Teams on Upset Alert in Day 3 of 2021 NCAA Men's Tournament

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2021

Teams on Upset Alert in Day 3 of 2021 NCAA Men's Tournament

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    Mitch Alcala/Associated Press

    The opening day of the 2021 NCAA men's tournament saw five double-digit seeds advance on to the second round, including No. 15 seed Oral Roberts busting brackets with an upset of No. 2 seed Ohio State.

    That sets up a compelling Sunday slate of games as those potential Cinderella stories attempt to keep dancing into the Sweet 16.

    Ahead we've highlighted four major conference teams that are on upset alert heading into Sunday's second round action, with a breakdown of what the higher seed needs to do to win and what the upset-minded team needs to do to keep rolling.

    Who will survive upset watch Sunday?

    Let's set the scene before another thrilling day of basketball begins.

Florida Gators (South Region, No. 7 Seed)

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    Colin Castleton
    Colin CastletonMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Opponent: No. 15 Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (17-10)

    Moneyline: Florida (-375)

    The Florida Gators snuck out a 75-70 overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the opening round.

    Big man Colin Castleton led the way with 19 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, and the Gators shot a blistering 63.6 percent from inside the arc while dominating on the boards with a 35-22 rebounding advantage.

    A similarly dominant performance on the inside will be the key to success against upstart Oral Roberts.

    Max Abmas has generated plenty of attention as the nation's leading scorer at 24.4 points per game, and he filled it up with 29 points and five three-pointers in the Golden Eagles' upset victory over Ohio State.

    However, it's 6'8" forward Kevin Obanor who is the X-factor against Florida, as he could create some serious matchup problems for the Gators bigs.

    Following a 30-point, 11-rebound game against the Buckeyes where he poured in five threes of his own facing off against E.J. Liddell, Florida will have no choice but to game-plan how to stop him while also continuing to account for the high-scoring Abmas.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (Midwest Region, No. 4 Seed)

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    Cade Cunningham
    Cade CunninghamMitch Alcala/Associated Press

    Opponent: No. 12 Oregon State Beavers (18-12)

    Moneyline: Oklahoma State (-265)

    When the brackets were first released, Oklahoma State looked like an extremely tough draw as a No. 4 seed and a serious threat to Illinois in the Midwest Region.

    However, the Cowboys were far from dominant in a nine-point victory over No. 13 seed Liberty in the opening round.

    Freshman phenom and presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft Cade Cunningham struggled through a down night with 15 points on 3-of-14 shooting. He finished strong with nine points in the final three minutes to help seal the victory, but he was a non-factor for much of the night.

    This Cowboys team played in nail-biters all season, so expect another close one against Oregon State.

    The Beavers were 11-11 and well outside the NCAA tournament picture following a loss to Colorado on Feb. 20. They have since gone 7- 1 in their last eight games, including an unlikely run through the Pac-12 tournament and a 70-56 blowout win over No. 5 Tennessee on Friday.

    Perimeter play both offensively and defensively will be the key if the Beavers are going to keep their hot streak going, and after knocking down 10 threes against the Volunteers, they are one of the hottest teams in the country right now shooting the deep ball.

Villanova Wildcats (South Region, No. 5 Seed)

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    Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
    Jeremiah Robinson-EarlMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Opponent: No. 13 North Texas Mean Green (18-9)

    Moneyline: Villanova (-278)

    Villanova was a popular pick to be upset in the opening round.

    After senior guard Collin Gillespie was lost for the year with a torn MCL on March 3, the Wildcats lost to a sub-.500 Providence team in the regular-season finale and then dropped their Big East tournament opener against Georgetown.

    However, they took care of business against No. 12 Winthrop on Friday in a 73-63 victory.

    Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led four players in double figures with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and the Wildcats defense limited Winthrop to 36.2 percent shooting.

    Generating that same sort of well-balanced offense against a good defensive team in North Texas will be easier said than done.

    The Mean Green play with a slow tempo and held Purdue to 69 points and 36.2 percent shooting in their opening-round upset. Their usual strong defense and another strong game from Javion Hamlet (24 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) could be enough to propel North Texas to a spot in the Sweet 16.

West Virginia Mountaineers (Midwest Region, No. 3 Seed)

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    Miles McBride
    Miles McBrideMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Opponent: No. 11 Syracuse (17-9)

    Moneyline: West Virginia (-167)

    The ACC sent seven teams to the 2021 NCAA tournament, and five of them were in action Friday.

    North Carolina and Georgia Tech both suffered double-digit losses, while Virginia Tech was sent packing in overtime and Clemson was on the wrong end of a long-awaited win for Rutgers.

    Syracuse was the lone bright spot.

    The Orange drilled 15 of their 27 three-point attempts and hung a season-high 78 points on a San Diego State defense that many considered to be among the best in the tournament field.

    If the offense is clicking like that again Sunday, West Virginia is going to be in trouble.

    Unlike most Bob Huggins teams, this year's Mountaineers squad is not built on defense, and even in a lopsided 84-67 win over Morehead State they still allowed the Eagles to shoot 52 percent from the floor and 10-of-19 from beyond the arc.

    The Syracuse team that showed up Friday is more than capable of another upset.


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