What Was The Biggest Upset In March Madness History?

Few things send sports fans on a roller coaster ride of emotions quite like an upset during March Madness. Sure, it's exciting to watch an underdog topple a tournament favorite, but it also means that the bracket you filled out is no longer good for anything but making a paper airplane or starting a fire. Then, just to rub more salt in the wound, the office pool title winds up being claimed by the one coworker who doesn't know a slam dunk from a layup and filled out their bracket based on how much they like each school's mascot.

However, in 2018, that alternative bracket-filling methodology would've paid dividends in predicting one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament history (via NCAA). It would've meant making the easy decision of choosing a team known as the Retrievers — specifically the UMBC Retrievers — because who doesn't like retrievers? Golden, Labrador, the other kinds; they're all great.

UMBC made the Tournament but were dealt the University of Virginia

Being one of the teams to make it into the NCAA Tournament is always a big deal, but for teams who enter as No. 16 seeds, there has to be a moment when every player, coach, and fan gulps upon realizing that their time on the national stage may not be more than two quick halves, but that likely falls to the wayside fast.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers — or UMBC Retrievers — was one of those teams heading into the 2018 edition of the NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers posted a 24-10 regular season record en route to a victory in the America East tournament. This was the school's second March Madness, with their first coming in 2008, 10 years earlier, once again by way of an American East tournament victory. However, they made a hasty exit with a 66-47 loss to Georgetown in the first round (via ESPN).

In 2018, the Retrievers faced the seemingly insurmountable task of having to get past the top-seeded University of Virginia Cavaliers, who were entering the tournament as one of the favorites after a massively successful 31-2 regular season campaign.

UMBC shocks the sports world

Heading into the 2018 tournament, the all-time record for No. 16 seeds in the first round was 0-135, so things weren't looking great for the Retrievers. It seemed likely they were doomed to wind up as the college basketball equivalent of a "Price Is Right" contestant who loses in an immediate and embarrassing fashion, then has to stand there uncomfortably while shaking Drew Carey's hand and saying how happy they are just to be on TV.

However, it was clear just after tip-off at Charlotte, North Carolina's Spectrum Center, that this game may not turn out the way everyone thought. According to ESPN, the first half was a back-and-forth affair with the lead changing hands a few times, and the teams headed to the locker room knotted at 21 apiece. When the UMBC Retrievers emerged from their locker room after half-time, they came out firing on all cylinders, putting up 6 points in under a minute to jump ahead to a 27-21 lead. This wasn't a dramatic game that hinged on a buzzer-beater to secure the upset — Virginia watched their tournament hopes slip through their fingers with each minute that ticked off in the second half. UMBC skated to a shocking but comfortable 74-54 victory over Virginia.

The Cinderella story falls short

UMBC rode their earth-shaking win into the second round, which is uncharted territory for the program. Their next opponent was Kansas State. The Wildcats entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed and had advanced to Round 32 thanks to a 10-point win over Creighton University.

The game received its fair share of attention after UMBC's first-round upset, and from the right jump, it looked like the Retrievers had picked up right where they left off against Virginia. According to ESPN, they gained an early lead and were able to keep the Wildcats at bay for the first 10 minutes of the game, but Kansas State was too much, and once they took the lead, they kept it. The Retrievers came close to regaining control of the game — getting within a single point at times in the second half — but they ultimately lost 50-43.

While it may not have been the fairy tale ending many fans wanted to see, the 2018 UMBC Retrievers earned their spot in the history books for pulling off one of the most shocking upsets in college sports history and changing the perspective of what it meant to enter the tournament as a No. 16 seed (via NCAA).