The Look Back/Look Ahead – UMBC’s Unforgettable Victory

Even if you’re just a casual fan of college basketball, if you watched the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s historic upset over #1 Virginia, you will remember it forever. No 16 seed had ever won a game in the NCAA tournament. Until that moment, they were 0-135. But as the old adage goes, “Fool me 135 times, shame on you. Fool me 136, shame on me.” And UMBC wouldn’t be fooled again.

If you’ll remember, the Retrievers had to win the American East Conference Tournament to even get into the dance. And even that required a last second shot by Jairus Lyles to pull that off:

Their reward? Virginia, the #1 overall seed in the tournament. The Cavaliers opened as a (-23.5) favorite (it closed at -20.5). The question wasn’t if Virginia would win, it was just by how much. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 2nd round.

First, it started with analyst Seth Davis sharpie-ing in the Cavaliers at tip-off:

However, in the first half, the game was a rock fight. And an ugly rock fight at that (if there even is such a thing). It was 21-21 at halftime, and looked like the first team to 40 would win the game. But apparently, during head coach Ryan Odom’s halftime speech, he hypnotized the Retrievers into thinking they were physically unable to miss any shots, because when the 2nd half started, they were *flame emoji* *flame emoji* *flame emoji*.

The Tale of the Tape (Virginia fans hide your eyes):

  • Virginia had only lost two games all year. One to West Virginia and one to Virginia Tech, both tournament teams.
  • They had not allowed 70 points to a team all year.
  • Their 21 1st half points was their lowest point total in any half this year.
  • The Retrievers outscored the Cavaliers by 20 pts in the 2nd half.
  • UMBC scored 53 pts in the 2nd half. For the season, Virginia allowed 53.4 points per GAME.
  • The Wahoos scored 54 points for the entire GAME.
  • There were 16 games this year that Virginia allowed 53 pts or less for an entire game, including games against tournament teams Miami, Syracuse, Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech, & North Carolina.
  • The Retrievers shot a higher FG%, made more 3PTs, shot a higher 3PT%, attempted and made more FTs, had more rebounds, and more assists. Just a total whitewashing. On the bright side for Cavaliers fans: they did have more steals. o_O

If was truly historic on all levels. However, as memorable as it was on the court, it was even more memorable off the court. Specifically, on social media. First, we had the official UMBC account chirping ALL NIGHT:

At Seth Davis:

At Jon Heyman:

At some dude with a beard:

And at Seth Davis some more:

And the jokes and memes were endless:

And on and on and on and on and on and on…well, you get the picture.

Now, they’ll face their most difficult task to date: with all of the adulation and praise they received, can they refocus and re-center themselves to try and face their next opponent, Kansas St? If they’re going to be able to do it, they definitely have the right person to lead them in head coach Ryan Owen. He was calm, cool, and collected after the game. Compare that to former Hampton head coach Steve Merfeld, when the #15 seed Hampton Pirates beat #2 seed Iowa St in 2001:

What happened in their next game? The Pirates were blown out by 19 by #10 seed Georgetown. It’s just difficult to expend that amount of energy celebrating an historic victory, and then play well just 48 hours later. Can UMBC pull it off?

Kansas St is a solid, under the radar team out of the very difficult Big 12. They’re ranked 59th in Adj Off & 34th in Adj Def. However, they’re one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, ranked 340th. Throw in the fact that their leading scorer and rebounder Dean Wade (16.5 pts/gm, 6.3 rips/gm) is probably out for the game and all of a sudden there might be a path for UMBC to the Sweet 16.

UMBC is ranked 185th in Adj Off and 155th in Adj Def. A deep statistical analysis of those rankings would = uhhhh…not good. The good news (?) is they’re a relatively mediocre rebounding team, ranked 208th. It’s good news because Kansas St is much worse and without their leading rebounder. It will be imperative for the Retrievers to crash the boards to get extra possessions to try and make up for their lack of offense. Ball movement (they’re 59th in the country in assists) and crashing the boards will be the keys to yet another improbable victory.

Can they do it? In this zany college basketball season, in an even zanier March? Why the frick not? Cinderellas can dream, can’t they?!?

Prediction: UMBC 70 Kansas St 66