Yes, Virginia, there is a No. 16 seed that beat a No. 1

By Jeff Fogle  ( senior reporter) 

March 17, 2018 01:01 AM
UMBC guard K.J. Maura (11) celebrates after a three-pointer against Virginia in the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
© USA Today Sports Images

In the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history, #16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County shocks, obliterates, and humiliates #1 overall seed Virginia in a 40-point cover! Numbers and notes from an unforgettable Friday plus Saturday previews right now in VSiN City. 

Friday NCAA Tournament: UMBC the first #16 seed to ever beat a #1 seed

A school that sounds like your bank scored one of the biggest money line cashes ever Friday night as a plus 2500 underdog. That’s UMBC…Maryland-Baltimore County, a truly stunning 74-54 winner as an underdog of plus 20.5 points over #1 seed Virginia. If you didn’t see the game, be sure you read these stats…

Maryland-Baltimore County (plus 20.5) 74, Virginia 54

Two-point Pct: UMBC 58%, Virginia 56%

Three Pointers: UMBC 12/24, Virginia 4/8

Free Throws: UMBC 10/14, Virginia 4/8

Rebounds: UMBC 33, Virginia 24

Turnovers: UMBC 12, Virginia 7

Estimated Possessions: UMBC 63, Virginia 62

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: UMBC 184-189-170, Virginia 1-2-2

Market Watch: An opener of Virginia -22.5 was bet through the week down to -20.5, as the underdog had a constituency of sharps backing it, but this was not a favorite the public could love at a high price in what was expected to be a slow tempo game. 

If you watched…you know that…

*Jarius Lyles of UMBC was transcendent, scoring 28 points while only taking 11 shots from the floor. He was 6 of 7 on two-pointers, 3 of 4 on treys, and 7 of 9 on free throws. He looked like a magician on drives. Did any of his makes even hit the rim?

*Virginia played like it had a lobotomy on the way to Charlotte. Horrible offensive choices when panic started to set in. There’s no reason to go 4 of 22 on three-pointers when facing a #16 seed that should be vulnerable inside. Poor defensive rotations when Lyles was working his magic, or dishing to teammates who moved the ball well. 

The Cavs looked nothing like the team that dominated the powerful ACC all season. Tentative, cautious, lacking confidence. It was UMBC that played to win from the get-go…showing no fear when crunch time hit. 

Obviously a #16 beating a #1 is shocking all by itself. Hadn’t ever happened before. But, the manner of this shellacking was unprecedented. If a team was plus 2500 just to win the game…imagine what they would have been to win by 20!

One other major upset Friday worth running the numbers from…

Marshall (plus 13.5) 81, Wichita State 75

Two-point Pct: Marshall 51%, Wichita State 53%

Three Pointers: Marshall 9/23 Wichita State 8/29

Free Throws: Marshall 16/22, Wichita State 13/17

Rebounds: Marshall 30, Wichita State 44

Turnovers: Marshall 9, Wichita State 15

Estimated Possessions: Marshall 73, Wichita State 73

Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Marshall 114-125-124, Wichita State 20-15-11

Market Watch: An opening line of Wichita State -12 dropped initially to 11.5…but then the favorite was bet pretty hard through the week up to a closing line of -13 or -13.5. The opening total of 165 or 165.5 rose to as high as 168 before drifting back to 166.5 or 167 at most spots. 

Wichita State’s defense has been a big disappointment this season, particularly against opponents who know what they’re doing. You can see better than 50% allowed inside the arc, while also allowing 81 points in a game with just around 73 possessions. And, nine forced turnovers is a poor amount against a double-digit dog at such a fast pace. 

Wichita was flashing “pretender” red flags all season. So, it’s kind of distressing in analytics circles that ESPN’s BPI would have them #11 in the country entering the week, and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today would have them at #15. Shockers were great at running up the score on lousy teams. Marshall never blinked, and earned the win despite troubles on the boards (Wichita State was second in the nation in rebound rate entering the Dance…didn’t help them enough here. 

Marshall advances for a state rivalry game against West Virginia. 

A combo of Arizona and Wichita State was popular with pundits for deep runs in the Dance. Both were #4 seeds…and anyone who doesn’t want to just stick all the #1’s into the Final Four will look at this rung for danger teams. Problem is, both had lousy defenses by Dance standards. Arizona was #70, Wichita State #107. Two worst defenses among the 20 teams seeded 1-5. Very tough to ask that kind of team to string together wins. Big burden on the offenses, and lightning can strike them at any time. 

Before getting to our Saturday previews, let’s update our estimated “market” Power Ratings for the 32 survivors. We may have to tweak the late Friday finishers tomorrow when Sunday point spreads are out and settled. 

East Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Villanova 88, Purdue 84 (Haas out), West Virginia 84, Texas Tech 83, Florida 82, Butler 80, Alabama 77, Marshall 72.

South Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Cincinnati 84, Kentucky 83, Tennessee 82, Kansas State 78, Nevada 77, Buffalo 77, Loyola-Chicago 76, Maryland-Balt County 64 (with a bullet).

Midwest Estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Michigan State 86, Kansas 84, Auburn 82, Clemson 79, Seton Hall 79, Rhode Island 78, Syracuse 76. 

West Estimated “market” Power Ratings: North Carolina 84, Xavier 83, Gonzaga 83, Michigan 83, Ohio State 80, Houston 80, Texas A&M 78, Florida State 78.

Saturday NCAA Previews: Lack of Thursday upsets creates GREAT matchups

Let’s see what our Holy Trinity stats are suggesting about the eight games on Saturday’s card. Note that we’re using the same stat rankings as in the first round because those represent “entering the Dance,” and aren’t influenced by unbalanced early schedules (teams seeded 1-2 played cupcakes, while many others didn’t).


Villanova (-11/148.5) vs. Alabama (12:10 p.m. ET on CBS)

Alabama: #13 defense, #162 rebounding, #283 TO avoidance

Villanova #22 defense, #64 rebounding, #7 TO avoidance

Without looking at the stats, it’s easy to think the line is too high because of all the nailbiters Villanova has played lately against teams who know what they’re doing. But…what a squash in the stats! The difference in “smart” play on offense is about as big as you can see in this event. Villanova is also likely to win rebounding handily. So, Alabama will need to shoot GREAT when not turning the ball over to hang around. That could happen. Alabama shot 69% on two-pointers in its win over Virginia Tech (but turned the ball over 17 times). And, there’s a chance Villanova dominates for 35 minutes and slacks off with a big lead to bring the spread into play. Telling that the sharps didn’t tip their hand by attacking the dog early. Maybe they’re waiting for the public to drive the number higher. But, if quants thought 11 was way too high…we would have seen some nibbles. The stat lines are telling you its hard to trust Alabama vs. a top level opponent like Villanova. ‘Bama did lose 86-63 vs. Kentucky last weekend. 

Duke (-9.5/149.5) vs. Rhode Island (2:40 p.m. ET on CBS)

Rhode Island #38 defense, #148 rebounding, #21 TO avoidance

Duke #7 defense, #5 rebounding, #120 TO avoidance

A chance for this to get interesting because Rhode Island’s going to have the cleaner offense. Some analysts were slamming Rhode Island’s defense earlier this week. The Rams actually grade out well in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive analysis entering the Dance, then held Oklahoma to about a point-per-possession in Thursday’s overtime win. Can URI shoot over Duke’s new zone? Matching the 11 of 28 the Rams managed vs. OU would work for a cover here most likely. That’s volume, and 39% which is the same as 59% on two’s. Of the two dogs in Pittsburgh, the Holy Trinity approach is more optimistic about URI hanging around. 


Kansas (-4.5/154) vs. Seton Hall (7:10 p.m. ET on TBS)

Seton Hall #58 defense, #46 rebounding, #141 TO avoidance

Kansas #46 defense, #174 rebounding, #55 TO avoidance

If you’ve been following our estimated “market” Power Ratings the past few weeks, you know we had these teams further apart than today’s price. Kansas is either being docked for its injured center, or Seton Hall is getting a boost from squashing NC State. Have to admit the Holy Trinity washes out for the most part. Kansas doesn’t have “top seed” stat performance this season. Seton Hall’s likely rebound edge could matter a lot in a game with good defenses. Should Kansas get a boost for home state crowd? Sharps aren’t betting like that’s the case. 

Michigan (-3/134) vs. Houston (9:40 p.m. ET on TBS)

Houston #18 defense, #13 rebounding, #133 TO avoidance

Michigan #5 defense, #141 rebounding, #2 TO avoidance

Both teams closed the season well, making headlines in their conference tournaments. Relying just on the eye test in those events…both were at least Sweet 16 caliber teams. Michigan had the longer layoff, which seemed to be an issue in the first round. Houston may have been suffering a hangover from warring with Wichita State and Cincinnati on back-to-back days last weekend. The Holy Trinity washes out here as well. Could be an absolute classic. Tempting to give Michigan the edge at head coach because of tournament history…pushing it from a stat wash to “the number’s probably right.” Looking forward to this winner facing North Carolina (probably) in the Sweet 16. Maybe that’s the spot to step in. 


Tennessee (-5.5/130) vs. Loyola-Chicago (6:10 p.m. ET on TNT)

Loyola-Chi: #24 defense, #120 rebounding, #213 TO avoidance

Tennessee #4 defense, #99 rebounding, #140 TO avoidance

Tennessee’s a bit bitter in everything, which means its weaknesses aren’t really weaknesses in a game like this. Typically, the tournament smiles on the favorite in this sort of matchup because the dog doesn’t have any workable options. Whatever the dog wants to do, the favorite is a little bit better at it. Problem with laying points is that -5.5 is a lot for a game with a total of 130. As of Friday night, Tennessee ranked #271 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted pace (tempo adjusted for schedule), while Loyola ranked #315. So, this is going to be a slow, halfcourt game where it’s hard to run away from an opponent. In favor of the favorite, the SEC is getting some results in this event, and may not be properly rated by the market. On the other hand, Vols coach Rick Barnes has a way of making bettors furious in spotlighted games.  

Texas Tech (-1.5/134) vs. Florida (8:40 p.m. ET on TNT)

Florida #25 defense, #253 rebounding, #6 TO avoidance

Texas Tech #3 defense, #47 rebounding, #149 TO avoidance

Feels like every Florida game comes down to whether or not the Gators make their treys. They turn very mortal when they can’t, largely because that horrible rebound rate prevents them from getting extra chances. When the treys fall, opponents can’t keep up against a strong defense, particularly when cheap points aren’t available from turnovers. Solve the riddle of Florida’s three’s, and the game picks itself. 


Kentucky (-6/157) vs. Buffalo (5:15p.m. ET on CBS)

Buffalo: #138 defense, #81 rebounding, #51 TO avoidance

Kentucky #23 defense, #42 rebounding, #181 TO avoidance

We had these teams further apart in our estimated “market” Power Ratings too. Feels like the market is too excited about Buffalo’s win over Arizona, without accounting for how going 15 of 30 on treys warped the scoreboard. Something that extreme is unlikely to happen again…particularly against the high-level defense Kentucky’s been playing recently. Remember, Arizona has a soft defense by tournament standards. Historically, this is where Cinderella’s Porsche turns into a pumpkin in terms of #13 seeds coming off a big win. That’s bad news for Buffalo. Kentucky outshot Davidson 58% to 46% on two-pointers while outrebounding them 36-28…and using its athletes to earn a lot more trips to the FT line (26-14 in made free throws). Davidson’s probably better than Buffalo. Possibly the best handicapping mix of the day because “defense and rebounding” is aggressively against a dog due for a big letdown. 

Gonzaga (-3/143) vs. Ohio State (7:45 p.m. ET on CBS)

Ohio State #16 defense, #22 rebounding, #100 TO avoidance

Gonzaga #17 defense, #4 rebounding, #33 TO avoidance

Similar teams until you get to turnover avoidance. And, both had similar scares Thursday. Gonzaga trailed in the final minute to NC Greensboro. Ohio State was tied with South Dakota State. Our pre-tourney estimated “market” Power Ratings had it closer. But, Ohio State wasn’t in its best form lately, plus had a longer layoff. Can’t find any reasons to argue with the point spread. Winner still has time to get its act together to make a deep run in Xavier’s West regional. 

All told, clear potential for great basketball from noon to midnight. The closest thing to a harmonic convergence appears to be Kentucky, though its own turnover issues keep that from being any sort of lock. Best of luck with your choices. 

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See you Sunday morning with stat recaps from Saturday, and our Holy Trinity stats for Sunday’s matchups.  

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