GRAPHIC BY YING YANG
By JENIBELLE HSU
Is it possible for the worst team to beat the best team in the most heated college basketball tournament of the season?
That sounds like a no-brainer. For the past 135 games, the answer has always been “no” at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Division I Basketball Championships. So, when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers played against the University of Virginia Cavaliers on Mar. 16, everybody wagered that Virginia would win because it was ranked as the No. 1. collegiate team in the nation.
However, UMBC beat all odds and dominated University of Virginia with a final score of 74-54, becoming the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the men’s basketball tournament.
For everyone watching, this is March Madness gone mad. Virginia has been nearly flawless this season, winning all but two games. Meanwhile, UMBC is the ultimate underdog, losing a whopping ten games. In fact, the chances of a UMBC victory were the same as someone’s chances of winning a $700 million lottery.
However, the Retrievers did not merely get lucky. They approached their opponent with a proven plan that toppled the Cavaliers in previous games by other teams: play them the way they play you. Because Virginia stubbornly stuck by the defensive strategy called the Pack Line for the entire season, daring teams can identify and target the Cavaliers’ unchanging flaws. And the Retrievers did just that: they shredded Virginia’s defense and staged a surprising offensive play.
Ultimately, each player stepped up for the big game, scoring three-pointers and dodging Cavaliers left and right. For instance, Jairus Lyles scored 28 points for the Retrievers, outwitting the nation’s best collegiate defense team and sustaining his team’s momentum. Furthermore, the Retrievers’ point guard K.J. Maura, one of the shortest players in the tournament, transformed his flaw into his advantage, swiftly navigating through the court and scoring a three-pointer that tied the game at the end of the first half.
Despite UMBC’s stunning performance, avid bracketologists still cannot believe how Virginia lost in an “easy” game. Perhaps, it is because the Cavaliers lost their point guard, De’Andre Hunter, who has appeared on Virginia’s lineup more than any other player. Nevertheless, Hunter’s absence must not be the only cause for Virginia’s 20-point loss, because even the best teams, such as Duke and North Carolina, did not score as high as UMBC did on this historic night throughout the entire season.
Unfortunately, the Cavaliers will forever be defined by this loss. The most pessimistic may even claim that the nation’s No. 1 collegiate team has nowhere to go but down. Although their loss against UMBC destroyed their confidence, the Cavaliers should not overlook its near-perfect record this season as a coincidence, because evidence shows that they can be the No. 1 team again.
On the other hand, what will happen to the victor? Sadly, the Retriever’s success did not last, as they lost to Kansas state in the next round on Mar. 18.
UMBC had their shining moment, but the best teams are not built overnight. In order to prove that its shocking triumph was not a one-game fluke, UMBC must persevere and learn from their mistakes each season.
In the end, both teams will never forget the date of the greatest upset in college basketball history. ow that the impossible can be done, future bracketologists may finally give the No. 16 seed a chance.