Here are my predicted most likely upsets for the first round of March Madness 2021. So, what qualifies as an upset? To the average spectator, any 9 seed over an 8 seed is an “upset,” but those who truly watch March Madness year in and year out know that 9’s over 8’s, 10’s over 7’s, and even 11’s over 6’s happen so often we really can’t be surprised. A true upset, or at least those covered in the latter half of this article, are any 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 seed (Looking at you University of Maryland Baltimore County) beating their higher ranked counterpart. From Lehigh and George Mason to Florida Gulf Coast and Loyola Chicago, upsets are the most memorable and transcendent events (and heartbreaking for you bracket lovers) that we will remember decades later. So, without further ado, let’s talk about some madness.
4. Ohio (13) over Virginia (4):
Next we have the reigning NCAA basketball champions (barring a null and void 2020 tournament) in 4 seeded Virginia against 13 seed Ohio. Virginia again impressed this year, and its 4 seed shows that, but they are not the same team that won a championship in 2019. Ohio, however, smells blood in the water. Virginia is probably the best team in the ACC, but their performance in the conference tournament did not show that, losing to Georgia Tech in the semi-finals. After beating MAC 1-seed Toledo and a tough Buffalo team in the Mid-American Conference championship, expect Ohio to ride their momentum and proportionally use Virginia’s lack thereof to their advantage.
3. Oregon State (12) over Tennessee (5):
It’s hard to argue a hotter team right now than the Oregon State Beavers. Stampeding through UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado to win a tough PAC-12 Conference title, Oregon State is as confident as anyone entering the tournament, even facing a Tennessee team with talent all over the floor including potential lottery pick Jaden Springer. In a battle of orange teams, there would be no surprise at all to see the Beavers upset a very talented Volunteer team, an effort spearheaded by Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas.
2. Georgetown (12) over Colorado (5):
In a similar spot to Oregon State, Georgetown is on fire. Led by Patrick Ewing, Georgetown went through the Big East Tournament as an 8 seed and beat/upset Marquette, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Creighton respectively, two of those being 5 seeds in the tournament. As mentioned before, Colorado had a tough loss to Oregon State in the PAC-12 Tournament and just might get swept away by a Hoya team that is in full blown upset mode already. This will be a close game, but don’t be afraid to fill in your brackets for Georgetown here.
1. Winthrop (12) over Villanova (5):
Finally, the most likely upset of the tournament belongs to 12 seed Winthrop over 5 seed Villanova. Villanova has quietly created a dynasty in college basketball in recent years, winning in both 2016 and 2018 and producing many NBA professionals like Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVencenzo, and Mikal Bridges. The next of these NBA-caliber talents coming through the ranks in Pennsylvania is Collin Gillespie, that is until his season was ended by injury. Without Gillespie, Villanova is struggling, as seen by their early banishment in the Big East Tournament by none other than Georgetown. Anyway, Winthrop deserves some praise here too. They absolutely obliterated their opponents in conference play and in the Big South Tournament, automatically qualifying for a March Madness bid. Led by gritty defense, voracious rebounding, and amazing spot up shooters in Adonis Adams and Chandler Vaudrin, be prepared for another 12-5 upset in the first round of the tournament.