On Friday night, University of Maryland, Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed in March Madness history to beat a No. 1 seed. And they didn’t just win – they blew out Virginia by a score of 74-54.
The way that the Retrievers ran UVA out of the gym, it looked like they were the tournament’s top seed. In fact, Vegas had the line almost completely in reverse, with the Cavaliers entering as a 20.5-point favorite on the spread. This game was supposed to be so lopsided that some Vegas and online sportsbooks didn’t even have a line for it.
Amazingly, some bettors actually wagered money on UMBC winning this contest. One sportsbook took 134 bets on UMBC’s moneyline, with 6 bettors risking as much as $100. These lucky winners were rewarded with a $2,500 payday.
The biggest win of the night belonged to a bettor at CG Technology, who risked $800 on UMBC’s moneyline. This same person walked away with a $16,000 payout afterward.
Biggest betting winner so far appears to be better at @CGTechnology_ who took an $800 moneyline bet on UMBC. Cashes out to the tune of $16,000.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 17, 2018
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) March 17, 2018
Genius Bet or Dumb Luck?
I haven’t seen any calculations on what the Retrievers’ odds were going into this contest. But given that Virginia was considered the top overall seed of the tournament, I have to put UMBC’s true odds at somewhere around 500:1.
Sportsbooks obviously don’t offer odds this high, especially since they already drew betting action on the Retrievers at 20:1. But No. 16 seeds were 0-135 all-time against No. 1 seeds heading into this game. And UMBC was the unlikeliest of teams to break this trend, because they were considered the 68th-best team in the field.
Ken Pomeroy had the Retrievers at No. 188 in his rankings. And the talent level was miles from Virginia, which had the second-highest defensive ranking in the last 17 years.
This is also the same team that lost a January 21 contest to Albany by a score of 80-39. They’d later avenge this loss in February, but still…
Given everything going against UMBC, it seems silly that anybody risked money on them. But the sports betting equivalent of filling out a perfect bracket came to fruition. That said, expect more bets on No. 16 seeds in 2019.
UMBC vs. Kansas St. Odds
The Retrievers might have made the Cavaliers look second-rate on Friday. But they’re by no means expected to topple another higher seed.
Their opponent, No. 9 Kansas State, stands as a 10.5-point favorite on the spread. Here are the odds, courtesy of GTBets:
- Gametime at 7:45pm on March 18 (Sunday)
- Maryland Baltimore County 10.5 (-110) / +445 moneyline
- Kansas St. -10.5 (-110) / -570 moneyline
- Over/under 136 (-110)
UMBC Facing More than Just a Talent Disparity against Kansas State
Everybody likes an underdog story. This is why everybody will continue rooting for UMBC as they face the Wildcats.
But just having the crowd behind you isn’t enough when you’re at the kind of talent disadvantage Maryland Baltimore is facing right now. They shocked Virginia in the 20-point victory. However, the element of surprise is gone, and they face a more-prepared K-State that has the Sweet 16 on their minds.
If UMBC is to have any chance of extending their tournament run, they can look towards the University of Florida Gulf Coast as inspiration.
Florida Gulf Coast had an improbable run to the Sweet 16 in 2013. The Eagles beat No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State that year. They even earned a cool nickname along the way – “Dunk City.”
Only 29 teams with a No. 14 seed or worse have won in the first round. Of these, Florida Golf Coast is one of just three schools to advance to the Sweet 16. The other 26 have lost by an average of 11.8 points per game.
The numbers explain the obvious in that you can surprise a first-round opponent. But your second-round opponent is going to take you more seriously after a big upset.
Another challenge that UMBC will face is the flood of media attention they’ve received within the last 24 hours. Anthony Evans, who coached No. 15 seed Norfolk State to a March Madness victory in 2012, discussed this dilemma.
“The toughest thing is to get 18, 19, 20-year-old guys to focus and give a consistent effort,” said Evans.
“For them, it was like we had won the championship after we beat Missouri. We hadn’t beat a team like that all year. You get a big win like that on a big stage, and sometimes it’s hard to get your kids to refocus and come back and do the same things.”
Can UMBC Beat Kansas State?
UMBC will try to overcome this dilemma when they play ninth-seeded K-State on Sunday night. The Retrievers are already dealing with tons of attention via both mainstream media outlets and social media. Their Twitter account has gained over 80,000 followers in the aftermath of the victory.
“The biggest thing is, do you want to be done now or do you want to try to put your best foot forward and continue on? We’re playing an excellent team, all right, that easily could dismantle us. We’ve got to do a great job of focusing, just like we have every other game that we’ve played.”
The Retrievers will have to channel Florida Gulf Coast in order to ignore the distractions and focus on the task at hand. The Eagles were able to put their big upset of Georgetown behind them as they faced San Diego State days later.
Former Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield encouraged his team to play with zero fear and use exact same approach they did against the Hoyas.
“We were the underdog, but Coach Enfield did a terrific job of reiterating the idea that, ‘Hey we’re just as good as these guys. We can win this game’” said former Florida Gulf Coast assistant Marty Richter. “Our guys felt that Coach Enfield believed in them, and that went a long ways. They didn’t think it was just lip service.”
Enfield repeatedly told his team that they needed to stay within striking distance so that they could gain a psychological edge when the favorite realized they can possibly lose. Meanwhile, Florida Gulf Coast would continue to play as if they have nothing to lose, which was exactly the case.
“At that point, if they were able to keep playing carefree, confident basketball, they have a chance to win,” Enfield explained. “If you get conservative at that point as an underdog and start to play differently, then often that will cost you.”
UMBC will reprise its role against Kansas State, as the team that everybody expects to get throttled and have their carriage turn back into a pumpkin. But if their 20-point victory over Virginia is any indication, this Cinderella team still has a chance against anybody.