NCAA | MARCH MADNESS

March Madness: 95% of brackets destroyed by Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts, 15th seed in the South, beat Ohio State on a day when, on the same side of the bracket, Purdue crashed and North Carolina landed with a thud.

March Madness: 95% of brackets destroyed by Oral Roberts
Nikos Frazier USA TODAY Sports

This is the NCAA tournament, March Madness, the big show that has had the United States getting more and more excited every March since 1939, with the sole exception of last season. The pandemic had just hit, forcing the cancellation of the 2020 edition, but it's back for 2021.

March Madness: shocks early in bracket

This year it is being played in Indianapolis, in a semi-bubble, a controlled environment and with very limited public in attendance; without the social hubbub, the heartbeat that usually gives life to a tournament that belongs to the fans... and to the betting. Predicting the outcome of the famous brackets, according to the statisticians, is more difficult than winning the country's main annual lottery twice in a row by buying just one ticket a year.

And the reason why there is no way, it is practically impossible, we have already seen again in 2021, and in the first round, as Oral Roberts knocked out Ohio State. In other words, a number 2 eliminated by number 15 on their side of the bracket, the South. From the final of the Big Ten to a note in the black history of the Buckeyes, surprised (72-75) by a team that had not won a game in the main draw of the tournament since 1974.

What does this upset mean in terms of betting brackets? Well, if you take ESPN's massive field, with almost 14 million brackets filled out, it's a shock that has blown almost everyone's chances of perfection out of the water: 95% had put Ohio State as the winner, who started with a 16-point margin of victory for bettors. The biggest upset since UMBC beat top-seeded Virginia in 2018, despite a -20.5 start. And the eighth biggest since 1985. That's the way March Madness goes.

Oral Roberts won with 29 points from Max Abmas (national leading scorer) and 30 and 11 rebounds from Kevin Obanor. For the Buckeyes, Justin Ahrens and Duane Washington Jr missed three-pointers to force overtime.

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles forward DeShang Weaver (14) and forward Ismael Plet (45).

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles forward DeShang Weaver (14) and forward Ismael Plet (45).

The night of long knives did not end there on the South side of the bracket. Purdue (seed 4) had an 88 per cent chance of beating 13th-ranked North Texas - who had never won the tournament - at the Colts' (NFL) colossal Lucas Oil Stadium. The Mean Green's upset (69-78) came at the hands of Javion Hamlet, a senior who did not even receive an offer from Division I universities and who shone with 24 points in 43 minutes, including an overtime that had been forced by Jaden Ivey (26 points) and Trevion Williams (14 and 13 rebounds).

Also notable, more for form than substance (54%-46% in favour of the loser in the betting in this case), was the disaster of North Carolina (seed 8) against the Badgers of Wisconsin, seed 9 that won 62-85 against the Tar Heels, another top-ranked team in the South. Their coach, the legendary Roy Williams, had never lost in the first round. He was an unblemished 29-0 prior to this shocking loss.