Why this may already be the craziest NCAA men's tournament ever

Pete Thamel
·3-min read

With No. 15 Oral Roberts, No. 12 Oregon State and No. 11 Syracuse already in the Sweet 16, it has felt like one of the most dizzying NCAA men's tournaments in history.

The statistics back it up, as the first weekend of the 2021 tournament has already experienced the most upsets prior to the round of 16 in tournament history.

Tournament media director David Worlock said on Sunday night that the 2021 NCAA tournament鈥檚 11 upsets have already broken the record for most upsets prior to the round of 16. And that鈥檚 still with eight more games to be played Monday.

The NCAA defines upsets as games won by teams seeded five spots or more lower than the favorite. (For example No. 10 Rutgers beating No. 7 Clemson isn鈥檛 an upset, while No. 11 Syracuse beating No. 6 San Diego State is.)

That number has a chance to grow from 11 on Monday, as six of the eight games are between teams seeded five spots or more apart. The 11 upsets prior to the Round of 16 bested eight different tournaments with 10 upsets by that point: 1985, 1986, 1990, 2002, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2018.

Oral Roberts players celebrate after beating Ohio State in a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Oral Roberts players celebrate after beating Ohio State in a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament March 19, 2021, at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

It would be an upset if the current iteration of the tournament doesn鈥檛 break the record for overall most upset-laden. Both the 1985 (won by No. 8 Villanova) and 2014 (No. 7 UConn vs. No. 8 Kentucky in the final) tournaments hold the record with 13 total upsets.

How wild has this tournament been? The eight teams in the round of 16 come from eight different conferences. The record for most leagues represented in the Round of 16 is 11, which was set in 1991 and tied in 2012. That record has a chance to be tied, as the MAC (Ohio), Southland (Abilene Christian), WCC (Gonzaga) and Big Ten (Michigan, Maryland, Iowa) all have chances at wins on Monday.

The 2021 NCAA tournament also distinguished itself as having four seeds of No. 13 or higher advancing, which broke the record for the most ever. It was one off the record for most double-digit seeds in the round of 32, as the nine double-digit upsets in this tournament trailed the 10 in the 2016 tournament (No. 15 Middle Tennessee over No. 2 Michigan State).

Of the 11 upsets this year, the most notable have been No. 15 Oral Roberts beating No. 2 Ohio State, No. 14 Abilene Christian beating No. 3 Texas, No. 13 Ohio toppling No. 4 Virginia and No. 13 North Texas beating No. 4 Purdue. In the second round, No. 8 Loyola Chicago topped No. 1 Illinois, No. 12 Oregon State beat No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 11 Syracuse beat No. 3 West Virginia.

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