It’s the Year of the Upset in the 2021 NCAA Tournament

A March Madness upset record could be broken on Monday

The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles
The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles celebrate their victory over the Florida Gators.
Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty

Following a pregame prayer from 101-year-old superfan Sister Jean, eighth-seeded Loyola-Chicago advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 71-58 upset win over No. 1 Illinois in the NCAA Tournament.

The victory for the Ramblers was just one of several upsets during the opening rounds of the 2021 tournament, as this year’s tourney has been full of improbable victories thus far. In fact, through three days of play a new record for “upset” wins has already been set, according to NCAA director of media coordination/statistics David Worlock.

“We define an upset as a team seeded five spots or more lower than their opponent,” Worlock wrote on Twitter. “We’ve already set the record with 11 such occurrences. We’re midway through the second round.”

Here are the 11 upsets thus far:

  1. Friday: No. 15 Oral Roberts def. No. 2 Ohio State, 75-72 (OT)
  2. Friday: No. 11 Syracuse def. No. 6 San Diego State, 78-62
  3. Friday: No. 13 North Texas def. No. 4 Purdue, 78-69 (OT)
  4. Friday: No. 12 Oregon State def. No. 5 Tennessee, 70-56
  5. Saturday: No. 14 Abilene Christian def. No. 3 Texas, 53-52
  6. Saturday: No. 13 Ohio def. No. 4 Virginia, 62-58
  7. Saturday: No. 11 UCLA def. No. 6 BYU, 73-62
  8. Sunday: No. 8 Loyola Chicago def. No. 1 Illinois, 71-58
  9. Sunday: No. 11 Syracuse def. No. 3 West Virginia, 75-72
  10. Sunday: No. 15 Oral Roberts def. No. 7 Florida, 81-78
  11. Sunday: No. 12 Oregon State def. No. 4 Oklahoma State, 80-70

That list could grow on Monday if No. 7 Oregon is able to beat No. 2 Iowa, No. 8 Oklahoma can knock off No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 13 Ohio can defeat No. 5 Creighton, No. 8 LSU can take out No. 1 Michigan or No. 10 Maryland can knock out No. 2 Alabama.

No matter what happens, three double-digit seeds (Oral Roberts, Syracuse, Oregon State) have already secured spots in the Sweet 16, and at least one more will make it as No. 14 Abilene Christian is playing No. 11 UCLA on Monday.

In 1999, five double-digit seeds reached the Sweet 16 to set a tournament record. Should Maryland and Ohio win on Monday, that record will be broken as six double-digit seeds will advance to the tourney’s second weekend in 2021.

As The Associated Press points out, the pandemic-influenced season and tournament may have created the ideal environment for the long-rumored mid-major revolution to take place in college basketball.

“Mid-majors are used to being treated as an afterthought,” according to The AP. “In normal seasons, they don’t have the budget to smooth out all the rough spots, and because they’re always farther back in the recruiting line, their players stick around because precious few are good enough to turn pro early. Nearly every time they venture out the conference, they do so as underdogs. In normal seasons, those disadvantages are a chip on their shoulders. This time around, qualities like resilience and cohesion are turning what might have been moral victories into actual W’s.”

Let’s see if those W’s keep coming on Monday.

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