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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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 

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)

The Unsurprising Downfall of Oklahoma

All season long, ESPN has seemingly gone head over heels for the break out star Trae Young and Oklahoma. The Sooners started out red-hot and Trae Young was putting up NBA Superstar numbers. After beating 5th ranked Kansas 85-80, Trae Young reached his peak performance level, OU sat at a 15-4 record and had the media and fans alike drooling over this team. Then disaster struck. Only winning 2 games since the win against KU, the Sooners have lost 8 of their last 11 games, and have plummeted in the latest Bracketology. Almost everyone is surprised at how bad they’ve crashed and burned to their current 17-12 record. Not me.

Although the Sooners have beaten a handful of quality teams and Trae Young has had plenty of unreal performances, their downfall has been anything but surprising. Let’s be honest, Oklahoma’s roster without Trae Young isn’t the best. It’s been very clear they’ve been reliant on Young’s success for the success of the entire team. If he has a great night, then that usually means a Oklahoma win. If he struggles and doesn’t put up incredible numbers, the Sooner’s don’t have the player(s) that can step up and save them from a loss. Let alone in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. Other than Trae Young, Oklahoma has a major lack of talent and depth.

The best teams in college basketball are the ones that have the most team chemistry and roster depth. Obviously. Look at the previous National Champions over the past couple years. They’ve had incredible TEAMS, not just ONE PLAYER. Unity is a must to succeed in college basketball and with Oklahoma, it just seems like Trae Young desperately trying to make plays or occasionally putting up ridiculous shots. Their entire team revolves around him. When is the last time a team had long-term success relying on one player for an entire season? Unlike the NBA, star talent isn’t required to compete for National Championships. In fact, a team can have no NBA talent, still be the No.1 overall seed and reach the Final Four. *cough* 2013-14 Florida Gators *cough*. None of that “Superstar” nonsense matters in college. Sure it’s fun to watch and I’m certainly all for having star talent, but I’m just saying it’s not a requirement for a championship.

As we break into the magical month of March and prepare ourselves for one of the best sports spectacles of the year in March Madness, keep an eye on Oklahoma. I’m curious to see if they will get their problems figured out in time for the tournament. Is it too late or did they do enough early in the season to get a spot in the tournament? There are endless questions with this Sooner squad and even if they do make it into the Big Dance, I don’t see them making it past the 2nd Round.

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

Why isn’t ANYONE Talking About These 4 Teams?

As we continue to get closer and closer to March, we’ve all began to get a general sense of what the bracket is going to look like. Separating the contenders from the pretenders, thinking we know for sure what we are even talking about. Come on people. It’s the Big Dance, nobody knows what’s going to happen. With that said, I decided to list off some of the hottest teams that no one seems to be giving any sort of attention when in reality they certainly deserve it.

Alabama Crimson Tide (16-9) – This team is one of the most confusing teams I’ve seen in a while. Some nights they look like a top 10 team and then other nights they look like a team I’d never even consider to make the tournament. Collin Sexton has been the undoubted leader all season long and has led the Tide to some HUGE wins and that’s the reason people need to keep an eye on this squad.

Best Wins: Rhode Island, Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida & Tennessee.

If Alabama gets hot entering March, look out.

Florida Gators (17-8) – Just like Bama, this team is incredibly inconsistent. Coming into the year, everyone had high expectations for this Gator squad. Even being ranked in the top 5 early in the season, Florida soon became the team nobody knew what group would show up. Lead by Chris Chiozza, Florida’s roster is stacked with talent and is certainly capable for a big another big run in the tournament and has shown flashes of what kind of team they are capable of being.

Best Wins: Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Texas A&M, Kentucky & Baylor

This team can compete with anyone in the country. Don’t sleep on the Gators.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (19-8) – NU is the Big 10’s silent assassin. Currently 10-4 in conference play, Nebraska has played beyond expectations this season and now control their own destiny heading into March. The Huskers don’t have the flashiest resume so they will definitely need to finish the season strong but they certainly put themselves in a great situation in one of college basketball’s best conferences.

Best Wins: Boston College, Minnesota, Michigan

I also have to mention they had Kansas beat until the Jayhawks hit a last-second shot to squeak by the ‘skers. These aren’t your average Cornhuskers and be ready to see more of them come March.

Tennessee Volunteers (18-6) – Being the 3rd SEC team on this list, it just goes to show how deep this conference really is. Similar to Nebraska, the Vols have been silently taking care of business in conference play. The Vols have the talent and depth for a deep run in the tournament this season.

Best Wins: Kentucky (TWICE), Purdue, Iowa State, & Texas A&M

Rocky Top is red-hot right now and I don’t see them slowing down by the time March Madness comes around.

I obviously know these aren’t the only “dangerous” teams in the country, but these are the four that I’m surprised I don’t hear more about. You can agree or you can disagree, but one thing is for sure. March needs to hurry up and get here so we can watch all of this unfold.

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