Getty Images

UMBC becomes first No. 16 seed to beat No. 1 seed in beatdown of Virginia

13 Comments

UMBC made sports history on Friday night by becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The America East champions pulled off a shocking, 74-54 upset over No. 1 seed Virginia in South Region play.

The Retrievers (25-10) not only made history by beating a No. 1 seed — they also knocked off the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament in dominating fashion. Tied at the half, UMBC jumped out to a double-digit lead and maintained a comfortable cushion throughout the half by consistently knocking down three-pointers and keeping the pressure on.

Senior guard Jairus Lyle, the team’s hero with a buzzer-beater in the America East title game, finished with 28 points to pace the Retrievers. He went 9-for-11 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range. Joe Shurburne (14 points), Arkel Lamar (12 points) and K.J. Maura (10 points) also finished in double-figures for UMBC, as they extended its winning streak to six games.

Friday’s upset win for UMBC over Virginia is the most monumental upset ever in the NCAA tournament. It was the perfect storm of random events that also doubled as one of the most memorable losses in the history of sports.

No. 1 seeds aren’t supposed to lose. The deck of the NCAA tournament is completely stacked to all but ensure that No. 1 seeds advance to the Round of 32. In tournament history, only eight No. 2 seeds have ever lost to No. 15 seeds. After No. 2 seed Michigan State lost to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee two years ago, the Spartans were thought of as the first national title favorite to lose in the first round to a No. 15 seed.

So for the top overall seed, a national title favorite, to lose by 20 to a No. 16 seed? It seems utterly incomprehensible. UMBC just pulled off the most lopsided victory ever by a No. 14, 15 or 16 seed in the NCAA tournament. They made this win look entirely too easy.

Before the NCAA tournament, Penn beating Kansas became a strange subplot. Some analysts used metrics to declare the Quakers as the best No. 16 seed in the field during the last few years.

Penn wasn’t even the best No. 16 seed in its own NCAA tournament. UMBC completely blindsided us.

The Retrievers came out of nowhere to put on a stunning clinic against a team that decimated the ACC. Hall of Fame coaches like Coach K, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim couldn’t figure out Virginia in five tries this season. Virginia won the ACC regular season by four games — setting a record for most conference victories in a single season in the process. The Cavaliers also took home the league’s conference tournament crown.

In a tumultuous college hoops season that consistently saw top-10 teams losing to unranked teams, Virginia was the clear No. 1 overall seed entering the 2018 NCAA tournament. They only lost to West Virginia and Virginia Tech during the regular season in close games.

Things took a turn for Virginia earlier this week when the team lost sixth man DeAndre Hunter for the season with an injury. But, even with Hunter’s injury, Virginia was still a heavy favorite to win the national title. And nobody even considered this team losing in the first round to UMBC.

Head coach Ryan Odom and his team had other ideas. The Retrievers picked apart the Cavaliers like it was a preseason exhibition game against a local NAIA team. Two years ago, the Retrievers finished 7-25 to make it seven consecutive seasons of at least 20 losses. Now, they’re on top of the world after beating the best team in college basketball.

You couldn’t properly engineer this kind of two-year turnaround playing College Hoops 2K8 and cheating your way through a video game rebuild. It’s just mind-blowing how quickly UMBC was able to play this well against a team that was as dominant as Virginia was this season. KenPom has the Retrievers listed as the No. 1 team in luck in the country — seriously, they do. Luck isn’t even the reason UMBC is in the record books after this historic win. But it is a factor in the perfect storm of events to make this happen.

Lyles put up another memorable postseason performance. He also had plenty of help from multiple double-figure scorers around him knocking down timely shots. The Retrievers knocked down 12 three-pointers. Odom and his staff had a proper game plan in place to face aggressively attack Virginia’s defense.

And when the stakes grew real for a Virginia team on the brink of elimination against a No. 16 seed, they panicked and didn’t have a go-to player to bail them out with easy buckets. The Cavaliers forced numerous perimeter looks out of the rhythm of the offense that led to a 19 percent (4-for-22) finish from three-point range. Only sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome finished in double-figures for Virginia as they had 15 points each.

All of those random factors combined to form a 20-point blowout and one of the most memorable, unfathomable upsets in sports history. People will likely remember this more for the angle of Virginia losing than UMBC winning, but that would be a mistake. Because the Retrievers did just as much to win this game as the Cavaliers could have possibly done to lose this game. They completely beat down a team that won 31 games this season.

It’s hard to say if and when we’ll see another No. 16 seed beat another No. 1 seed. But we almost assuredly won’t see one happen quite like this again soon.

Felder no longer part of South Carolina basketball program

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina point guard Rakym Felder is no longer part of the Gamecocks basketball team.

Felder, a key freshman reserve for South Carolina’s Final Four team two years ago, was dismissed from the program by coach Frank Martin on Monday.

The 5-foot-10 Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was suspended last summer after his second arrest in less than a year. Felder was not enrolled last fall. He was allowed to return in the spring semester although he did not play.

Martin said there were guidelines Felder had to follow upon coming back “and unfortunately, he has not met those expectations.”

Martin has not detailed those guidelines for Felder’s return to the court.

Felder had 15 points in South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament win over Duke in 2017

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.