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.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

Leave a comment

Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.