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Cinderella Dancing at NCAA Tournament

March 23, 2021
Illinois loses to Loyola

All season long, it was the Big Ten that was the dominant conference in the country. And when Selection Sunday came around, that dominance was rewarded with No. 1 seeds for Illinois and Michigan, No. 2 seeds going to Ohio State and Iowa, and a No. 4 seed awarded to Purdue.

That’s five Big Ten teams that were seeded to make next weekend’s Sweet 16.

Illinois Goes Down

The Illini were a trendy pick to win it all, and they looked every bit the part in drubbing Drexel in the first round, 78-49. But that set up a second-round matchup against Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean, the 101-year-old team chaplain and super fan of the Ramblers.

It was shades of 2018 when Loyola made a run to the Final Four. The Ramblers dominated Illinois from the start, never trailing and never leading by less than six points in the entire second half of a 71-58 win over the Illini.

The Ramblers now get No. 12 seed Oregon State after the Beavers knocked off No. 4 seed Oklahoma State, 80-70.

The Midwest Region is down to Loyola Chicago, Oregon State, Syracuse, and Houston, with online sportsbooks paying +170 on the Ramblers to win the region and make a return trip to the Final Four. Basketball odds have Houston is the favorite at +115.

Ohio State Falls in Tournament’s Biggest Upset

Illinois was the first No. 1 seed to bow out of the tournament, but it lost to a No. 8 seed. The most embarrassing loss of the tournament belongs to Ohio State and its 75-72 loss to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts.

Entering the 2021 NCAA Tournament, No. 15 seeds were just 8-132 when taking on No. 2 seeds. But Oral Roberts wasn’t your typical No. 15 seed, with 6-1 sophomore guard Max Abmas the nation’s leading scorer and one of the top 3-point shooters in the country.

Abmas got his, scoring 29 points, but the real difference in this game was the pitiful shooting by the Buckeyes. They managed to hit on just 5-of-23 from beyond the 3-point line and only 9-of-18 at the free-throw line.

The loss was a tough blow for Ohio State, which had high hopes heading into the tournament, and it was another blight for the Big Ten, which also saw No. 4 seed Purdue lose to 13th-seeded North Texas in the first round.

Oral Roberts knocked off Florida in the second round, becoming just the second No. 15 seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16. They play Arkansas next, and online bookmakers have the Golden Eagles as 11-point underdogs.

COVID-19 Beats VCU

Other big upsets included No. 14 Abilene Christian over No. 3 Texas, No. 11 Syracuse over No. 3 West Virginia, and No. 13 Ohio over No. 4 Virginia. But the most upsetting result is Oregon winning by default over VCU because of COVID-19 protocols.

The Rams had multiple positive tests come back within 48 hours of the game, so the decision to award the win to Oregon was the right one. But for players who earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament, it’s a massive disappointment.