You can consider pretty much everyone’s bracket for the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament officially destroyed after the No. 16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers shocked the world by knocking off the No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers, 74-54, in the first round of the South Region.
ESPN called it the most surprising upset in college basketball history—and for good reason. Outside of your typical, crazy UMBC fanatics (and maybe few brilliant gamblers out there), no one picked the Retrievers to win this game.
According to reports, UVA was a 20.5-point favorite to advance on the second round. The Cavaliers (31-2 overall) had only two losses all season and went 20-1 against the Atlantic Coast Conference. As one of the best defensive teams in the country, UVA held its opponents to an average of 53 points per game. The Cavs were also a really good shooting team, capable of burying their opponents with an array of threes. Most people (I included) thought this Virginia team was good enough to win the entire tournament.
That’s why I did what I’m assuming any person with half a brain filling out this year’s bracket would do — I picked the No. 1 seed to make it out of the first round. Why wouldn’t I? No No. 1 seeds in 135 opening round games had ever lost to a No. 16 seed. It was the safest pick to make on the entire bracket… until it wasn’t.
UMBC reminded us why they call this phenomenon of a tournament “March Madness” in the first place. Suddenly a team that hadn’t given up more than 70 points all season (the same team that had just beat a powerhouse program like North Carolina, 71-63, for the ACC Championship last week) uncharacteristically gives up 74 points to a team with not one single bluechip athlete on its roster. The mere thought of it alone is maddening to just about everyone involved, from the team to disgruntled bracket participants like me. We expected some bracket busting games to happen. But even UMBC players would admit this one is just a tad more maddening than usual.
According to ESPN, UMBC players were heard in the locker room shouting, “All brackets gone! No perfect brackets! Put that in the news!” They know that they just sent my bracket on a one-way first class trip straight down the toilet, and they’re thrilled by it.