The year is 2018, the month is March and the day is Friday, the 16th. There are 25 verifiably perfect NCAA tournament brackets across the major bracket games, each 28-for-28 to start the first round of the men's tournament.
That was before NCAA tournament history was made. The school known by its four-letter acronym — with an undergraduate enrollment of roughly 10,000 students — became a household name overnight and busted brackets with one colossal Friday night upset.
As part of NCAA.com's NCAA Video Vault series, we're diving into UMBC's historic upset as a No. 16 seed over No. 1 seed Virginia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament — the first 16-over-1 upset in the history of the men's tournament.
Below you can watch the full replay of the game, trimmed to just more than an hour, courtesy of the March Madness YouTube channel.
An injury to a prominent Virginia player was teased in the open and the on-court effects followed
"One story we'll be discussing," CBS' Jim Nantz said of Virginia at the start of the broadcast, "without De'Andre Hunter, their valuable sixth man, the Sixth Man of the Year in the ACC out — there he is — out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury, with surgery coming on Monday."
Hunter, a 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman who ranked fourth on the team in scoring at 9.2 points per game, was shown on Virginia's bench wearing team-issued sweats as Nantz discussed his injury, which Hunter suffered against North Carolina in the championship game of the ACC tournament.
Virginia still had five future NBA players available that night in Charlotte, but the size and skill set of Hunter, a defensive dynamo who would be selected fourth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, made his loss particularly damaging.
When Virginia and UMBC tipped off around 9:20 p.m. ET that night, No. 1 seeds in the NCAA men's basketball tournament were 134-0 against No. 16 seeds since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Fellow No. 1 seed Xavier was already on its way to improving that unblemished record to 135-0. So, understandably, the announcing crew figured this game would be a chance to learn how to play, and win, without Hunter while facing a presumably overmatched opponent.
"Unfortunately, with Hunter injured like that, it is devastating, but they'll just find a way to play," color analyst Bill Raftery in the game's first five minutes, when the score was 5-3 in advantage of Virginia. The two teams were getting settled into the flow of the game, as were the broadcasters. "They are consistent in their approach at both ends of the floor."
Nantz responded, "I would think, Raf, that this would be a game tonight where they start to try to figure out how to do it without Hunter's minutes. What do you think you're going to look for?"
"Play smaller," Raftery said. "I think (senior guard Nigel) Johnson will play a little bit more. As long as you guard, you can get on the floor for this team."
Meanwhile, UMBC wasn't shy in its pressure defense
When the ball was tipped, UMBC point guard K.J. Maura, a senior listed at 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds who personified the underdog spirit of the Retrievers, stood on the far right edge of the March Madness logo at midcourt, with his left foot on the final "S" in "Madness." With the game being played in Charlotte, the announcing team made several comparisons to Muggsy Bogues, the 5-foot-3 former NBA player who spent a decade with the Hornets.
Maura's defensive assignment was Virginia point guard Ty Jerome, who played the same position and wore the same number, but was listed as nine inches taller and 35 pounds heavier. When the opening tip-off made its way to Jerome, Maura sprinted from his station in front of UMBC's own 3-point line and picked up Jerome before the latter made it across midcourt.
In that era of Virginia basketball, especially, the Cavaliers frequently ran a blocker/mover offense. Two big men would serve as the "blockers" for guards and wings, who would run around their screens in an almost circular motion as the "movers." From the first possession of the game, Maura was forced to bob and weave through traffic defensively.
Heck, on the first possession alone, Virginia's Jack Salt, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound New Zealander, set four separate screens on Maura, who stuck with Jerome and he ultimately contested a pull-up, mid-range jumper that Jerome left short.
Jerome used his height to his advantage a few possessions later, when he rose and fired for a 3-pointer directly over Maura. But UMBC's senior from San Juan, Puerto Rico, made it clear from the jump that he was going to be a pest defensively, scooting and sliding wherever Jerome went on the floor. When UMBC's Jairus Lyles made a free throw early in the game, Maura was there in a heartbeat to pick up Jerome for the full 94 feet of hardwood.
UMBC weathered an early scoreless drought
Through the first seven minutes of the game, the score resembled one you might see on the football field, 7-3, in favor of Virginia. "They have not made a basket in the last five minutes," Nantz said, punctuating the word "five," after a turnaround jumper by Lyles clanked off the rim.
The Retrievers started the game 1-for-7 shooting with two turnovers, but the Cavaliers weren't on pace to set any scoring records, either. They started three for 10 from the field with one turnover in that same stretch, while grabbing just one offensive rebound.
In first-round games between a No. 1 seed and No. 16 seed, which can often finish with point differentials in the 20, 30s and 40s, an early five-minute field-goal drought could end a No. 16 seed's chances of having the game being competitive at halftime, let alone the end of regulation. But UMBC contested enough of Virginia's early shots and grabbed almost every defensive rebound available to stay within two possessions of the Cavaliers.
The 3-point barrage started slowly
If a fan was asked how a No. 16 seed might upset a No. 1 seed prior to UMBC's slaying of Virginia, but especially after, the fan would likely point to 3-point shooting.
Maybe the No. 16 seed gets hot from deep! Maybe the No. 1 seed goes cold.
Sure, a monumental upset would take more than that, but that might be a reasonable place to start.
That was a significant part of UMBC's formula, after all. The Retrievers, which finished 40th nationally in 3-point percentage at 38.2 percent, per kenpom.com, made 12 of their 24 3-point attempts in the game, while the Cavaliers mustered just 4-for-22 shooting from deep, which comes out to 18.2 percent.
It took nearly eight minutes for UMBC to hit its first 3-pointer of the game, which means the Retrievers made 12 in the final 33 minutes, an average of one made 3-pointer every two minutes and 45 seconds of game action. Their first three ball ended a 5-minute and 42-second field-goal drought and it came after UMBC's first offensive rebound of the game — one of those hustle stats that can play a pivotal role in a potential upset. In fact, Max Curran's offensive board with 12:29 to play in the first half was the second and final offensive rebound in the half, as both sides crashed the glass hard defensively and seemed to prioritize getting back on defense when on offense.
Curran, wearing jersey No. 23 at the left elbow in the screenshot below, found Jourdan Grant wide open at the top of the key for a straightaway 3-pointer, as one Retriever reserve found another to end what was approaching six minutes without UMBC seeing a non-free throw attempt go in the bucket. "You need second possessions against Virginia," Raftery said. "You've got to work the glass cause any long rebounds, advantage to the offense."
"They've got a 7-6 game here, guys," Nantz said as the broadcast went to the under-12 media timeout in the first half. His tone suggested novelty and pleasant surprise, rather than any impending threat to the status quo.
It would be an overstatement to say that the floodgates were now open in what was just a 7-6 game through the first eight minutes, but UMBC came down the floor and made another 3-pointer on its next possession, once again assisted by Curran.
UMBC's last five made field goals were 3-pointers during one stretch late in the first half. That's not to say that the Retrievers lit the world on fire with their shooting in the first half — they were just 6-for-18 shooting at the time and finished the half with a 7-for-21 shooting mark — but when the majority of their made field goals were threes and when Virginia's offense was shooting similarly, it was a recipe that worked, even though UMBC was just two for eight from 2-point range.
That season, Virginia's opponents took nearly 41 percent of their shots from behind the arc against the Cavaliers' pack-line defense, which was notably higher than the national average of 37.5 percent, according to kenpom.com. UMBC took exactly half of its 48 shots from deep and made a similar number inside the arc (14) as from beyond it (12).
UMBC's fifth 3-pointer of the first half, made by Lyles, could not have been more open, as Virginia got lost in its defensive rotations amid a broken play and somehow, UMBC's 20-points-per-game scorer was left alone at the top of the key. It was after this shot that an audible "DE–FENSE" chant could be heard on the broadcast, whereas the Virginia fan contingent had certainly been the more vocal one before that.
When did the momentum start to shift?
While no No. 16 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament had ever pulled off the upset prior to UMBC, it's not as if none of those games had ever been close, close enough to let your imagination run wild.
In 1989, No. 16 seeds East Tennessee State and Princeton each went into halftime with the lead, before falling by one point apiece to Oklahoma and Georgetown. In 1990, Murray State took Michigan State to overtime, where the Racers lost the race by four. Western Michigan lost a two-point game to Purdue in 1996.
When you rewatch the UMBC-Virginia game, when do the announcers start to let on that this game could be close, let alone a potential upset alert?
"By the way, on this trip down the floor, trying to take the lead, eight and a half minutes in," Nantz said, when UMBC had the ball, trailing 7-6.
Just a few minutes later, with UMBC at the free-throw line to take a 10-9 lead, analyst Grant Hill said, "It's always important for these 15, 16 seed teams like the Retrievers to get off to a good start and feel pretty good about themselves at the 10-minute mark and they've done just that."
"Can they sustain it?" Raftery asked aloud, to no one in particular, when UMBC got a stop when a Jerome 3-pointer was short off the front iron as it trailed 13-10. The announcing team repeatedly made comments about how both teams appeared to have quality field-goal attempts, yet a combination of good defense, missed shots and strong defensive rebounding led to long scoring droughts.
When UMBC endured another five-plus-minute drought — this won was 5:01, to be exact — UMBC's Lyles broke his defender off the dribble just enough to catch Virginia's Mamadi Diakite cheating off Joe Sherburne in the right corner and Lyles found him for a three, just moments after Raftery said UMBC "gotta stay in touch though," as it trailed by six.
"It's a three-point game with six minutes to go in the first half," Nantz said.
All tied up at halftime
The scoreboard read 21-21 at halftime, but UMBC actually had the chance to take the lead before the break as Lyles attempted a long 3-pointer in the final seconds that was off the mark. The frustration was setting in for Virginia as guard Kyle Guy balled his fist and batted the ball, after the halftime horn sounded, with his 31-3 Cavaliers tied with those 24-10 Retrievers.
"The game is tied," Nantz said, as the broadcast went to break. "People all over saying, 'What's going on in Charlotte?'"
Meanwhile, fellow No. 1 seed Xavier had recently put the finishing touches on No. 16 seed Texas Southern, 102-83, as No. 1 seeds improved to 135-0 against No. 16 seeds after the first three No. 1s in the 2018 NCAA Tournament won by a combined 61 points.
UMBC's strong start to the second half
UMBC, while competitive, never led by more than three points in the first half. The Retrievers posted a 19-16 lead, plus a pair of two-point advantages, 9-7 and 21-19.
But it took less than 60 seconds into the second half for them to establish their biggest lead up to that point of the game. UMBC scored on the first possession of the half when Sherburne made an aggressive move to the basket — something that UMBC generally lacked in the first half — and he scored high off the glass while drawing Isaiah Wilkins' third foul. The Virginia forward picked up two fouls in the first half and he ultimately fouled out after playing 24 minutes, as Virginia not only had to play without Hunter but had to deal with Wilkins' foul trouble.
When Virginia's Guy was short on a 3-pointer on the ensuing 'Hoos possession, Maura took a hand-off from teammate Arkel Lamar and bolted down the court, sensing a rare transition opportunity. With a slick, no-look, behind-the-back pass (shown below) he dropped the ball off to Sherburne, who knocked home another open 3-pointer from the top of the key.
"And it's a six-point lead!" Nantz exclaimed on the broadcast, his tone more full of possibility compared to the first half. "And he gives it the Aaron Rodgers move, his favorite player. He's from Wisconsin, a Packer fan."
On the UMBC bench, 6-foot-10 center Nolan Gerrity displayed a dance move that was popularized by the then-rising video game Fortnite, and the Retrievers had the Cavaliers on their heels thanks to a 17-5 run.
That run overlapped with a 17-3 run, as a 16-10 Virginia lead turned into a 27-21 advantage for UMBC, which then grew to 41-27. An exclamation point amid that run was when Maura, the diminutive point guard, expertly changed his pace at the right time to blitz through the Cavaliers' porous transition defense and scooped in a one-handed layup that put UMBC up by seven and forced a Virginia timeout.
UMBC had made three field goals (and attempted five) before Virginia had even attempted three field goals to start the second half. The 'Hoos were just 0-for-2 shooting at the time.
That layup from Maura was an uncontested look at the basket and soon, UMBC was getting similar levels of space beyond the arc. A dribble drive from Sherburne led to a 3-pointer from Lyles. Then it was Sherburne who knocked home a three from straight on, after his teammate Lamar grabbed UMBC's second offensive rebound in the first three and a half minutes of the half — already more than the Retrievers' first-half total of offensive boards.
"There's some shock in the building, there's no doubt," Nantz said, as the camera showed solemn faces on Virginia's bench.
The Sherburne 3-pointer made it 35-24, UMBC's first double-digit lead of the game and one that would nearly double by the time the clocks showed double zeroes. A 3-for-3 trip at the free throw line for Lyles gave Virginia its biggest deficit of the season: 14 points.
Virginia tries to muster a response
After Virginia found itself in a 38-24 hole, Ty Jerome was able to get a bucket and a foul, which he converted into a three-point play at the free-throw line. That cut it to 11, 38-27. On offense, UMBC's Lamar coughed up the ball and it was off to the races, with the Cavaliers having the opportunity to cut the deficit to single digits.
But Virginia's Devon Hall tripped on his way to the basket and threw up an errant shot. Sherburne scooped it up and found Maura for an outlet pass. Maura threw a lob across the court to Lyles, in stride, who then launched a 3-pointer from a few steps behind the arc that went through the cylinder with that resounding ring to the shot that happens when the ball hits just right through the back of the rim.
"That was a five-point swing right there," Hill said on the broadcast. "Hall had a layup, slipped, or tripped, and a 3-pointer on the other end."
Soon thereafter, Virginia missed its 10th consecutive 3-point attempt, falling to one for 11 for the game, while UMBC was nine for 18 from deep. That's when Lyles reminded Virginia's defense of his interior scoring ability, as he drove, leading with the ball in his right hand, before switching hands and sending it back up with his left, off the glass. It was just another basket as he scored 12 in a row for UMBC.
The bucket gave UMBC its new biggest lead of the game, 16, and left at least one UMBC fan completely perplexed with the physics behind how the ball could have even gone in the hoop.
Virginia called a timeout.
"Could this be the night?" Nantz asked rhetorically on the broadcast. "The shocker of all shockers in the history of the tournament."
It would be the night
Virginia pulled within 12 a few times but Lyles, who didn't appear to be at full strength physically in the second half, repeatedly danced through the Cavaliers' defense as he scored a game-high 28 points. He made six of his seven 2-point attempts, plus three 3-pointers. Twenty-three of those points came after halftime.
Arkel Lamar's 3-pointer from the right corner put UMBC up 17, 61-44, with less than four minutes to play and the final outcome seemed all but certain. After an intentional foul by Wilkins, his fifth, with the play stopped, Lyles threw up a high-lofted, one-handed runner of a 3-pointer that went in, as even the shots that didn't count seemed to go in for the UMBC shooting guard.
"A 20-point lead and the greatest upset in the history of this tournament is going to happen," Nantz said with a minute left, after Jourdan Grant hit UMBC's 12th and final 3-pointer in the right corner.
"Sit back and watch history, folks," Nantz said in the closing seconds, with UMBC leading 74-54. "The NCAA tournament has been turned upside down."
Here's what the upset meant for brackets
In the official Bracket Challenge Game, 2.18 percent of entries correctly picked UMBC to beat Virginia, which was picked to win the national championship by 13.73 percent of entrants. That means that, roughly, two out of every 15 participants in the Bracket Challenge Game essentially had no chance of winning their respective bracket pools before the first round of the tournament was even over.
Between Virginia's first-round loss and No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago's improbable run to the Final Four, the average score in the Bracket Challenge Game in 2018, a score of 57, was the second-lowest of the first eight years of the BCG. For reference, the average scores in 2012 and 2015 were 83 and 83.3.
Here's what your Twitter timeline may have looked like
We recreated what your Twitter timeline may have looked like around 11:34 p.m. ET on March 16, 2018.
Here's how the media reacted
Here are some of the best headlines we found on newspapers.com of news coverage of the historic upset.
The Charlotte Observer
The Baltimore Sun
The Star-Democrat (Easton, Md.)
Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Penn.)
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.)
The Park City Daily News (Bowling Green, Kent.)