UMBC
UMBC players celebrate the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

For the first time since the men’s NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, a 16 seed has defeated a 1 seed. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers have defeated number 1 overall seed, Virginia. Simply typing this, even after watching the game with my own eyes, is unbelievable.

Since 2001, the 16 seed has kept the final score within 10 points just 6 times. However, 5 of those games have been in the last seven years. Statistically, this is something that had to happen eventually. Nonetheless, I, along with probably 99% of college basketball fans would have never expected it to happen in this game. Virginia was the number one overall team in the tournament. Which also means that UMBC is the best 16 seed putting them at 63rd out of 68 teams. Also, Virginia just finished a season in which they had the best scoring defense in the nation giving up an astounding 53 points per game. With that incredible defense came a remarkable 31-2 record.

Leading up to tonight’s game, I could count on one hand the number of times I have seen anything UMBC related. The Retrievers are a member of the America East Conference which they had to win in order to qualify for the tournament. This was the program’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament with their last trip being in 2008. UMBC had a good year, finishing the regular season 24-10. However, UMBC lost badly to major conference opponents Arizona and SMU. Then they managed to lose by 44 points to Albany while only scoring 38 points as a team.

Tonight, none of those things mattered. UMBC played Virginia to a 21 point draw at halftime. What happened in the second half will be something talked about by basketball people forever. UMBC went on a 23-8 that just absolutely crippled the Cavaliers. Virginia looked like a team who thought they could win by just arriving at the arena. They came out of the half looking like zombies. UMBC had straight line drives to the basket and wide open kick out threes. When the deficit was around 12, Virginia tried to turn it on offensively. Unfortunately for them, that is not their style. Virginia’s gameplan is based around shutting down their opponents from scoring. Then they come down and make tons of passes, cuts, and set lots of screens. That slow-paced offense is not made to suddenly go on a huge scoring outburst. When it was all said and done UMBC scored 53 points in the second half and had won by a final score of 74-54. 53 points match the number of points Virginia gave up per game this season. 74 points are the most they had given up in a single game all year long. This was not the Cavaliers night, but it is a night that will live in UMBC and college basketball history forever.

What’s Next?

What’s next for America’s new favorite Retrievers is a date with Kansas State on Sunday. UMBC will be led into that meeting by now-NCAA tournament legend Jairus Lyles. Lyles led his squad with 28 points of 9-11 shooting against Virginia. Jairus’ undersized, fearless, attacking style has already captivated the basketball world and will be much anticipated against Kansas State.