Looking Back On 2021 March Madness First-Round Upsets & Cinderellas: ‘The Ticket’ w/Adam Kramer

Last Updated: Mar 22, 2021

In this edition of his weekly column The Ticket, Adam Kramer looks back on the 2021 March Madness First-Round Upsets and Cinderellas that ran rampant in Rounds 1 and 2 in the first weekend of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“Madness” doesn’t quite suffice. No, in this instance, we need a more potent qualifier.

Chaos. Carnage. Wreckage. Bedlam. Mayhem.

Now, that feels more like it.

To be honest, I expected a chalky 2021 March Madness. Sure, this season brought us plenty of unknowns and scheduling irregularities due to COVID. But I still had an inkling that the underdogs would be tamed and that favorites would largely rule.

That, frankly, couldn’t have been more off.

In the 2021 NCAA Tournament’s first round, underdogs were 22-13 against the spread and a spectacular 14-21 overall.

While that overall record might not immediately hit home for some, that is a gargantuan mark for teams that were not supposed to win.

And it wasn’t just the final scores and outcomes. The moments themselves were larger than life. Ohio State, a 2 seed, falling to Oral Roberts in the opening round. Three-seed Texas being undone in dramatic fashion by Abilene Christian. Loyola-Chicago taking out Illinois — the first No. 1 seed to fall.

Four-seeds Virginia and Purdue? Gone in Round 1.

I can see your bracket now, and I see red. LOTS OF IT. I know this because I have looked sheepishly at my bracket, and it looks like someone set off a stick of dynamite. More on that in a moment.

And you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.

Most games I watched this weekend were largely competitive. Even the hopeful Cinderellas that didn’t cover, with the exception of a few moments, put up a fight.

As a bettor, these first few rounds have been largely good to me. Although my bracket is in shambles, I handled my own throughout — especially on Saturday. But as someone who enjoys college basketball and adores this yearly tournament, these opening games have been truly spectacular.

Yes, the gamblin’ is wonderful. The bracket (RIP), the buffet of games, the live betting—all of it. But from a sheer entertainment standpoint, this is as good as it gets.

As I write this, more games are being played. The Sweet 16 isn’t even settled. We have many more games to wager on and more upsets, so we hope, on the horizon.

March Madness, we missed you. And we are glad you are back.

Read our full 2021 March Madness Picks & Predictions Guide.

2021 March Madness Upsets & Cinderellas

At the Window: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

We’re keeping this week’s installment March Madness-specific. Given the quality of games, there was plenty to consider.

THE GOOD: Oral Roberts, Destroyer of Point Spreads & Brackets

Let’s stay with the underdog theme a moment longer and focus on the story of the tournament thus far. It’s only the second time a 15 seed has made it to the Sweet 16. To do so, Oral Roberts needed to beat Ohio State as a 15-point underdog and Florida as a 9-point underdog.

I had Ohio State in the Final Four, which is the opposite of good. Still, what a run for this mighty Cinderella.

THE BAD: Picking North Carolina to Beat Wisconsin in the Opening Round

Yikes. Let me first start by apologizing to you for picking the Tar Heels. While my confidence was high, the 85-62 final outcome was nothing short of heinous. There were plenty of winners this weekend, but this was not one of them. Back to the drawing board here.

Wisconsin's march past North Carolina was NOT what Adam predicted. (Looking Back On 2021 March Madness First-Round Upsets & Cinderellas: 'The Ticket' w/Adam Kramer)

Among the madness of March Madness first-round upsets, Micah Potter’s Wisconsin Badgers made Adam look silly by easily moving past North Carolina in Round 1 of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

THE UGLY: Eastern Washington’s First-Round Cover Against Kansas

For the second week in a row, I was on the right side of the Ugly. And for the second week in a row, I am not the least bit sorry. Eastern Washington jumped out to an early lead against Kansas. The Jayhawks bounced back and pushed the lead to 11 with the game churning toward a close. Getting 10 points, I need an Eastern Washington basket.

That basket came in a meaningless running jumper just before time expired. Final score: 93-84. What a glorious cover.

What I’m Watching: We Have a Loaded Sports Lineup

March Madness: The schedule this year, of course, has been altered, which means you need to be prepared. Sweet 16 games will begin on Saturday, meaning we get eight really interesting games over the weekend. Elite 8 games will then be played Monday and Tuesday. Some picks to follow.

UFC 260: Let’s start with the bad news. The fascinating featherweight title fight between Brian Ortega and Alexander Volkanovski won’t happen due to COVID.

That’s a bummer because it was a doozy. But the main event heavyweight fight between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou is lovely. Not to mention we get the return of Sean O’Malley, who takes on Thomas Almeida in a fascinating bantamweight fight on the main card. Picks to follow.

World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play: It’s not quite the same as CBB’s bracket, but I do enjoy golf’s 64-player bracket attempt each year. It also means we get interesting golf on Wednesday through the weekend. And, we are one step closer to Augusta, which is fast approaching.

What I’m Betting: Basketball and Plenty More

More basketball picks will come later in the week, but here’s what I like thus far:

Oregon State +7 vs. Loyola Chicago: Fun game. Fascinating like. While Loyola was clinical against Illinois, I think the Beavers play tough. Just too many points.

Villanova +7 vs. Baylor: Another game, another underdog. My analysis here is relatively straightforward. I don’t think Baylor is the same team from earlier in the season, and I could see Villanova hanging tough.

Houston -6.5 vs. Syracuse: Finally, a favorite. While Syracuse and the zone defense are making another run, I could Houston, fresh off a dramatic run to topple Rutgers, getting hot.

That’s not it, though. Here’s what else I have my eye on:

Stipe Miocic (+108) vs. Francis Ngannou at UFC 260: I believe Stipe is a better fighter. The only issue backing him is hoping that Ngannou doesn’t get off a clean shot. Fantastic heavyweight main event, and I am riding with the small underdog.

World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play: This is a tournament to get some nice odds and take some flyers, as match play is simply a different beast.

Give me the following winner bets: Cameron Smith (35/1), Corey Conners (50/1), and Scottie Scheffler (50/1).

Use Adam’s betting tips from “March Madness First-Round Upsets" to place a wager at one of our partner sportsbooks.

To celebrate this year’s college showdown, our friends at Unibet are doubling up their original sports betting welcome offer — providing all new players $40 in free bets (no deposit needed) and $500 back as a second-chance bet if they don’t win their 1st cash bet. (Terms & Conditions apply.)

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Adam Kramer

Adam Kramer is an NFL, college football, and gambling analyst for The Game Day. While college football has long been his calling, he’s also covered sports such as boxing, horse racing, and baseball at The Game Day and in other places. He’s also written for Bleacher Report, VSiN, and various other outlets over the past decade-plus.

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