College basketball fans in Illinois have long wanted a statewide tournament, and with March Madness canceled, the opportunity finally arose. Kind of.

I’ve been desperate for any semblance of March basketball, and I know many of you have felt the same way. So I decided to make up a statewide Illinois championship bracket with all 13 teams, seeded according to The Catch and Shoot’s Illinois Rankings, and simmed all four rounds using What If Sports, a website that allows you to run custom simulations complete with box scores and play-by-plays.

And after four exciting days of tweet updates, we’ve crowned a champion: the DePaul Blue Demons! That’s right. DePaul’s brief March resurgence, where the Blue Demons upset Xavier in the Big East play-in round before COVID-19 ended the (real-life) 2019-20 season, was the real deal.

As the No. 3 seed, the Blue Demons earned the final bye to the quarterfinals, where they benefitted from a first-round upset. No. 11 seed SIU-Edwardsville knocked off No. 6 seed Southern Illinois in the final game of the play-in round, but the Cougars couldn’t continue their Cinderella run as DePaul cruised by two the semifinals.

As an underdog against Loyola Chicago, DePaul knocked the Ramblers off their pedestal as the kings of today’s Chicago basketball scene with a resounding 74-52 win.

In the championship, DePaul drew Bradley, which delivered the most shocking result of the tournament in the semifinals: an 84-63 beatdown of top-seeded Illinois.

Bradley fared better than Loyola against the Blue Demons buzzsaw, but DePaul still came out on top in a 73-70 thriller for the title. Sophomore shooting guard Flynn Cameron, of all people, drained the game-winning three with 41 seconds left.

It seemed as if coach Dave Leitao was being overly cautious with starting shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, who had four fouls, by pulling him from the game entirely with under two minutes to go. But apparently it was just great coaching!

Despite Cameron’s late heroics, DePaul point guard Charlie Moore earned the Tournament MVP award, averaging 23 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.6 steals. Joining him on the All-Tournament team were:

Darrell Brown, Bradley
18.5 ppg, 5.8 apg

Paul Reed, DePaul
8.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg

Elijah Childs, Bradley
14.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg

Jalen Coleman-Lands, DePaul
12.7 ppg, 40 3P%

Honorable mention to Northern Illinois’ Eugene German (27 ppg, 61.5 eFG%) and Loyola’s Cameron Krutwig (17.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 apg).

Thanks to everyone who joined the fun on Challonge and Twitter. You can find a rundown of the full results of the tournament below.

Play-In Round

No. 9 Illinois State 68, No. 8 UIC 62 (OT)

Illinois State Box Score

UIC Box Score

No. 4 Bradley 76, No. 13 Chicago State 53

Bradley Box Score

Chicago State Box Score

No. 5 Northern Illinois 66, No. 12 Western Illinois 62

Northern Illinois Box Score

Western Illinois Box Score

No. 10 Eastern Illinois 82, No. 7 Northwestern 80

Eastern Illinois Box Score

Northwestern Box Score

No. 11 SIU-Edwardsville 80, No. 6 Southern Illinois 71

SIU-Edwardsville Box Score

Southern Illinois Box Score

Quarterfinals

No. 1 Illinois 81, No. 9 Illinois State 78

Illinois Box Score

Illinois State Box Score

No. 4 Bradley 98, No. 5 Northern Illinois 69

Bradley Box Score

Northern Illinois Box Score

No. 2 Loyola 71, No. 10 Eastern Illinois 68

Loyola Box Score

Eastern Illinois Box Score

No. 3 DePaul 70, No. 11 SIU-Edwardsville 56

DePaul Box Score

SIU-Edwardsville Box Score

Semifinals

No. 5 Bradley 84, No. 1 Illinois 63

Bradley Box Score

Illinois Box Score

No. 3 DePaul 74, No. 2 Loyola 52

DePaul Box Score

Loyola Box Score

Finals

No. 3 DePaul 73, No. 4 Bradley 70

DePaul Box Score

Bradley Box Score

Now, let’s hope we don’t have to do this again next year. Stay healthy and safe, everyone.

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