By Sravan Gannavarapu
Boston University News Service
After the tournament was canceled last year due to the pandemic, the absolute madness this March has given college basketball fans a reason to smile Friday and Saturday.
Almost every season, a team embarks on a magical run that captivates the hearts of college basketball fans across the country, from the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers’ upset over Miami in 2018 to Virginia Commonwealth University beating Kansas in the Elite Eight in 2011. And who could forget the UMBC Golden Retrievers being the first 16 seed ever to win a game in the NCAA tournament?
In 2021, the trend continued Friday, when the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, a 15 seed, upset the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in overtime, 75-72. Ohio State was a favorite in numerous brackets to either reach the Final Four or even be the team to win it all and cut down the nets at the end of the tournament.
The University of North Texas sparked interest among fans as well. Before 2021, the school had been to the tournament only three times in the school’s history, being knocked out in the first round during each appearance. But on Friday, the “Mean Green” secured their first-ever NCAA tournament victory, after an OT upset for host university, No. 4 Purdue, 78-69.
Then, there was Abilene Christian. In the final seconds, the No. 14 Wildcats sent the No. 3 Texas Longhorns packing, days after UT Austin won the Big 12 tournament. Abilene busted brackets across the country Joe Pleasant hit both of his free throws with less than two seconds left in the game, making it 53-52.
Their win came hours after the No. 13 Ohio Bobcats beat No. 4 Virginia, 62-58. Altogether, four teams won their first-round match-ups despite being seeded at No. 13 or worse.
Other honorable mentions include No. 11 Syracuse Orange dominating No. 6 San Diego State, 78-62, and No. 5 Villanova handing No. 12 Winthrop its second loss of the year. This knocked them out of the tournament with a 73-63 win, despite missing their best player in Collin Gillespie.
But as always, this weekend is simply the start of a long journey that will culminate on April 5. There are three certainties in life — death, taxes and a crazy college basketball season in March.