UMBC’s win over No. 1 Virginia enhances America East’s credibility

UMBC’s Jairus Lyles (10) celebrates with fans after the team’s 74-54 win over Virginia in a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

America East champion University of Maryland, Baltimore County pulled off perhaps the greatest upset in sports history when it knocked off No. 1 overall seed Virginia in the first round of the NCAA basketball tourney on Friday night.
UMBC, the No. 16 seed in the South Regional, became the first No. 16 team to ever beat a No. 1. The Retrievers were ranked by’s rating percentage index at 111 of 351 Division I teams and 154 in strength of schedule.
For 135 consecutive games, the 16th-seeded teams in the NCAA tourney have been winless but now they’re 1-135 as the UMBC Retrievers took a big bite out of NCAA men’s basketball history by upsetting Virginia 74-54.
This was a remarkable feat as Virginia was ranked third in RPI and fourth in SOS. The victory gives America East, one of 32 Division I conferences in the country, some great credibility and publicity as America East was 23rd in conference RPI as well as SOS compared to Virginia’s Atlantic Coast Conference of third in RPI and fourth in SOS.
For future tourneys, a storyline will always be: Who is going to be the UMBC this year? The Retrievers’ Cinderella run ended Sunday night when Kansas State eliminated them 50-43.
How UMBC got to the NCAA tourney is intriguing and two of its regular-season wins were over league foe University of Maine, 72-67 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and 86-74 in Baltimore.
The Retrievers finished second in the America East Conference regular season, beat UMass Lowell and Hartford in the league tourney and then had to play for the league title at No. 1 seed Vermont’s home court in Burlington, which is a regulation-sized court but is more like a high school facility, holding only 3,000.
UMBC won 64-62 with only .03 seconds left on the clock on a Jairus Lyles’ 3-point shot. This winning shot was made from a step or two behind the 3-point line behind the foul circle with a defender’s hand right in Lyles’ face.
Lyles, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, went on to score 28 points in leading UMBC past Virginia. He is a second-team America East All-Conference selection who stayed for his senior year when he could have transferred and been eligible immediately because he was going to be a graduate student.
Against Virginia, Lyles had only four points in the first half, but UMBC was tied at 21-21 at the half, a big achievement at that point in the game. UMBC then erupted for 53 second-half points, 24 by Lyles, while the Retrievers held Virginia to just 33 second-half points.
That second half was just an old-fashioned thrashing as UMBC won by 20 points by winning all of the 12 major stat categories. The Retrievers just steadily and methodically increased their lead throughout the second half and there was nothing that Virginia could do about it.
A major factor was UMBC making 12 of 24 3-pointers (50 percent) while Virginia was Arctic cold, hitting just 4 of 22 (18.2 percent).
The win was one for the history books and I am thankful I was able to watch it.