UMBC Shocks Virginia in 1st 1 vs. 16 Seed Upset in NCAA Tournament History

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: Jairus Lyles #10 of the UMBC Retrievers looks for a foul call against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It took 34 years and 136 tries, but a No. 16 seed has finally beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.

The UMBC Retrievers pulled off arguably the greatest upset in college sports history on Friday night, knocking off the Virginia Cavaliers, 74-54, while ending a streak that seemed as unbreakable as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941 or the Boston Celtics' eight straight titles from 1959-1966.

The most hardcore college basketball fan may not have been familiar with Jairus Lyles before Friday night. Now he'll live forever in March Madness history after pacing the Retrievers with 28 points, methodically shooting his way into the hallowed ground occupied by former maestros of unbelievable upsets like Bryce Drew and Reggie Upshaw.

As expected, Twitter basically burnt to the ground with reactions after the game: 

Shea Serrano @SheaSerrano

it's cool that Lyles is the best college basketball player of all time

Mike Sando, ESPN.com @SandoESPN

Less than two months ago, UMBC lost 83-39 to Albany. Less than a month ago, UMBC lost to Stony Brook. Now, blowing out Virginia in the NCAAs!!

Constitutionally Round @AndyGlockner

Sometimes, sports are more than one thing at once. Tonight, UMBC should be extremely proud of their performance, and Virginia delivered one of the most awful performances you'll ever see. That's how 16 beats 1 by 20.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

UMBC > Virginia https://t.co/Uiio5LE0uS

Lyles' performance isn't all that shocking, at least from the perspective that he's scored 20 or more points 16 times this season. But to do so on this stage, against these odds and facing a Virginia team that came into Friday's game allowing the fewest points per game (53.4) in the country? Well, it was something straight out of a comic book.

But outside of Lyles dusting off his cape, how in the world did this happen?

For one, UMBC played excellent defense, pestering the Cavaliers for 40 minutes. For another, the Retrievers shot 54.2 percent from the field and 50 percent (12-of-24) from three.

Even when Virginia got clean looks, meanwhile, they weren't falling, as the Cavaliers shot just 18.2 percent from three (4-of-22).

UMBC out-rebounded (33-24) and out-assisted (16-5) Virginia. Outside of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who each posted 15 points, the rest of the Cavaliers scored just 24 points. And after smothering the Cavaliers defensively in the first half, UMBC outscored them 53-33 in the second.

David didn't just beat Goliath. David blew him out.

But nobody will remember the stats in years to come. They'll remember the stories and unique details, like this one from Dan Wolken of USA Today

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

Just spoke with Jairus Lyles’ whole family who is here from Maryland. Get this: Both his parents are UVA grads.

Or this one, from Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic: 

Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

Loved this from UMBC coach Ryan Odom, to @TheAthleticCBB, about how he actually changed the culture at UMBC after seven seasons with 20+ losses: https://t.co/Huh4cnyQTq https://t.co/dXnvHDbkDs

We're going to learn a whole lot more about this team, whether they lose in their next game against Kansas State or continue what is already the most improbable run in NCAA tournament history.

In generations to come, UMBC will be a part of the conversation when people discuss the greatest upsets in sports history. We'll never forget Lyles, or head coach Ryan Odom, or the UMBC Twitter account that was on absolute fire during the game:

UMBC Athletics @UMBCAthletics

Hi everyone, in case you didn't see, Seth Davis tweeted this one minute into the game https://t.co/vDlrcOtJOn

UMBC Athletics @UMBCAthletics

C'MON GUYS, you crashed our dang website, our IT people wanna watch the game too, please form an orderly line

UMBC Athletics @UMBCAthletics


Well, except in Charlottesville, where the No. 16 might be permanently banned from Virginia's campus and the letters UMBC will never be uttered consecutively, banished from the tongues of students like a basketball Voldemort.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!