UMBC Retrievers: The Biggest Upset in Men’s College Basketball History

It happened. It finally happened. The 16 seed UMBC Retrievers made NCAA Tournament history after absolutely manhandling the No. 1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers. Making it the first time a 16 seed defeated a top seed in the history of men’s college basketball. Just writing that feels weird. Being able to actually witness it happen, indescribable. 

At my buddies place, we were watching the 1st round matchups all throughout the night and we actually had some interesting conversations leading up to the UMBC-UVA game. For example: We brought up the question of what it must feel like to be a 16 seed leading up to having to face a one seed and how degrading it has to feel to know the previous 135 teams before you failed. Also mentioning, if a 16 seed were ever to win against a one seed it would definitely be against Virginia. I know it may be hard to believe but, we legitimately did. The thing is, we were certainly not expecting it to actually happen by any means. I mean come on, UVA won’t actually lose to UMBC. The Retrievers? What does UMBC even stand for anyways? Psh. Whatever, it won’t even be close. Then the game actually happened. 

The 1st half was…bad. Seemingly no offense from either side for 20 minutes. Both the Cavaliers looked lost on the offensive side of the ball. Something you’d expect from a 16 seed facing the top overall team in the tournament but, from the apparent top overall seed? UVA looked far from the top team. At halftime, the score was tied 21-21. With that said, my friend and I were completely absorbed in the Sh*t show. After all, a 16 seed was tied with the No. 1 team.

Then came the 2nd half. Having expected UVA to make adjustments at the half, I somewhat expected the Cavaliers to eventually pull away like all top seeds usually do. Nope. That didn’t happen at all. In fact, UMBC came out firing and quickly gained a 10 point lead. It was at this moment, my friend and I started to come to the realization that this could actually happen. No matter the defense UVA put on them, UMBC carved through it like butter. It was a thing of beauty really. Things really started heating up when Retriever senior guard, Jairus Lyles got hot and when I say hot I mean scorching. The man simply couldn’t miss. Driving to the hoop, mid-range jumpers, three pointers and so on. It didn’t matter. Lyles put up 28 on 9 of 11 shooting. Virginia couldn’t find an answer for him. They also couldn’t find an answer on offense. Other than being bailed out by foul calls and free throws, I honestly can’t recall a single possession where they looked like they knew what they were doing. It didn’t take long for this game to get out of hand. With zero exaggeration, UMBC made Virginia look like the 16 seed and the Retrievers the top seed. Then the final buzzer rang and it was official. #16 UMBC Retrievers: 74 – #1 Virginia Cavaliers: 54. A twenty point beat down on the top overall seed. UMBC put up 53 2nd half point’s. One point short of what UVA’s final point total. 

Overall, Virginia was never even close. UMBC outplayed the Cavaliers in every aspect of the game. They simply wanted it more and certainly earned it. I’m so thankful that I was able to witness something that could very well never happen again in my lifetime. As I’m writing this now, I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around it. I’d like to congratulate the UMBC Retrievers, their family, friends and fan base for the unreal accomplishment, defying the odds, and solidifying their place in the history books. Let the madness continue. 

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)

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It’s Time to Start Taking The Tennessee Titans Seriously

Free Agency has been a roller coaster of surprising, emotional, head-scratching and wild pickups. Tuesday, the Packers headlined the day, snagging Jimmy Graham and cutting Jordy Nelson. Some other popular pickups were Case Keenum to Denver, Cousins to Minnesota, Sammy Watkins to KC and Bridgewater to the Jets but, why isn’t anyone talking about what’s going on in Nashville. The Tennessee Titans picked up Malcom Butler and Dion Lewis from New England. Hello? This is huge!

In today’s NFL, Defensive backs rule the defense. With that said, a team can no longer rely on just two corners. Instead, three or in some cases four are what teams are looking for. After picking up Butler on Tuesday, Tennessee has created one hell of a cornerback trio. Malcom Butler, Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson. Butler and Ryan both played together in New England and won a Super Bowl during their time with the Pats. Bringing their experience and chemistry on to the Titans is definitely a positive. As for Adoree Jackson, he is coming off a solid rookie season alongside Logan Ryan. Jackson is only getting better and he’ll be able to thrive even more by getting to learn from the experienced Ryan and Butler.  Malcom Butler isn’t an elite corner but, with Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, Tennessee’s pass defense will certainly be significantly better.

As for Dion Lewis, he is replacing the recently released, DeMarco Murray. This makes the Titans new one-two punch, Lewis, and Henry. Oh boy. Like Malcom Butler, Dion Lewis brings key experience to the offense. Something Murray couldn’t offer. Lewis is coming off a 1,000 yards rushing season with the Patriots and now being paired with Henry, the two running backs have the potential to be the NFL’s next great RB duo. It’s going to be fun to see how Tennessee utilizes these guys.

The Titans are a team that has been quietly building a monster. Last year, we got the first glimpse of what this Tennessee team is capable of. Earning a playoff berth and defeating Kansas City on the road when they were MAJOR underdogs, there’s no denying this team has improved quite a bit. The AFC South is going to be a battle in 2018. Deshaun Watson will be back for Houston, Andrew Luck will be back for Indy, Jacksonville is coming off an AFC championship appearance and now Tennessee has a respectable pass defense, top RB duo, and Mariota has multiple receiving weapons lead by Pro Bowler, Delanie Walker. It won’t be easy but, Tennessee shouldn’t be overlooked in the AFC South and in the AFC in general in 2018.

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)

Welcome to Denver, Mr. Keenum

It is almost 2 AM as I am writing this and the news of Case Keenum intending to sign with the Denver broke only an hour ago. Passing on Kirk Cousins, Elway and the Broncos decided to spark the free agency QB race by signing Case Keenum. As a die-hard Broncos fan myself, it was impossible for me not to write about this immediately after finding out.

First off, why Keenum over Cousins? Well, it’s simple really. Denver was looking for someone who would fit their system best and even though Cousins is the better QB overall, none of that matters if he doesn’t play in a system that fits him. Although it was a fun thought, Cousins in Denver just wasn’t the right fit. As for Keenum, he thrived in Minnesota’s offense last year and the Vikings are nearly the same team as Denver when you think of it. Denver’s system with Siemian and Osweiler was almost identical to Minnesota’s with Keenum. I think we all know which one had more success. Keenum thrived last year. A lot of credit goes to Pat Shurmur and Minnesota for working with what Keenum had and building a perfect system around him. Nothing flashy. Simple but, deadly. This said I think Keenum will fit just fine in Denver’s offense.

USA TODAY Sports

Although he does seem like a solid fit, what if Case Keenum’s incredible year in 2017 was just a fluke? Remember 2015, when Brock Osweiler started 7 games for the Broncos? He went 5-2 in those games and was a big part of the reason Denver reached the Super Bowl. A year later, Houston signed Osweiler to a $50 million dollar contract. Look how that turned out. Osweiler was a 7 game wonder. Although I do believe Case Keenum is a better QB than Osweiler in many areas, I’m just not completely sold on him yet. Now don’t get me wrong, if he does even somewhat similar to what he did last year in Minnesota, I and Denver fans alike will be ecstatic.

Overall, I really like Case Keenum as a player and a person. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see him come to the Mile High City. The potential he has to thrive in Denver’s offense has me giddy. With the recent quarterback struggles, we Broncos fans are desperate for QB to get us out of this hole we’ve been stuck in for the past 2 years. If Keenum is that QB, I’m more than ok with it.

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)

Teams You Shouldn’t Trust in The 2018 NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday has finally arrived. The day fans all over the country wait to see their school listed on the tournament field or have their hearts broken and face the reality of getting snubbed. Either way, people will be glued to their TV’s and anxiously awaiting to fill out all of their brackets. So as we all await the selections, I thought I’d go through a list of teams that shouldn’t be trusted when filling out our brackets, no matter how good of a pick they may seem to be. Let’s get straight into it.

Virginia Cavaliers: Almost guaranteed to be the No. 1 overall seed, I’m probably crazy for thinking this right? Work with me here. Virginia is an incredibly talented defensive minded team and I’m not trying to take anything away from what they accomplished this year. With that said, that is all this UVA team is. Relying only on defense, Virginia has been average at best on the offensive side of the ball and in March Madness that will only get you so far. Last year, Virginia had a very similar team and they took a second round exit after getting manhandled 65-39 against Florida. Not to mention the fact they barely squeaked by their first-round opponent UNC Wilmington the game before. Don’t be surprised to see UVA as the first No. 1 seed knocked out.

Kentucky Wildcats: This year’s UK squad is a confusing one. They’ve lacked consistency all season long and you just don’t know which team will show up any given night. Even John Calipari himself once mentioned the ongoing struggle to find their identity. They are an easy pick because of the name but, with one of the youngest groups in recent memory and with no clear leadership, it’s hard to imagine this Kentucky team to really be a true threat in this year’s tournament.

Any Big 12 Team Except Kansas: Usually one of the best conferences in college hoops, the Big 12 was a complete mess in 2017-18. Kansas was the usual stand out, Texas Tech was the surprise team of the conference, Oklahoma started out hot and turned into an absolute train wreck and West Virginia has been up and down. Other than that, the rest of the competition was nothing more than average. As for the NCAA Tournament, the last time a Big 12 team not named Kansas or Oklahoma made a Final Four was Kansas State in 1964. With Oklahoma possibly not even making the field, Kansas is once again the only team people should trust but, even then KU hasn’t been able to get further than the Elite Eight the past 5 years.

Wichita State Shockers: The Shockers will once again be walking their way into the tournament without a sweat. Even though the 25-7 (14-4) record looks pretty on paper, Wichita State has just one high-quality win (Cincinnati), and two “OK” wins (Baylor, Houston). They haven’t seen a lot of tough competition. The Shockers also failed to reach their conference championship game, coming off a loss to Houston in the semifinal. The past few tournaments they showed that they can still compete with the big boys but can’t seem to make past the second round. WSU will most likely end up with a top 5 seed but, don’t let that fool you into thinking they are a better team than what they’ve proved themselves to be.

Duke Blue Devils: For some reason, I can never get myself to trust Duke when filling out brackets. It seems like every year they are either an early exit or a deep run/National title. No matter how talented the team is, the Blue Devils always end up being a coin flip in March.

In the end, nothing you just read truly matters because not a single person knows how March Madness will play out. After all, that’s the beauty of this entire spectacle. So as we wait for the selections to be announced, it’s time to let out the inner analyst in us all and prepare ourselves to fill out the best brackets possible. Finally, March Madness has arrived.

– Collin Borron 

All Eyes on Cleveland After Series of HUGE Trades

The NFL offseason has been filled with significant trades and the trend continued on Friday as the Cleveland Browns stole the spotlight picking up Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Damarious Randall. Here’s how it happened:

– Cleveland traded 2018 4th round draft pick & 2019 7th round draft pick to Miami for Jarvis Landry

– Cleveland traded 2018 3rd round draft pick to Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor

– Cleveland traded Deshone Kizer to Green Bay for Damarious Randall and also swapped draft picks in the 4th and 5th rounds.

The Browns are showing the NFL and the rest of the sports world that they’re done messing around. Not only did they pick up these guys for little to nothing but the Browns still have 5 of the top 65 picks. Two of them in the top 5 and three in the 2nd round. Also these trades could just be the beginning as they are expected to make a push for Richard Sherman or Tyrann Mathieu.

By week 1 of the 2018 season, it’s very possible that we could see Tyrod Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon on the field starting for Cleveland. Holy moly. Although it’s a fun thought, the Browns could pass up on Barkley and draft a much-needed defensive back and snag Minkah Fitzpatrick. It’ll be very difficult for the Browns to find a way to screw up this draft, especially now with their current situation. Also don’t be surprised if the Browns use one of their top 5 picks on Quenton Nelson if Joe Thomas does end up retiring which seems like that will be the case. In the end, this is all speculation and will all depend on how Cleveland finishes in free agency.

The Browns took a big step in the right direction on Friday and expect them to keep reeling in serious talent as free agency continues.

– Collin Borron

Wade Phillips & Aqib Talib Reunite in Los Angeles

The talk about Aqib Talib potentially being traded has been going on for months now. As a Denver fan myself, I didn’t necessarily want to see him go but I also understood the idea of trading him. When I finally got the notification that he was officially done in Denver and headed to the Los Angeles Rams, it was a bittersweet moment. Talib was a key factor to Denver’s success over the previous few years and especially on the Super Bowl winning squad in 2015. Instead of me listing off his accomplishments here’s a tweet that sums up his time with the Broncos rather well.

 

With all of the rumors of Talib returning to New England, I was beyond relieved to see he was going to the Rams. I already wrote about how there is a storm brewing in Los Angeles after they picked up Marcus Peters and how the Rams were just a few pieces away from being capable of a Super Bowl. Adding Talib is a huge step in reaching that goal. Sure he’s reaching the end of his career but, he has proven that he still has a lot to offer and is still an elite corner back. Being paired with Marcus Peters, this has more than enough potential to be the next great cornerback duo in the NFL. Wade Phillips is going to have a lot of fun this offseason with Peters and Talib. Phillips was more than likely ecstatic to see that his former Super Bowl champion corner will be rejoining his squad.

Although it is sad to see him go, I’m happy for Aqib Talib and the Los Angeles Rams. It’s a win for both sides. I’m beyond excited to see what Wade Phillips puts together on defense during this offseason. With the addition of another star corner, the storm continues to grow in Los Angeles.

– Collin Borron

Missouri Tigers: Porter’s Return Makes Tigers A Serious March Threat

Michael Porter Jr was one of the most anticipated talents heading into this season. Expected to be a top 5 lottery pick, the #1 recruit in the country is a one of a kind talent. He was set to bring Missouri back from consecutive years of struggling. So, one could only imagine how Mizzou fans felt when Porter suffered a hip injury in the first 2 minutes of the season opener. Requiring spinal surgery, he was expected to be out for the entire season. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Wednesday afternoon at the Scottrade Center, the Tigers were holding their first practice before the matchup against Georgia in the SEC tournament when Porter came out and started putting up jumpers. With such a beautiful shot, one would’ve never thought he’s been out all year. Not to mention the fact that he drilled 15 consecutive three pointers. Porter is ready to go and at the best time possible. March.

After losing Porter in the opener, Missouri was expected to once again be at the bottom of the SEC but, the Tigers proved otherwise. Mizzou finished 4th in one of the toughest conferences in basketball this year. The Tigers finished the regular season 20-11 (10-8) with a handful of quality wins on the resume. Just a year ago this same team went 8-24. Quite the impressive turnaround and it was all without their star small forward. In fact, I would argue Mizzou is even better than their record shows. The Tigers have suffered some incredibly close and heartbreaking losses this season where they looked like the better team for 35 of 40 minutes of the game but couldn’t quite finish. To put it short, this team is a lot better than they get credit for and with Michael Porter Jr returning, they could elevate into one the deadliest dark horse teams come March Madness time.

If you’re near a TV at 3:00 pm EST Thursday afternoon, I highly recommend tuning into SEC Network to witness the return of Michael Porter Jr.

– Collin Borron (Founder & Owner of The Gridiron Express)