As crazy of a sports year as it’s been for many dealing with the pandemic that has resulted in game cancellations and postponements, it only made sense for this March Madness to be full of upsets.
On the tournament’s opening weekend, multiple highly ranked teams fell to lower ranked — and badly underestimated — programs. The Ohio State Buckeyes opened the door and then others followed in the same losing fashion.
(15) Oral Roberts defeated (2) Ohio State, 75-72
In potentially the biggest upset of opening weekend, Ohio State fell in their first tournament game. Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas is one of the best scorers in the country and that is what he did, score the basketball. Twenty-nine points from Abmas and 30 from Kevin Obanor were too much for the Buckeyes. EJ Liddell was very good for Ohio State, but was about the only thing they had going. Liddell finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the loss. Oral Roberts went on to defeat No. 7 Florida to advance to the Sweet 16.
(14) Abilene Christian defeated (3) Texas, 53-52
Not a ton of scoring, which works well for any smaller school that wants to slow things down. Abilene trailed 28-23 at halftime and was able to make the adjustments needed to overcome the Longhorns. The Wildcats used a balanced scoring attack led by Joe Pleasant and Coryon Mason, who both scored 11 points.
(14) Ohio defeated (3) Virginia, 62-58
Jeff Boals is a great coach and it showed in this huge win for the Bobcats. Ohio finished fifth in the MAC, but knocked off the ACC champions in the first round. Jason Preston was as good as he normally is and recorded 11 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Ben Vander Plas added 17 points and Ben Roderick had 15 points for Ohio.
(13) North Texas defeated (4) Purdue, 78-69
Purdue didn’t have to travel far since the tournament is being played in Indiana, but it didn’t matter in this one. North Texas took over in overtime, led by Javion Hamlet with his 24 points and 12 rebounds. Jaden Ivey’s 26 points came up short for the Boilermakers.
(11) Syracuse defeated (3) West Virginia, 75-72
Last week I pointed out that Syracuse would be a tough out in the tournament. They’re now a double-digit seed advancing to the Sweet 16. The Orange held Derek Culver to just seven points. Buddy Boeheim rattled in 25 points to push ‘Cuse into the next weekend.
(12) Oregon State defeated (5) Tennessee, 70-56, and (4) Oklahoma State, 80-70
Four of five starterss scored in double-figures for the Beavers against Tennessee and it was the difference in this one. Roman Silva was perfect on eight shots and scored 16 points for Oregon State. Freshman Keon Johnson paced the Volunteers with 14 points.
The Beavers came back on Sunday and knocked out the Cowboys by double digits to reach the Sweet 16. Ethan Thompson poured in 26 points to lead Oregon State.
(8) Loyola Chicago defeated (1) Illinois, 71-58
After both teams won their opening games, everyone knew Loyola Chicago pointed at least a threat. The sound basketball from the Ramblers controlled this one all the way. Cameron Krutwig added 12 rebounds to his 19 points to be the man for Loyola. Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu was held to nine points. This hurt the Illini as he is a player that averaged 20 points a night out.
Sweet 16 madness
The Sweet 16 features opportunities for four double-digit seeds to keep their dreams alive. On Saturday, (15) Oral Roberts meets (3) Arkansas, (12) Oregon State takes on (8) Loyola, and (11) Syracuse faces (2) Houston. On Sunday, (11) UCLA squares off with (2) Alabama.