The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is underway and that means it is time for upsets. We’ll get plenty of powerhouses advancing and it would not surprise anybody if a No. 1 seed like Gonzaga or Illinois cut down the nets on April 5th. And yet, we know there will be upsets along the way. We’ll probably get at least one double digit seed advancing to the Sweet 16, but even before then we should get some notable upsets in the first weekend.
We’ll be tracking every upset in here as it happens. The top seeds getting through can often make for better basketball, but seeing a 12 or 13 seed stun some folks and advance, or maybe an 8 or 9 knocking off a 1 is what we want in the first weekend. It’s simply more fun when chalk goes down!
We’ll have the big upsets, but even a 2 beating the 1 counts as an upset! Follow along over the next three weeks.
National Championship Game
No. 1 Baylor 86, No. 1 Gonzaga 70
It’s fitting that the most upset-filled NCAA men’s basketball tournament ended with an upset. Baylor was second banana to Gonzaga all season long, but made a clear statement of superiority in the title game. The Bears jumped out to a 9-0 lead to open the game and never looked back. The Bulldogs cut the lead to single digits a couple times later in the game, but each time Baylor responded with a flurry to push it back out and Gonzaga could not get back into it.
No. 11 UCLA 51, No. 1 Michigan 49
The Bruins are headed to their 19th Final Four after upsetting the top ranked team in their region. Johnny Juzang carried the squad, scoring 28 points in a game in which the Bruins got zero points from their bench. The two teams exchanged leads for much of the first half, but aside from a pair of brief one-point Michigan leads in the second half, UCLA led the rest of the second half. They advance to face No 1 Gonzaga in the national semifinals.
No. 12 Oregon State 65, No. 8 Loyola Chicago 58
The dream season in Corvallis continues, as the Beavers have won six-straight games that would have ended their season. Ethan Thompson put up 22 points for Oregon State, and the team was 18-20 from the free throw line. They’ll face No. 2 Houston on Monday night for the right to go to the Final Four.
No. 11 UCLA 88, No. 2 Alabama 78
Well, that was certainly a wild one. The Pac-12 is sending a second double digit seed to the Elite Eight after a wild one. UCLA looked like they had this one put away in regulation after Alabama forward Herbert Jones missed a pair of free throws and the Bruins took a three point lead. Alex Reese buried a buzzer-beater to force overtime, but UCLA dominated thanks in part to Alabama struggling mightily from the free throw line. They face No. 1 Michigan on Tuesday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
No. 8 Loyola Chicago 71, No. 1 Illinois 58
The Ramblers are back in the Sweet 16 for the second time in four years. Cameron Krutwig had a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds while adding five assists and the Illini could get nothing going with any kind of consistency. Loyola took a 4-2 lead at a little over a minute into the game and never looked back. A No. 1 losing in the second round is an upset, but Loyola doing the deed is not a shocker. They were ranked ninth in the KenPom ratings and ended up as one of the more poorly seeded teams in the tournament. Loyola will face No. 12 Oregon State in the Sweet 16.
No. 11 Syracuse 75, No. 3 West Virginia 72
Another round, another Orange upset. Zone defense might be for cowards, but in a quick turnaround like the NCAA Tournament, it can make life particularly miserable. West Virginia had a lot of looks but struggled to get going for most of the day. The Mountaineers made it interesting late, but Syracuse hit some key shots to get the win and get a double digit seed into the Sweet 16.
No. 15 Oral Roberts, No. 7 Florida
We have our primary Cinderella in the Sweet 16. Other double digits might advance, but Oral Roberts is the belle of the ball. The Golden Eagles became just the second No. 15 to advance to the Sweet 16, joining the 2013 Dunk City squad from Florida Gulf Coast. Oral Roberts trailed much of the second half, but steadily climbed back until they took a lead with 2:53 remaining. Florida managed one basket in the final three minutes and Oral Roberts is off to face No. 3 Arkansas in the Sweet 16.
No. 12 Oregon State 80, No. 4 Oklahoma State 70
The Beavers took a lead at the 13:03 mark of the first half and never surrendered it. Cade Cunningham and company did what they could to mount a comeback, but they could never quite get back and Oregon State pulled away for the win. Beavers guard Ethan Thompson led the way with 26 points. The Beavers will face No. 8 Loyola in the Sweet 16.
No. 7 Oregon 95, No. 2 Iowa 80
This was a shootout from the start and Oregon once again simply could not miss. They shot 55.9 percent from the field and 44 percent from three. They took a lead with 1:53 left in the first half and a 15-3 run put them in control for the rest of the game. The Ducks will face No. 6 USC in the Sweet 16.
No. 6 USC 85, No. 3 Kansas 51
Another upset that was thoroughly dominated by the lower seed from start to finish. USC got double digit scoring from five players in a game they never trailed. They took a quick 3-0 lead and it was never closer than 5-3 after that. The Trojans will face No. 7 Oregon in the Sweet 16.
No. 15 Oral Roberts 75, No. 2 Ohio State 72 (OT)
The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles impressed in this upset. Aside from a stretch in the middle of the first half, it never looked like the Golden Eagles were out of it. Kevin Obanor hit a pair of clutch free throws with 15 seconds in regulation to tie the game and force overtime after Duane Washington Jr. missed a step-back jumper at the buzzer. Oral Roberts took the first lead of overtime and never trailed. Kevin Obanor and Max Abmas combined for 59 points in the win. The Golden Eagles advance to face Florida in the Round of 32.
The 15/2 upset had a strong run in the mid-2010s, but has not happened since 2016. That year, Middle Tennessee defeated Michigan State 90-81. MTSU lost to Syracuse in the Round of 32.
No. 12 Oregon State 70, No. 5 Tennessee 56
The 12/5 upset comes along every year and we got it right out of the gate in 2021. Oregon State was a popular pick and they came through in dominating fashion. The Beavers never trailed, and in fact, the last time the game was even tied was 2-2 with 18:24 remaining. Oregon State guard Jarod Lucas nailed a three-pointer 20 seconds later and never looked back. They advance to face No. 4 Oklahoma State.
No. 9 Wisconsin 85, No. 8 North Carolina 62
The 8/9 matchup is often a toss-up, but even still, it’s a seeded upset. This one is particularly notable because UNC head coach Roy Williams entered the night 29-0 in his career when coaching in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels losing is not surprising, but when it snaps a 29 tournament undefeated run, well that’s kind of a big deal. Wisconsin advances to face No. 1 Baylor in the second round.
UPDATE: Wisconsin lost 76-63 to Baylor in the second round.
No. 13 North Texas 78, No. 4 Purdue 69
The Mean Green did it! The 2021 NCAA Tournament is entirely in the state of Indiana this year and North Texas eliminated the only Indiana school. They claimed an early lead and got it out to eight at halftime. However, they could not put away the Boilermakers in regulation. Purdue tied it with a tip-in with 24 seconds left and survived a James Reese jumper that had a shot. A 10-0 overtime run did the trick however, and North Texas advanced. The Mean Green face No. 5 Villanova in the second round.
UPDATE: North Texas lost 84-61 to Villanova in the second round.
No. 10 Rutgers 60, No. 7 Clemson 56
The Scarlet Knights were one of the few lower seeds favored over the higher seed. This was a back-and-forth affair in the first half and well into the second half. Rutgers took a lead with 13:20 left in the game and aside from a brief tie, led the rest of the way. Four Rutgers players scored in double digits, with nobody scoring more than 13 points. Rutgers faces Houston in the second round.
UPDATE: Rutgers lost 63-60 to Houston on a late foul-and-one situation.
No. 11 Syracuse 78, No. 6 San Diego State 62
The Orange zone strikes again! San Diego State couldn’t get anything going with any consistency and Syracuse absolutely boat-raced them. The Orange took a 19-18 lead with 8:49 to go, and it was never remotely close the rest of the way. In fact, the Aztecs did not score again the rest of the first half. Syracuse put together a 20-0 run and cruised to victory. They face West Virginia in the second round.
No. 13 Ohio 62, No. 4 Virginia 58
You gotta hand it to Virginia. It’s all or nothing. They won the 2019 national title, and sandwiched that with losses to a 16 seed and a 13 seed. The Hoos led for most of the this game, but an Ohio three with 7:44 to go in the second half gave the Bobcats a lead they would not relinquish. Ben Vander Plas led the way with 17 points in a game that really about some rough shooting. Ohio advances to face Creighton in the second round.
UPDATE: Ohio lost 67-56 to Creighton in the second round.
No. 11 UCLA 73, No. 6 BYU 62
We have our first 2-0 team in the tournament! The Bruins beat Michigan State in the First Four and have now notched a second straight win, this time over BYU in the first round. UCLA jumped out to an early lead before BYU got on track midway through the first half. The Cougars cut the Bruins lead to 18-17 with 7:17 left in the first frame, but never got it any closer. UCLA built an 11-point lead by halftime and BYU never got closer than four the rest of the way. They advance to face No. 14 Abilene Christian in the second round.
No. 14 Abilene Christian 53, No. 3 Texas 52
What a way to close the first round. The two teams exchanged leads deep into the second half, but a late foul call was the difference. Texas guard Andrew Jones hit a three to give the Longhorns a 52-51 lead with 16 seconds left. ACU forward Joe Pleasant then drove to the hole and drew a foul with 1.2 seconds left. He hit both free throws and secured the upset. They advance to face No. 11 UCLA in the second round.
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