During March Madness each year, millions of people fill out brackets trying to pick the perfect scenario. One thing people never do is pick a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed on opening weekend because it simply never happened — until University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) pulled the miracle upset. This extremely rare upset may not be seen again for decades, if ever. For sports fans, this is one of the most exciting times of the year, with basketball and hockey in full swing and baseball starting soon. The tournament is one of the most highly anticipatedhyped annual events.
The most recent playoff memory for the Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team is from 2019 when they went from “worst to first” and beat Texas Tech in the NCAA championship game, winning the tournament. How did they go from worst to first? Well, in the 2018 tournament, they shocked the world and busted millions of brackets when they choked in the round of 64.
The team who came out of the America East, the conference Maine plays in, was UMBC who played the game of their lives versus the best defense in the nation.
The Retrievers from UMBC caught the Cavaliers sleeping right from the jump and they did not take their foot off the gas for a second because they knew what type of talent was on the other side. Not only did they pull off the upset, but they also dominated this game from start to finish, winning by 20 points and finishing the game with a score of 74-54. It’s one of those moments in sports that leaves the viewers at home speechless, especially if you’re a Virginia fan or you had picked them to win the entire tournament. One of the reasons sports fans are glued to games is the unpredictability, that games are not won “on paper.” Wins are achieved on the court in a display of meritocracy which often rewards effort and mental toughness.
While the Retrievers had big performances from everyone who stepped foot out on the court that evening, the star was guard Jairus Lyles. He was known as their best scorer and overall player beforehand, but this game cemented his legacy in the history books forever. If it was not for this game, who knows if Lyles would have a professional basketball career, as he has bounced around teams overseas as well as playing in the NBA G-League. The game showed that it can be a realistic dream to think that one night can change a player’s life. UMBC is a small school and being noticed there is about as difficult as it gets.
The NCAA tournament kicks off this weekend following a one-year absence due to the pandemic. Fans will not be in attendance and the teams will be playing within a bubble, much like the NBA and NHL have done previously. With no fans, it is hard to say whether there will be more or fewer upsets than usual. One thing is for sure and that is no one will be expecting a No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed, but you never know, and in a nod to UMBC, anything could happen.