NCAA Bracket 2021: Updated Schedule and Predictions After Friday's 1st Round

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 20, 2021

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)
Robert Franklin/Associated Press

The right side of the NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket was busted wide open on Friday. 

Five double-digit seeds advanced to the second round, with the No. 15 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles earning the most notable upset over the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. 

The bevy of upsets opened up a potentially easier path for the Baylor Bears, Arkansas Razorbacks and Houston Cougars.

However, the Illinois Fighting Illini did not catch a break on Friday, as they still have to go through the Loyola Chicago Ramblers and Oklahoma State Cowboys to reach the Elite Eight. 

While most of the second-round focus on Sunday will be on the upset-minded double-digit seeds, the top half of the Midwest Region could produce the best games. 

The full updated bracket can be found here on NCAA.com.



Oral Roberts Puts Scare In Florida

Oral Roberts has a path to replicate the Sweet 16 run by the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in 2015. 

In 2013, FGCU used a first-round upset of a No. 2 seed to set up a showdown with a No. 7 seed that it won by 10 points. 

Oral Roberts has the potential to earn that type of result on Sunday since the Florida Gators have not been the most consistent program this season. 

In their overtime win over the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Gators shot 66.7 percent from the free-throw line and struggled for long stretches before moving in front through a second-half surge.

Florida's top defensive asset is center Colin Castleton, but his shot-affecting ability could be taken away by Oral Roberts' three-point shooting. 

Prior to Friday's win, Florida suffered three defeats in four games to NCAA tournament qualifiers and reached the 70-point mark once in those losses. In fact, Florida's 75 first-round points was its highest point total in a victory since January 30. 

The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles have the potential to outscore the Gators around the three-point line through Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, who both made five three-point shots against the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

If Oral Roberts earns an early advantage, it may not let go because it rebounds well and is strong from the charity stripe. It had 32 rebounds and made 14 of its 18 foul shots in the first round. 

The Golden Eagles shoot 82.4 percent from the foul line and they scored at least 75 points in their last five victories. 

If the Summit League champion plays its style of game, it could turn in another upset to make an improbable run to the Sweet 16.


Cameron Krutwig, Loyola Chicago Challenge Illinois

The best individual battle of the tournament could occur in the second round between Illinois' Kofi Cockburn and Cameron Krutwig of Loyola Chicago.

Both interior players have been fantastic for their respective sides this season, and they complement a collection of talented guards.

Illinois has the edge at guard with Ayo Dosunmu, a National Player of the Year finalist, but Loyola Chicago could gain the advantage down low if Krutwig plays well against Cockburn.

Krutwig is one of the few shot blockers in the nation who could give Cockburn trouble with his wide body and positioning underneath the basket. 

Cockburn won individual showdowns with Luka Garza of the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan Wolverines' Hunter Dickinson in Big Ten play, but both players are more agile than Krutwig. 

The Loyola big man has an edge in NCAA tournament experience from his program's Final Four run in 2018. 

If Krutwig is not overwhelmed by Cockburn's physicality, Loyola could give Illinois a challenge in what may turn into a slow-paced defensive battle. 

Loyola Chicago has not allowed an opponent to score 75 points since January 10, and only three teams hit that total in 28 games against the Ramblers. 

The Fighting Illini eclipsed the 75-point mark in four of their last five wins. While it will be a challenge for Loyola to slow down the No. 1 seed, it has the perfect piece down low in Krutwig to take the Illini out of a rhythm.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.