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March Madness Previews: How UMBC Retrievers made the NCAA Tournament

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Who are the Retrievers and how did they even get here?

NCAA Basketball: MD Baltimore Cty at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers will be taking on the No. 16 seed UMBC Retrievers on Friday in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Anyone reading this site already knows Virginia’s resume: 31-2, including an unprecedented 17-1 ACC record and an ACC Tournament championship under its belt. But who the heck are the Retrievers and how did they get into the Tournament? No 1-seed has ever lost to a 16-seed, but let’s take a quick and dirty look at this team. Just to put our minds at ease.

The Resume

UMBC finished their regular season with a 21-10 record overall, and a 12-4 America East conference record. The 12-4 record was good enough to give them a No. 2 seed in the America East Playoffs, behind top-seeded Vermont, who finished with a 15-1 conference record. UMBC’s four conference losses came to Vermont (twice), Stony Brook, and Albany, and did not have any Power 5 wins. Conference-leaders Vermont did not end up getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The America East Playoffs

Too good to call it a conference tournament, the America East Playoffs were UMBC’s only hope at punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s exactly what the Retrievers did. They easily handled UMass Lowell and Hartford en route to a championship game against Vermont. But as everyone knows, unless you’re Virginia playing Louisville, it’s hard to beat a team three times in a single season.

It was a back-and-forth championship game that saw six ties and seven lead changes. Vermont led by as many as nine points on two occasions in the second half, but a 10-1 UMBC run got the Retrievers right back in it to tie the game at 58 points a piece with 5:09 remaining. In fact, Vermont went the final 8:21 of the game without a single field goal, hitting only free throws.

With the game knotted at 62 points a piece, UMBC graduate student guard Jairus Lyles had the ball in his hands for the entirety of the final 24-second possession. He created his own space against a defender and put up his fifth three-pointer of the game to give UMBC their largest lead of the game at 65-62 with only 0.6 seconds left on the clock. The win gave the Retrievers the automatic bid out of the America East conference.

The Players

UMBC Starters (Plus One)

Player Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Assists Per Game Steals Per Game FG% FT% 3P%
Player Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game Assists Per Game Steals Per Game FG% FT% 3P%
Jairus Lyles 20.2 5.6 3.5 2.1 0.436 0.804 0.387
K.J. Maura 11.4 2.2 5.2 2 0.468 0.868 0.423
Joe Sherburne 29 10.9 1.9 0.9 0.466 0.667 0.423
Arkel Lamar 10.5 5.8 1.1 1.2 0.396 0.558 0.432
Daniel Akin 3.6 3.4 0.3 0.3 0.657 0.414 0
Jourdan Grant (Sixth Man) 7.6 2.3 2.6 0.7 0.403 0.672 0.368