Which Wooden finalists would have lit up the NCAA tournament first round?

Get to know Dayton's Obi Toppin (2:02)

Jay Bilas sits down with star Dayton forward Obi Toppin to discuss Toppin's viral dunk over his brother and his unlikely rise to stardom. (2:02)

The main bracket of the 2020 NCAA tournament would have started Thursday, and the game's stars would have been out in force. With than in mind, ESPN.com's panel of college basketball experts reviewed the names on the final Wooden ballot and speculated about what we might have seen from those players in the tournament's first days.

We would have expected to see all 15 Wooden Award finalists in action in the first round of the NCAA tournament this week. Looking at Joe Lunardi's final bracket, what's the first-round matchup involving a Wooden finalist that you would have been most excited to see?

John Gasaway, college basketball writer: I would have loved to have seen Luka Garza go against East Tennessee State in the first round. The Buccaneers were being typecast as lovable mid-major overachievers, and Joe was no doubt correctly anticipating the committee (which is after all his mission statement) in giving Steve Forbes' men a No. 11 seed. But this is no ordinary No. 11 seed. ETSU excelled at forcing turnovers, and in an 11-point win at LSU in December, the Bucs forced the Tigers to give the ball away 15 times in a 64-possession game. They would not have feared the Hawkeyes.

Still, Garza would have been a handful for ETSU or any other opponent. I had a feeling that once the junior was finally facing an opponent that was not an at-large-quality Big Ten team with an outstanding defense (what a concept) we were really going to see something special. Watching Garza go up against the tough and experienced Buccaneers would have been something.

Myron Medcalf, senior college basketball writer: I'll take Obi Toppin against the winner of the Robert Morris/Boston University matchup, mostly because I'd love to see Toppin and Dayton again. I think Boston University's Max Mahoney (15.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG) or Robert Morris' Josh Williams (13.6 PPG, 41.7% from the 3-point line) would try to counter the Wooden Award contender. BU made more than 53% of its shots inside the arc, and Robert Morris made more than 36% of its 3-point attempts, both top-50 marks.

Either team could have been competitive against Dayton ... for about a half. But I think it would also be an opportunity for Toppin to showcase his gifts. He might have had a 40-point performance with NBA dunk contest-level dunks. He hasn't played a multitude of prime-time games on national TV since the nonconference season. Much of what folks have witnessed of Toppin's season has come through tweets and box scores. But I think this matchup would be an opportunity for Toppin to make a statement in the opening round about the threat the Flyers would pose the rest of the way.

Jeff Borzello, college basketball insider: Markus Howard going against that Houston defense in an 8-9 game would be highly intriguing. Marquette really struggled down the stretch, losing six of its final seven games to end the season and would have been backing into the NCAA tournament. But Howard never slowed down despite the losing streak, finishing with 30-plus points in each of his final five games to end the season and stay in the All-America and Wooden Award hunt.

That said, Houston would be one of his tougher opponents of the season. Kelvin Sampson has coached one of the best defenses in the country three years in a row, and it's a defense that really focuses on limiting opponents from the perimeter. The Cougars have ranked in the top 10 nationally in defensive 3-point percentage in three of the past five seasons. No opponent had made double-digit 3-pointers against them since November, and they had allowed more than six 3-pointers in a game just once since early January. Sampson would have at least three or four days to prepare for Howard, and it would be interesting to see how the Cougars planned to eliminate -- or at least limit -- the nation's top scorer.