Everyone knew it was going to happen ... but in our lifetime?
And then the magical moment occurred Friday evening at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, pulled off the most shocking upset in the event’s history by crushing Virginia, the overall No. 1 seed, 74-54 in the South Region.
After having gone 0-135 in tournament play, a No. 16 seed finally put a notch in the win column.
Sure, the Retrievers stunned the nation, but the manner in which they manhandled the Cavaliers – a 21-point favorite – was equally stunning.
It’s upsets like that, Buffalo’s astonishing win over Arizona and Purdue’s victory against Butler on Sunday to reach the Sweet 16 that brings added excitement to The Southsider Voice’s annual College Basketball Blitz, which pairs advertisers with teams in the tourney. The winning business will receive a quarter-page color ad valued at $390; the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers will each win an eighth-page ad worth $210.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett – who exudes class and humbleness – fielded to few questions after the game.
“We got our butts whipped,” he said. “That was not even close. That’s first a credit to the job coach Ryan Odom did. Their offense was very hard to guard. They shot it well. We kept getting broken down and did a poor job.
“I told our guys, we had a historic season. A historic season in terms of most wins in the ACC. A week ago we’re cutting down the nets and the confetti is falling. And then we make history by being the first one-seed to lose. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy about that. And it stings. I told the guys, this is life. It can’t define you. You enjoyed the good times and you gotta be able to take the bad times. When you step into the arena, the consequences can be historic losses, tough losses, great wins, and you have to deal with it. That’s the job.”
Virginia’s No. 1 scoring defense in the country had allowed just 53.4 points a game; UMBC’s 74 was the most this season.
The Retrievers’ glory was short-lived as Kansas State defeated them 50-43 Sunday night, but coach Odom’s team will forever occupy a place in tourney history.
Purdue, 30-6 and a No. 2 seed, is paired with O’Riley Funeral Home and meets No. 3 seed Texas Tech (26-9, Glovers Tree Service) Friday in a very winnable game at the Boston Garden for the Boilers, who most likely will be without 7-2 center Isaac Haas because of his fractured elbow.
The game tips at 9:57 p.m. on TBS. The first East Regional semifinal pits No. 1 seed Villanova (32-4, Sleepy Hollow Pet Ranch) against No. 5 West Virginia (26-10, Flooring by Stretch Rite) at 7:27 p.m..
Action in the Midwest Regional at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., will see No. 1 seed Kansas (29-7, John Walke Garage Doors) battling No. 5 seed Clemson (25-9, Shine Realty) at 7:07 p.m. Friday on CBS. The second game will feature No. 2 seed Duke (28-7) and No. 11 seed Syracuse (23-13), both of which are paired with O’Riley Funeral Home.
The opening game of the South Regional at Phillips Arena in Atlanta at 7:07 p.m. Thursday on CBS also sports a No. 11 seed, Loyola of Chicago (30-5, Cardinal Insurance Services), which meets No. 7 seed Nevada (29-7, Spalding Jewelers). No. 5 seed Kentucky (26-10, Mascari Auction Co.) plays No. 9 seed Kansas State (24-11, Fred & Sons’ Hauling & Tree Service Removal) in the second game.
Play in the West Region begins at 7:37 p.m. Thursday on TBS at the Staples Center in Los Angles with No. 3 seed Michigan, (32-7, ASAP Payroll Service) colliding with No. 7 seed Texas A&M (24-12, Indy Curb Appeal). The nightcap will showcase the talents of No. 4 seed Gonzaga (32-4, Glovers Tree Service) and Florida State (22-11, Fred & Sons), which knocked off No. 1 seed Xavier 75-70 Sunday night.
Let the madness continue.