The first two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Tournament featured everything a college basketball fan could have hoped for as the event returned following last year's pandemic-related hiatus. There were stunning upsets, dramatic finishes and breakout stars with a handful of players standing out above the rest for their heroic efforts on the big stage.
This weekend's Sweet 16 will offer a chance for many of those stars to build their legacies, but with the field winnowing rapidly, it's time to take a moment and appreciate what's been accomplished so far. Basketball is the ultimate team sport, but there is no question that individual greatness is often a key ingredient to success this time of year.
Take Oral Roberts, for example. The No. 15 seed Eagles' one-two punch of Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor have carried the program to an unlikely appearance in the Sweet 16, and they may not be done yet. But they are just two of the individuals who emerged as heroes during the opening weekend of action.
Here is the full breakdown of the all-first weekend team, complete with a first team, second team and a group of honorable mentions from teams whose runs have reached an end.
Max Abmas, Oral Roberts: Abmas led the nation in scoring entering the NCAA Tournament, and all he's done so far is extend his lead while helping key a historic run for Oral Roberts. The 6-foot-1 guard put up 29 in the Eagles' shocking first-round victory over No. 2 seed Ohio State and followed up with a 26-point outing in Sunday's second win over Florida. Abmas hit 12-of-12 free throws in the victory over the Gators.
Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse: Boeheim has made more 3-pointers than anyone in the field thus far while keying an unlikely run to the Sweet 16 for No. 11 seed Syracuse. The junior guard is 13-of-23 from beyond the arc and has scored a total of 55 points. That prolific production is a reflection of how drastically Boeheim has improved during his college career after he went 0-for-6 from the field in 2019 during a first-round loss in his only prior NCAA Tournament experience.
Justin Smith, Arkansas: Smith left a non-NCAA Tournament team when he transferred from Indiana and has become a better player for a Sweet 16 squad. The 6-foot-7 senior averaged 24.5 points in the Razorbacks' first two victories. He also collected 13 rebounds, five steals in two blocks in a first-round win over Colgate.
Kevin Obanor, Oral Roberts: Obanor is the MVP of the tournament so far after posting consecutive double-doubles in Oral Roberts' back-to-back stunning victories over Ohio State and Florida. The 6-foot-8 forward may have been the Eagles' second-leading scorer behind Abmas this season, but there is nothing complimentary about his game. He edged Abmas in total points during the first two rounds and is an absolute star.
Drew Timme, Gonzaga: The Bulldogs didn't need their star center to do much in a first-round win over Norfolk State, but Timme put the team on his back in a second-round win over Oklahoma with 30 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 13 rebounds. He's also got nine assists through 57 minutes played thus far, which is a total that would be impressive for most guards.
Ethan Thompson, Oregon State: The Beavers' star guard scored 21 of his team's 36 second-half points in an upset victory over No. 4 seed Oklahoma State in second-round action on Saturday.
Quentin Grimes, Houston: Grimes averaged 20 points during Houston's first two victories and came up with some huge plays down the stretch as the Cougars rallied for a second round victory over Rutgers.
Johnny Juzang, UCLA: The Bruins' scoring load has been evenly distributed for much of the season, but Juzang has taken it upon himself to be a spark plug in the NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky transfer is averaging 22.3 points through three games.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova: The Wildcats were counted out by many after an injury to star guard Collin Gillespie, but Robinson-Earl is picking up the slack. In addition to averaging 20 points through two games, he's also been a force on the boards and finished with six assists in both of the Villanova's wins.
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola Chicago: The Ramblers' mustached center faced the challenge of a lifetime against No. 1 seed Illinois and mammoth center Kofi Cockburn. He handled it like a star by leading Loyola Chicago to a victory with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Joseph Yesufu, Drake: With star forward ShanQuan Hemphill limited due to injury and starting point guard Roman Penn out with a broken foot, Yesufu carried Drake late this season. He averaged 23.5 points in two NCAA Tournament games and turned in one of the best dunks of the year in a First Four victory.
Austin Reaves, Oklahoma: Reaves tried willing Oklahoma to an upset over Gonzaga with a 27-point showing on 11-of-17 shooting. He also scored 23 in a first-round win over Missouri.
Javion Hamlet, North Texas: Hamlet led North Texas to its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory with 24 points, 12 rebounds and five assists against Purdue. He also scored 25 in a second-round loss to Villanova.
Tanner Groves, Eastern Washington: Eastern Washington's big man made his only NCAA Tournament game count as he scored a career-high 35 points while the Eagles gave Kansas a scare.
Luka Garza, Iowa: Garza's 36 points in a second-round loss to Oregon were the second-most he's scored all season. The Hawkeyes' star center was phenomenal as his legendary college career came to a close.