A Look at the 3 Craziest Upsets of the 2021 NCAA Tournament’s First and Second Rounds

Story posted March 24, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Draeger

After one crazy weekend in college basketball, the Sweet 16 is upon us.

The first and second rounds of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament provided fans with plenty of highlights and heartbreaks. A lot of major upsets have already occurred, busting a few (or most) brackets in the process.

Let’s take a dive into the top upsets of the tournament so far.

No. 15 Seed Oral Roberts Tops Ohio State

In what was the story of the first round, the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles stunned the nation when they took down the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. The Golden Eagles would later move past the seventh-seeded Florida Gators to advance to the Sweet 16.

The main statistic that stands out in this game was the free-throw percentage. Ohio State only made 50% of its shots from the charity stripe compared to Oral Roberts’ 77.8%. Those nine shots the Buckeyes missed were crucial, considering this game went to overtime, where ORU won 75-72.

Along with free throws, Oral Roberts had guard Max Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor combine for 59 points in this first-round matchup. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles defense held star players E.J. Liddell, Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker to 23, 18 and 12 points, respectively. They also caused Ohio State to turn the ball over 16 times, compared to Oral Roberts’ six turnovers.

Sister Jean Does It Again

Loyola Chicago had a tough test ahead in its second-round matchup against the No. 1 seed Illinois Fighting Illini. But, with a prayer from team chaplain Sister Jean that included a scouting report on the Illini, the Ramblers handled business.

Early on, center Cameron Krutwig acted like Illinois center Kofi Cockburn was just like any other player in the Missouri Valley Conference: not as good as him. Krutwig managed to cause chaos in the paint and had a field day with Cockburn, putting up 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Ramblers defense managed to shut down one of the hottest teams coming out of the Big Ten, limiting the Illini’s 3-point shot to 28% (which Sister Jean prayed for). Loyola kept star guard Ayo Dosunmu to nine points, limited the impact of key role players like Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier, and forced the Illini to turn the ball over 17 times.

The Ramblers’ efforts on the court have earned them national attention again. This time around, most people are not counting them as a Cinderella, as the analytics show that this is a better team than 2018’s Final Four squad, ranking All No. 9 in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metric.

Abilene Christian Goes Horns Down

The Abilene Christian Wildcats had not won a Division I NCAA Tournament game in their program’s entire history. That was the case until Saturday night.

The Wildcats managed to get into the heads of Shaka Smart’s Texas team, as the Longhorns turned the ball over 23 times: a season high. They also managed to keep Texas’ star players from getting hot offensively, holding the Longhorns to just 52 points offensively.

For all the effort that Abilene Christian put in on the floor, the attention was solely focused on the bench. Guard Paul Hiepler was the talk of the game with his crazy celebrations after every point and the infamous “horns down” gesture at the end of the game.

Other than the bench, the on-court product handled its job against the Big 12 tournament champions. The Abilene Christian defense was a massive saving grace, as the Wildcats shot just 30% from the floor and just 16% from behind the arc.

In the end, this tournament has not disappointed with the upsets this year. Indianapolis now has four double-digit seeded teams into the Sweet 16, which may call for a Cinderella run to remember.


Jonathan Draeger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.