.
  • We’ll try to stick to the actual NCAA Tournament 1-68 seedings when possible.
  • Same rules as football, conference champions get major bowl bids. At-large bids determined by any non-conference winning teams highly ranked and remaining at-large teams.
  • If teams are banned from the postseason, they remain banned. Sorry Louisville and SMU.
  • We’ll try our best to stick to bowl-conference affiliations without getting too crazy.
  • Mid-major bowl affiliations will be re-imagined amongst the different conferences in basketball.
  • Keep the same order in which the 2015-2016 bowls are played.

Reminder: As dumb as this all is, this is actually how we determine our football national champion. So without further ado, here’s what the 2016 NCAA College Basketball Post-Season could have looked like…

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, LA
Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (30-5) vs. South Dakota State (26-8)

Actually a good looking match-up between conference champions. Would watch.

during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at United Center on March 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.
during the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at United Center on March 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M.
New Mexico Lobos (17-15) vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-8)

In reality, Gonzaga made it to the Sweet Sixteen. So this would have been a pretty crappy consolation prize.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, NV
Oregon State Beavers (19-13) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (25-10)

Sounds just as boring for basketball as it does for football.

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Orlando, FL
Northern Iowa Panthers (23-13) vs. Chattanooga Mocs (29-6)

Pit these two against one another as football teams? Snooze. Pit them against one another as basketball teams? You have our attention.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Montgomery, AL 
Ball State Cardinals (21-14) vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (20-13)

Woof.

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Kris Dunn #3 of the Providence Friars reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC – MARCH 19: Kris Dunn #3 of the Providence Friars reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Miami Beach Bowl, Miami, FL
Providence Friars (24-11) vs. St. Mary’s Gaels (29-6)

This sounds like the kind of non-conference game we’d actually love to see.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Boise, ID
Northern Illinois Huskies (21-13) vs. Boise State Broncos (20-12)

Now this is one of those games that sounds way better in football.

Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, Boca Raton, FL
Ohio Bobcats (23-12) vs. Butler Bulldogs (22-11)

A mediocre Midwestern showdown in Boca Raton.

S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, CA
San Diego State Aztecs (28-9) vs. Creighton Blue Jays (20-15)

The Aztecs had to settle for the NIT this year, so this wouldn’t have been much worse.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20:  Fans of the Hawaii Warriors cheer before they take on the Maryland Terrapins during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
SPOKANE, WA – MARCH 20: Fans of the Hawaii Warriors cheer before they take on the Maryland Terrapins during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu, HI
Hawaii Warriors (28-6) vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (20-12)

Requisite home game for Hawaii.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, Nassau, Bahamas
UTEP Miners (19-14) vs. Akron Zips (26-9)

Enjoy that, Bahamians.

GoDaddy Bowl, Mobile, AL
Buffalo Bulls (20-15) vs. UT-Arlington Mavericks (24-11)

Sorry about that, Mobile.

during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional Final at United Center on March 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.
during the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional Final at United Center on March 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX
Syracuse Orange (22-13) vs. USC Trojans (21-13)

Man, is Syracuse happy we don’t use this system or WHAT?

St. Petersburg Bowl, St. Petersburg, FL
Houston Cougars (22-10) vs. Old Dominion Monarchs (23-13)

Wake us up when this one’s over.

during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Bronx, NY
Pittsburgh Panthers (21-12) vs. Seton Hall Pirates (25-9)

A Tri-State area showdown in Yankee Stadium, as it should be.

Camping World Independence Bowl, Shreveport, LA
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (23-9) vs. Dayton Flyers (25-8)

Not a shabby game between two decent squads. We’d check it out.

 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, Dallas, TX
UAB Dragons (26-7) vs. St. Bonaventure Bonnies (22-9)

Fine. Just fine.

Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, CA
Ohio State Buckeyes (21-14) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (22-12)

Don’t tell Urban Meyer about this.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 20:  The Virginia Commonwealth Rams Mascot performs in the game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 20, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – MARCH 20: The Virginia Commonwealth Rams Mascot performs in the game against the Oklahoma Sooners during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 20, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Quick Lane Bowl, Detroit, MI
Florida State Seminoles (20-14) vs. VCU Rams (25-11)

Perfectly decent seasons, the two of you. Have fun in Detroit.

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, Washington, D.C.
Clemson Tigers (17-14) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (22-11)

Next.

AdvoCare 100 Texas Bowl, Houston, TX
Baylor Bears (22-12) vs. Ole Miss Rebels (20-12)

Similar records, but there’s a reason Baylor was a 5-seed and Ole Miss didn’t make the tourney. Sneaky blowout.

Russell Athletics Bowl, Orlando, FL 
Miami Hurricanes (27-8) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (23-12)

Here are a couple of teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen and would be a really good match-up.

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Ft. Worth, FL
Michigan Wolverines (23-13) vs. St. Joseph’s Hawks (28-8)

St. Joe’s got a much better deal with an NCAA Tournament bid.

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 18: Darnell Harris #0 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders celebrates with teammates late in the game against the Michigan State Spartans during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 18, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO – MARCH 18: Darnell Harris #0 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders celebrates with teammates late in the game against the Michigan State Spartans during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 18, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

NOVA Home Loan Arizona Bowl, Tucson, AZ
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (25-10) vs. Nevada Wolfpack (22-13)

Probably a better game than you might expect, now that we know MTSU was actually good.

Franklin American Music City Bowl, Nashville, TN
Virginia Tech Hokies (20-15) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (20-14)

The Power-Five Conference Also-Ran Bowl.

National Funding Holiday Bowl, San Diego, CA
Wisconsin Badgers (22-13) vs. California Bears (23-11)

Two tournament teams here, so it would be worth checking out.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18:  Thomas Walkup #0 of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks reacts in the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 18: Thomas Walkup #0 of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks reacts in the second half against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 18, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Binghamton Bowl, Birmingham, AL 
Temple Owls (21-12) vs. Stephen F. Austin (28-6)

You’d watch this just because you really miss Stephen F. Austin, don’t you?

Belk Bowl, Charlotte, NC
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-11) vs. LSU Tigers (19-14)

Notre Dame probably deserves better, which is a weird sentence to write.

Outback Bowl, Tampa, FL
Iowa Hawkeyes (22-11) vs.  Florida Gators (21-15)

You’d have to set the line in Iowa’s favor on this one.

Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Maryland Terrapins (27-9) vs. Texas A&M (26-8)

Now that’s an intriguing match-up. Two teams wondering about what-could-have-been in the NCAA Tournament right now.

Mike Krzyzewski
ANAHEIM, CA – MARCH 24: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the second half while taking on the Oregon Ducks in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament West Regional at the Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

TaxSlayer Bowl, Jacksonville, FL
Duke Blue Devils (25-11) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (25-9)

South Carolina would love the chance to prove they belong in the same game with Duke.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Texas Tech Red Raiders (19-13) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (19-14)

Oh, Liberty Bowl — so sorry.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, AZ
Washington Huskies (19-15) vs. Wichita State Shockers (26-9)

Oh, Wichita State — so sorry.

Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio, TX
Texas Longhorns (20-13) vs. Arizona Wildcats (25-9)

The Alamo Bowl always tends to be one of those games that’s fine and it happened, but you don’t really remember what happened. Same goes here.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta, GA
West Virginia Mountaineers (26-8) vs. Xavier Musketeers (27-5)

Two teams who would love to play their NCAA Tournament games over again. A good match-up of quality squads we’ve already forgotten.

NEW YORK - MARCH 12:  The Villanova Wildcats mascot celebrates after defeating the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – MARCH 12: The Villanova Wildcats mascot celebrates after defeating the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Allstate Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, LA
Villanova Wildcats (29-5) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (27-9)

Wildcat on Wildcat violence! In this instance, we’d have to favor the Wildcats. The first ones.

Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual, Pasadena, CA
Utah Utes (26-8) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (26-8)

Well, Rose Bowl, you demand traditional conference match-ups and this is what you end up with. The least interesting of all the New Year’s bowl games. Congrats.

Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ
Virginia Cavaliers (26-7) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (25-7)

Could have been a National Title game in real life. Oh well.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 27:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates by cutting down the net after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a score of 74 to 88 in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional Final at Wells Fargo Center on March 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MARCH 27: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates by cutting down the net after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish with a score of 74 to 88 in the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament East Regional Final at Wells Fargo Center on March 27, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Capital One Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
2-seed Michigan State Spartans (29-5) vs. 3-seed North Carolina Tar Heels (28-6)

See what you could have had, Michigan State? This is how crazy you losing in the first round was.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 20:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates in the second half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SPOKANE, WA – MARCH 20: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates in the second half against the Saint Joseph’s Hawks during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Cotton Bowl, Arlington, TX
1-seed Kansas Jawhawks (30-4) vs. 4-seed Oregon Ducks (28-6)

Both of these teams were one-seeds and both of them went to the Elite Eight before losing. Just goes to show you that the margin for error is that much smaller in college basketball’s playoff.

About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Curbed, Neighborhoods.com, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.