Never has a No. 1 seed lost in the opening week of the NCAA Tournament. Never. Until last Friday when UMBC issued a convincing 74-54 thrashing over top-seeded Virginia. There was nothing fluke about the Golden Retrievers’ blowout victory but some are calling it the greatest upset, ever. ESPN called it “the most surprising upset in college basketball history.” So where does it rank up against the greatest upsets of all time of any sports? Was is bigger than Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson? Larger than the Eli Manning and the New York Giants erasing 18-0 New England’s perfect season in Super Bowl XLII? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley, of the AFRO Sports Desk, debate.
UMBC’s Jairus Lyles (10) drives past Virginia’s Isaiah Wilkins (21) and Kyle Guy (5) during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Riley: UMBC’s win already would’ve been in production for its own movie had the moment occurred in the NCAA championship games—not the opening round. While the feat was definitely amazing, neither we nor the players themselves even get the chance to gloat with a game(s) looming in less than 48 hours. We’ll talk about the win for another day or two but will we still reminisce in another month or two? This wasn’t the championship game and Virginia didn’t enter with a championship to even defend. Incredible win, yes, but the game wasn’t ultra important. Douglas over Tyson or the Giants over the Patriots are big time moments that will never be forgotten.
Green: To accomplish anything that’s never been done in history is an important feat. A 16th seed toppling a first seed gives new meaning to the tournament. To have your top-ranked team out in the first round just reshuffled the entire tourney and turned Vegas completely upside down. That’s the way I judge upsets. New York beating New England was a huge upset, yes, but there were still some who were placing their bets on the underdogs. We’ve been groomed to cheer for the underdog but we almost never expect for a top-ranked team to go out before the tournament lights fully come on.
Riley: The difference with Tyson losing and the Patriots losing is that both favorites were big-time names. Everybody knows who Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are and everyone knows who Mike Tyson is. Virginia doesn’t have a sure-fire No. 1 pick on their team or some iconic coach. The Cavaliers crept to a No. 1 ranking right behind our backs. If you blinked you would’ve missed them sitting at the top of the rankings as the season ended. This isn’t Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Kansas and North Carolina. Virginia has had some good clubs in prior years but they’ve never been a powerhouse. I always hate when top-seeded teams lose early in the tournament because it means I’m forced to watch schools I’m unfamiliar with. Am I upset that Virginia loss? Yes. Am I surprised? No, not really.
Green: So because you’re unfamiliar with the Virginia roster that means that UMBC’s victory should be swept to the side? I know it’s not Hoosiers or The Mighty Ducks but neither the names nor the stage should dictate the importance of the win. Again, we’re talking about a 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed. It doesn’t get better than that in sports. There have been some historic upsets that will never be forgotten. What UMBC just did has never happened before and may never happen again. That alone qualifies it as the biggest upset ever in sports history.