The craziness of March Madness continues as upsets filled the headlines


Will Todd

This image depicts the teams in the Sweet Sixteen this weekend.

     They don’t call it “March Madness” for nothing. This weekend was full of upsets and the start of some Cinderella runs. The first upset we saw was when Oral Roberts University (15 seed) took on Ohio State University (two seed) and went into overtime. The Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts came away with the win in shocking fashion. This win was only the ninth time in the tournament’s recorded history that a 15 seed has beat a two seed. Another headline was the Abilene Christian Wildcats (14 seed) stunning the Texas Longhorns (three seed). One of the biggest headlines was when the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, who made a run to the Final Four as an eleven seed, took on the Fighting Illini of Illinois University (one seed) and won 71-58. There were so many upsets and shockers that nobody had a perfect bracket after the first weekend. This year’s tournament has the highest average sweet sixteen seed ever. 

     Following is a breakdown of the Sweet Sixteen matchups and my predictions for the Elite Eight games. 

     The first game will be on Saturday, March 27 at 2:40 p.m. when the Oregon State Beavers face off against the Loyola Chicago Ramblers. Oregon State, who holds the 12 seed, has made a shocking post-season run. The Beavers won the Pac-12 Tournament and then came into March Madness to dominate against two of the top teams in the country and punch their ticket in the Sweet Sixteen. On the other hand, Loyola came into March Madness as an eight seed after winning the Missouri Valley Tournament. In the win against Illinois, big man Cameron Krutwig dominated the floor, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists. This game could either be a back and forth game or one of these teams could take control of the game early. We will have to wait and see how fast-paced Oregon State will start, knowing the Ramblers like to keep a somewhat slow pace. Personally, I think Loyola will make another trip to the Elite Eight.  

     The Baylor Bears will tip-off against the Villanova Wildcats at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday. Baylor has one of the top offenses in the country and a lot of their success can be attributed to Jared Butler, one of the smartest basketball players this year. He always knows how to set his teammates up and can make the correct calls in some of the most crucial times. Villanova also has a very successful offense. All five of their starters average ten or more points per game. Both teams come into this game after winning their previous game very comfortably. Baylor is the favored team in this matchup, and I agree. However, as we have seen this past weekend, the higher-ranked teams are not always safe against the lower seeds. 

     The third game we will break down is between the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University and the Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas. The Golden Eagles have been the headline team due to their Cinderella runs. They first opened up as a 15 seed facing the two seed Ohio State Buckeyes and took them into overtime and won. In their round of 32 games, they faced the seven seed Florida Gators and won 81-78. The Golden Eagles have a lethal pick-and-pop play that they love running with their two best shooters. Their offense is so diverse that they can play against any team due to how many plays they can run and how they can alter a play based on the opponents’ scheme of strengths and weaknesses. At the beginning of the season, these two teams faced off and Oral Roberts led by ten at the half but Arkansas ended up winning 87-76. ESPN is giving Oral Roberts a 7.6% chance of winning. The Golden Eagles will look to not only prove ESPN wrong but also the doubters they still have. 

     Following this game, Syracuse and Houston will battle it out. Houston is the two seed and the Syracuse Orange is the 11 seed in the Midwest region. Houston was ranked in the top 15 throughout most of the regular season. The Cougars won the American Athletic Conference against Cincinnati before the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars lead the Orange in nearly all stats. Houston should be able to take on Syracuse in this game, even though Syracuse is led by Buddy Boeheim who has been on fire recently and was the key factor in beating the three seed West Virginia Mountaineers when he dropped 25 points and went 6/13 from beyond the arc. 

     To start off the game on Sunday, March 28, the five seed Creighton Bluejays will take on the one seed Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Bulldogs did not let go of their number one ranking in the country the whole season and finished the season with a 28-0 record. The Jayhawks got embarrassed by the Georgetown Hoyas in the Big East Tournament when they lost 73-48. In their first game of March Madness, they barely snuck past the UCSB Gauchos. The Bulldogs are led by star freshman point guard Jalen Suggs and sophomore Drew Timme. As much as I want to see another upset take place in this tournament, I don’t think this game will be one of those. The Bulldogs have too much depth on their roster. They should be able to take care of the Bluejays with ease. 

     Following this match-up, the Michigan Wolverines, who hold the one seed in the East region, will face the four seed Florida State Seminoles. In Michigan’s game to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, Chaundee Brown and Eli Brooke combined to score 42 points in the 86-78 victory. One of the best freshmen in the country, Hunter Dickinson dropped his sixth double-double of the season as he finished the game with 11 rebounds and 12 points. One of the key players for the Wolverines, Franz Wagner is an inconsistent player when it comes to shooting. Wagner will need to bring his A-game to face this very balanced Seminole team. Franz who is 6’9” and Hunter who is 7’1” will have to take advantage of the Seminoles not having a traditional big man. Michigan has the eighth best offense and ninth best defense in the country. The Seminoles have a good defensive coach but they just are not a good defensive team. If a team can beat them one-on-one, they will beat this Florida State team. My pick to advance to the Elite Eight is the Michigan Wolverines. 

     The 11 seed UCLA bruins and the two seed Alabama Crimson Tide will battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. This UCLA team might be one of the most guard-centered teams in the nation. They aren’t a great defense and front-court team, but they have playmakers. Alabama is one of the most fast-paced teams in the nation and they are one of the best defensive teams in the nation. UCLA will have to challenge the Crimson Tide with their shooting and make sure they get their guards open for shots. My pick to punch their ticket for the Elite Eight is the Alabama Crimson Tide. 

     To finish off the Sweet Sixteen games, two conference opponents will face off: the seven seed Oregon Ducks and the eight seed USC Trojans. Both the Trojans and the Ducks upset their opponents to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Oregon, whose first game was not played due to a COVID-19 incident in the VCU team, automatically advanced to the next round. The first game they played was against a very well-rounded Iowa team, but cruised past them 95-80. The Trojans played the Kansas Jayhawks (three seed) and absolutely destroyed them 85-51. Both teams are in the top 15 for offense. USC has the fifth best defense in the country though, so they will need to play up to that ranking in order to advance. The Trojans rely on their big men a little too much, but when you have somebody like Isaiah Mobley that isn’t always a bad thing. Oregon is the most slept-on team in the league. They have dynamic players in the backcourt, whereas the Ducks don’t have anybody on their starting line up over 6’6”, forcing them to play small ball. If the Trojans can find a way to force the ball into Mobley’s hand during one-on-ones, they will have success. This should come down to the final minutes. As the clock strikes 00:00 I believe the Trojans will be celebrating their win.  

     The Sweet Sixteen games will be played on Saturday, March 27th and Sunday, March 28th. On Monday, the first Elite Eight games will be played. Once the Elite Eight games wrap up, we will examine the Final Four matchups and who my projected national champion is.