The 2018 Big Dance has already made history with the first ever No. 16 seed not just defeating, but trouncing, a No. 1 seed. With the Sweet 16 looming, let’s review the highlights.
A team no one heard of caused the most noise in the history of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. UMBC, which stands for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, hailing from the tiny America East Conference, routinely dominated by Vermont, shocked the world when they eviscerated the top seed in the South, the Virginia Cavaliers. A quick look at SBR Odds tells us that the UMBC Retrievers were 21-point underdogs but played with all the swagger of a No. 1 seed when they rolled to a 74-54 victory over the top-ranked team in the nation.
How unlikely this scenario was a little over two months ago when this same squad lost 83-39 to a conference rival named the Albany Great Danes. Cinderella turned into a pumpkin in the next round when they were defeated 50-43 by Kansas State, yet still covered the number as 10-point underdogs. But who cares? No one but their family and friends will remember their names but this collection of teenagers and 20-somethings did what no other school had ever done on a Friday night in March. David slayed Goliath, brackets were busted, and for once – the little guy won one.
Most of us can understand why people do stupid things because we’re all guilty to one degree or another. But then there are the outliers, the acts so absurd that even your crazy Uncle Larry would spit out his Rolling Rock if you told him. Allow me to present one such case in point.
William Hill operates more than 100 locations in Nevada but the biggest money line bet they took on Virginia versus UMBC in the opening round of the tournament was a $1,294.40 wager with a potential net payout of $12.95. You read that right. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this story is that the Neanderthal who made this bet had close to $1300 in his or her possession. Was the prospect of ponying up for a burger and fries at Sonic so daunting that this nitwit had to find another way? Was there alcohol involved? Did the clerk mistake “I’m a
complete fu*kin’ idiot” for “Virginia on the money line?” So many questions, so few answers. Unfortunately, we’ll never know the name of this Vegas wise guy but somewhere, deep in a forest, a village is looking for him.
Don’t Get Upset
The first-round upset of Virginia was the most stunning but the Cavaliers can take solace in the fact that they are no longer the only No. 1 seed eliminated because Xavier decided to keep them company. Yes, the Musketeers bowed out in the second-round courtesy of a 75-70 loss to Florida State. Had you read SBR Picks prior to that game, you’d be counting your cash because more than one of our prodigious prognosticators implored their readers to bet the Noles +5 ½ and don’t worry ‘bout no thang.
In the next tier down, No. 2 seeds North Carolina and Cincinnati joined No. 3 seeds Tennessee and Michigan State by taking an early exit from the tournament. A pair of No. 4 seeds, Wichita and Arizona, never even made it out of the first-round as both were bounced by their respective 13th seeded adversaries. It has been a remarkable week of college hoops with more to come. Perhaps the only saving grace is that we can say to all those college basketball gurus who know more than us (just ask them), “How’s your bracket look now, sharp stuff?”