March Madness, the tournament where an upset can occur unexpectedly as history has proven these games can be predictable, somewhat predictable, or downright jawdropping. Covid-19 has put a twist on this annual event, no fans are able to attend the games and for the first time in March Madness history, all games are played in Indianapolis, home of the NCAA. With the start of Sweet 16 this Saturday, 52 teams packed up their bags in hopes of redemption next season. The question is, who will also join the elimination club?
For now, let’s countdown the top 3 stunning upsets from the first two rounds.
#3: North Texas, 13th Seed (USA) vs Purdue, 4th Seed (Big 10)
– 1st Round:
North Texas has never won a game in the March Madness tournament, heading into a match against the heavily favored Purdue, it looked as if the Mean Green would have to endure another first-round defeat. Miraculously, the 13th ranking was just the luck North Texas needed. Purdue G, Jaden Ivey lead led the game with 26 points but it was North Texas senior G, Javion Hamlet scoring 24 points, going 8-8 on free throws along with 12 rebounds. Mean Green had the lead heading into halftime but the Boilermakers not to be denied stormed back scoring 37 second-half points, the game headed into overtime even at 61. The game would ultimately go to North Texas 78-69 as Purdue could not recover from all of their missed 3-pointers in extra play. Purdue was struggling offensively as they missed 44 field goals and to add insult their largest lead across the board was a measly 3 points. The team swayed more on their defensive scheme, which caused the Boilermakers to wear down in overtime. In round two, 13 was not so lucky after all for North Texas, despite Hamlet scoring 25 points leading the contest, it was not enough as they fell victim to the ferocious 5th seed Villanova, 84-61.
#2: Loyola Chicago, 8th Seed (Missouri Valley) vs Illinois, 1st Seed (Big 10) – 2nd Round:
Loyola Chicago made a miracle run in 2018 to the Final 4, fast forward three years later, we may see a repeat. The game shifted immediately in favor of Loyola Chicago jumping out to a 17-9 lead and the Ramblers didn’t look back. Senior, C, Cameron Krutwig lead Loyola Chicago in points with 19, he was the forefront veteran and the all-around playmaker with 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Illinois 7ft sophomore, C, Kofi Cockburn led the program with 21 points, despite leading in points, most of the Fighting Illini’s leading stats were nothing but negative. Illinois never held a lead, turned the ball over 17 times, and racked up an abysmal 18 fouls, Loyola Chicago barrels past Illinois 71-58. Will this be the year Loyola Chicago gives their biggest fan, Sister Jean, the long-awaited Final 4 victory? A battle of the underdogs will take place Saturday as Loyola Chicago currently stands as 7 point favorites against 12th seed Oregon State. Can the Beavers hold up against the Ramblers’ sturdy defense?
#1: Oral Roberts, 15th Seed (Summit League) vs Ohio State, 2nd Seed (Big 10) – 1st Round:
If there is one team that has blown away the basketball universe, it would be the high-flying Golden Eagles from Oral Roberts. Heading into their projected blowout against Ohio State, the odds for Oral Roberts to pull off the upset was +9000! Oral Roberts wasted no time up 7-2 in the opening minute and then the first half became a seesaw, Ohio State taking the lead just for the Golden Eagles to regain momentum, a high-scoring half would come to a close 38-33 in favor of the super underdogs. Each minute of the second half was even tighter as the largest deficit was 49-42 in favor of Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles did not show any mercy defensively against the relentless Buckeyes offensive speed. Ohio State squeaked a 2 point lead with 15 seconds left but junior, G, Musa Jallow coughed up a foul only to have junior, F, Kevin Obanor drill two free throws for the sudden-death overtime even at 64. Obanor continued his strong performance with 7 points, including the game-clinching free throws with 13 seconds remaining in OT, 75-72. Oral Roberts pulled off the biggest upset in their school’s history. Crazy enough, Oral Roberts went on to beat heavily favored 7th ranked Florida in the second round, advancing them to the Sweet 16 since their Elite Eight appearance in 1974. Will the bettors doubt Oral Roberts once more as they contend with the 3rd seed, Arkansas?
Other Bracket News:
The effects of Covid-19 were felt throughout the sports world and it is no different with March Madness. Most, if not all teams feed off the crowd noise as it can be a momentum changer, especially when a team is trailing or the game is coming down to the wire. Furthermore, a devastating loss for the 10th seed VCU Rams who didn’t get to play their first-round matchup against 7th seed Oregon due to multiple players testing positive for the virus. Oregon advanced to the second round automatically.
The projected No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, Big 12 Player of the Year, Cade Cunningham scores 24 points in an upset loss to Oregon State, 12th seed, 80-70 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Cunningham had a strong contribution in the first-round performance scoring 15 points in Oklahoma State’s win against 13th seed Liberty. Many were surprised Oklahoma State made it to the tournament after a 1-year suspension was given to the team last season, as former assistant coach Lamont Evans was convicted of a corruption scandal. The ban was upheld as Covid delayed the hearing, this run most likely ends Cunningham’s college hoop days.
We’ve had a wild run so far, and 13 more games to go.
Let the Sweet 16 commence!
Sweet 16 Lineup: Bracket
|Sweet 16 — Saturday, March 27|
|(8) Loyola Chicago vs. (12) Oregon State||2:40 p.m.||CBS||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|
|(1) Baylor vs. (5) Villanova||5:15 p.m.||CBS||Hinkle Fieldhouse|
|(3) Arkansas vs. (15) Oral Roberts||7:25 p.m.||TBS||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|
|(2) Houston vs. (11) Syracuse||9:55 p.m.||TBS||Hinkle Fieldhouse|
|Sweet 16 — Sunday, March 28|
|(1) Gonzaga vs. (5) Creighton||2:10 p.m.||CBS||Hinkle Fieldhouse|
|(1) Michigan vs. (4) Florida State||5 p.m.||CBS||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|
|(2) Alabama vs. (11) UCLA||7:15 p.m.||TBS||Hinkle Fieldhouse|
|(6) USC vs. (7) Oregon||9:45 p.m.||TBS||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|