This isn’t how anyone envisioned the first No. 16 seed over a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The University of Maryland-Baltimore County didn’t just beat Virginia. The Retrievers ran away from the Cavaliers and into the record book with a 74-54 triumph.
No. 16 seeds are now 1-135 against top seeds.
“We just made history,” said guard Jarius Lyles.
Emphatically, and the sentiment flowed afterwards.
The UMBC coach is Ryan Odom, son of Dave Odom, who among his coaching stops spent several years as a Virginia assistant. Ryan was a ball boy for the Cavaliers on some of those teams in the 1980s.
Lyles’ parents, he revealed in the postgame press conference, attended Virginia.
“I think they wanted us to get the win,” Lyles said.
UMBC, winners of the America East tournament to qualify for its second NCAA Tournament, will meet Kansas State on Sunday in the second round around 6:45 p.m. UMBC forward Arkel Lamar said a few moments after Friday’s game he knew his team was meeting the Wildcats.
“But I don’t know much about them,” Lamar said. “I’ll know more tomorrow. Ask me then.”
This postgame was meant to celebrate the improbable. The upset occurred because Virginia mustered only a meager offensive effort, and the Cavaliers defense, ranked first nationally, could not get enough stops against the smaller but athletic Retrievers.
UMBC scored the first six points of the second half and the lead steadily grew. When it reached 14 before the first media timeout of the second half, Virginia faced its largest deficit of the season.
This was top-ranked, overall NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed Virginia. The same Cavaliers team that blitzed through the ACC with a 17-1 record and entered the tournament 31-2 overall.
This was the NCAA Tournament’s overall favorite. How was this happening?
But the margin never returned to single digits, not with UMBC slinging in three-pointers at a 7-for-12 rate in the second half. Lyles finished with 28 points and made 7 of 9 from deep.
Those not wearing Virginia colors at Spectrum Center cheered loudly with every UMBC bucket. The 16 verses 1 seed is well known to college basketball fans, and those who fill out a bracket. Nobody gets all the picks right, but everyone knows to push the top seeds through at least one line.
The final buzzer sounded and the celebration began. Players looked for teammates to hug. Fists were raised as they exited through the tunnel and cheers filled the small locker room.
“Nobody’s going to ask us where UMBC is anymore,” a player shouted.
“We shook the world,” said another player.
When the coaches arrived in the locker room, the team broke out in song, “One Shining Moment,” which is the song played as the national champion stands on the podium. It rolls a montage of the entire tournament while focusing on the champion.
“I think we kind of all wanted to be in that video,” said Retrievers forward Joe Sherburne. “We were all singing it but only the first line because that’s all we know.”
Whoever stands on that podium after the championship game, rest assured they’ll see highlights of Friday’s outcome. It’s history.