Biggest March Madness Betting Upsets Ever

Max Abmas #3 of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles drives to the basket against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Mackey Arena on March 19, 2021 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

One day after the NCAA Tournament selection committee placed Ohio State in the South Region as a 2-seed, Chris Holtmann lauded the Buckeyes’ First Round opponent, Oral Roberts. He called them “one of the really, really talented offensive teams in the country” and said Eagles’ sophomore guard Max Abmas is “single-handedly capable of winning a game.”

Holtmann was right; Oral Roberts ranked 12th nationally in scoring average (81.8 points) and Abmas ranked first in scoring average (24.2 points), scoring at last 30 in seven of their 25 games. If the Eagles had any prayer of shocking Ohio State as a 16-point underdog and delivering the ninth-ever 15-over-2 win in NCAA Tournament history, they seemingly needed another 30-point game from Abmas to lead their 16th 80-point game of the season.

Neither happened. Even with five extra minutes of overtime, Abmas didn’t score 30 and Oral Roberts didn’t score 80. And neither needed to happen for the tiny private school to shock a program that pays their head coach more monthly than they pay their head coach annually. 

Oral Roberts entered Friday’s game as the seventh-biggest underdog of this year’s First Round, trailing only the 16-seeds and three of the four 15-seeds. The Eagles hadn’t appeared in a tourney game since 2008 and hadn’t won a tourney game since 1974. They lost all four games against high-major opponents this season, had zero wins in Quadrants 1 and 2, were buried in every metric, and entered the Summit League Tournament with a 13-10 record.

Now, Oral has a high-major win, a Quadrant 1 win, a 17-10 record, and one of the biggest point-spread upsets in March Madness history. It was the sixth-ever tournament upset by an underdog of greater than 15 points, ranking one spot ahead of Weber State (+15) over North Carolina in 1999, and one spot behind Middle Tennessee (+16.5) over Michigan State in 2016.

Here are the top 10 March Madness betting upsets ever:

YearUnderdogFavoriteLine
2012(15) Norfolk State(2) Missouri-/+ 21
2018(16) UMBC(1) Virginia-/+ 20.5
1997(15) Coppin State(2) South Carolina-/+ 19
2001(15) Hampton(2) Iowa State-/+ 17.5
2016(15) Middle Tennessee(2) Michigan State-/+ 16.5
2021(15) Oral Roberts(2) Ohio State-/+ 16
1999(15) Weber State(2) North Carolina-/+ 15
2010(14) Ohio(2) Georgetown-/+ 14
2015(14) UAB(3) Iowa State-/+ 14
2005(14) Bucknell(3) Kansas-/+ 13

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM

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