Unheralded University of Maryland-Baltimore County did not only defeat the top-ranked University of Virginia, 74-54, but they managed to rewrite the history books of the NCAA in the process.
In the 111 years of the NCAA, Friday night was the first time that a 16th seed pulled an upset over the No. 1 team.
Yay for underdogs everywhere!
What made it more shocking was that the University of Virginia Cavaliers only lost two games in the whole season and were expected to go to the Final Four.
According to The Guardian, prior to Friday night’s game, No. 16 teams lost on a margin of 25 points to No. 1 teams in 135 first-round matches. While there were competitive games such as the matchup between Princeton and Georgetown in 1989 or the overtime game by Michigan State over Murray State in 1990. In 1996, Western Carolina almost pulled an upset against Purdue.
The Cinderella story is not complete, however, since the Retrievers are set to face another powerhouse in Kansas City on Sunday, and there would be no sneaking up this time. The Blue Jays are not about to underestimate UMBC.
What it does, however, is take people’s minds off the pay-for-play scandal that’s hounding the NCAA. The feel-good story may probably remind people about what draw them to basketball in the first place—the ball is round and everybody has a chance to beat everybody.
But if UMBC’s basketball program is unheralded, university president Freeman A. Hrabowski III said their academics are a different story. The university has consistently placed among the “most innovative” institutions in the country.
He told the New York Times, “When I think about who we are as an institution and what happened last night, it represents what we tell our students: If you work hard, there can be these special moments where you’re moving toward greatness.”