By Deke Lloyd
UMBC stands for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It’s a small university less than 10 miles from downtown Baltimore, with a little over 13,500 students attending. Before Friday, this little known university was looking for their first win in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but made history after it was over.
UMBC’s mascot is the Retriever, like the breed of dog, and the basketball team lived up to the underdog moniker to even get into the big dance. The Retrievers play in the American East Basketball conference, which is a small conference with only one way to get into the NCAA Tournament, and that is to win the American East Basketball Tournament. UMBC advanced to the finals against Vermont, who was riding a 15 game winning streak coming into the game and the favorites to clinch the automatic bid.
The Retrievers played Vermont close the entire game, and it looked like the game was headed for overtime. This is when the magic starts. UMBC hits a buzzer beater to win the game, and clinch the automatic bid.
The Retrievers were given a 16 seed once the draw was made, and that has pretty much meant a one and done for teams in the NCAA Tournament. Sixteen seeds had never beaten a number 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, coming in with 135-0 record, per ESPN UMBC was not only facing a number 1 seed in the University of Virginia, but the overall number 1 seed of the tournament. UMBC was a 20.5 point underdog ( no pun intended), according to the sportsbook, Bovada, coming into this game, meaning UMBC had very little hope to win this game.
The Virginia Cavaliers were a powerhouse this year, compiling a 31-2 record with the ACC regular season and tournament title on their resume. The Cavs were a trendy pick to win the whole thing this year, and no one would have been surprised if they did. Virginia was known for their slower pace and grinding down teams for their wins. Not many teams had been able to withstand this “grind it out” style. No one thought UMBC had the firepower and will to withstand
Virginia for 40 minutes. It seemed impossible, but we should know by now that nothing is impossible in sports!
At the end of the first half, with the score knotted at 21, Virginia still had no reason to be worried. Their style of play meant games would stay close after the first half, but the Cavs would pull away from a tired opposition as the game got later. UMBC still had life with the score tied at the end of the first half, and saw the game was there to take. That’s what they did. The Retrievers came out on fire in the second half, and blew out Virginia in the process. The game
got out of hand quickly for the Cavs once UMBC took control of the game. The final score was 74-54. T
he Retrievers, the major underdog, outscored the Cavs by 20 in the second half. It was no fluke. It was not luck. It was a through ass-kicking. UMBC took the game from Virginia, and never looked back.
This was a historic moment for college basketball when the last buzzer sounded. UMBC will go down in the lore of college basketball for the rest of time now, and that will never be taken away from them. This was a long time in the making, but still had not been done until now.
A moment like this will give small programs hope against the goliath like universities. It is no longer left to imagination for a 16 seed to upset a number 1 seed, it’s possible now. The Retrievers have
made that dream come alive now.