What’s a UMBC? Meet the school and basketball team that made NCAA Tournament history

Miami Herald Sports 6 months ago

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball team stunned the overall NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed Virginia and made history Friday night with a 74-54 first-round upset. UMBC did it with its stout defense, which came into the day giving up the fewest points in the nation.

Here’s what you may not know about the school and the team.

The team

UMBC belongs to the America East conference, and the 2018 tourney is the school’s second-ever appearance.

Guard Jarius Lyles has led the Retrievers all season, averaging just over 20 points per game and hitting on nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts.

His parents, he told the Kansas City Star after the game, went to Virginia.

“I think they wanted us to get the win,” Lyles told the newspaper.

He led all scorers with 28 points and hit three of his four 3-pointers against Virginia.

The Retrievers

Their mascot is a common pooch that seems to say, “We never expected this.”

A statue of a dog by the name of True Grit stands on campus in front of the Retriever Activities Center, and the more fluffy version of the costume Retriever mascot was once dubbed Fever the Retriever. If you want to get specific, the true breed of the school’s mascot is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

No one expected the win, except maybe the guy who was running the @UMBCAthletics Twitter account during Maryland-Baltimore County’s historic win over UVA, the first time in men’s tournament history that a 16-seed defeated the top-ranked team.

Basketball publication SLAM identified the tweeter as Zach Seidel, after he savagely pulled receipts on naysayers and turned the sass-level up to 11 on the account’s way to gaining 35,000 followers in one evening.

But even Seidel alluded to the masses’ lack of familiarity with UMBC on Twitter in his takedown of someone who directed a glancing slight against the Retrievers. “But we’re just a commuter school, right?” @UMBCAthletics tweeted.

Commuter School?

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County has long been trying to shake its commuter-school reputation, reported The Retriever, which is also the name of the school’s student newspaper.

According to UMBC’s own undergraduate admission figures, 70 percent of its 2017 freshman class lived on campus.

Those 1,772 freshmen, who were treated Friday night to the coolest thing that will ever happen to anyone who ever enrolled at UMBC, had an average GPA of 3.82.


But were any of them actually basketball fans before everybody in America became Retriever fans?

Welp, according to home attendance numbers, it doesn’t appear that many on campus would immediately identify as “the Retriever faithful.”

UMBC’s second home game of the season, played at the Retriever Activities Center, drew just 334 fans to the stands. OK, so that game fell on something called Thanksgiving. Average home attendance for the 2017-18 basketball season has been 1,155 butts in seats.

It all made for a kind of confused air of joy on campus when the clock hit 0:00 on the biggest win in school history.

“Where do we go?” someone on campus shouted from the wandering drove of undergrads who finally had something athletic to celebrate, reported the Baltimore Sun.

“To the commons!” quickly became the chant.

For context, the Retrievers are sometimes pretty good in their conference, the America East, at men’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball, and their men’s swimming and diving team is pretty dominant.

There is no football program at UMBC.


Yes, it’s true. UMBC became the first men’s basketball team seeded 16th in an NCAA Tournament to beat a No. 1 seed by knocking off Virginia. More than a quarter of entrants picked UVA to win the whole thing, by the way, according to CBSSports.

But the first-ever 16-seed to oust a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament came in women’s basketball, 20 years and just two days before the Retrievers became everyone’s very good boys.

That honor belongs to the Harvard Crimson, which beat Stanford in the first round of the tourney, 71-67, on March 14, 1988.

Coaching tree

Maryland-Baltimore County’s coach is Ryan Odom, son of Dave Odom, whose coaching career spanned from 1965 to 2008 with stops at South Carolina, Wake Forest, and, in the 1980s as an assistant at Virginia.

Dave Odom won three NIT championships but was perhaps best known for being the coach that recruited Tim Duncan from the U.S. Virgin Islands to play for Wake Forest.

Duncan went on to be a part of five NBA championship San Antonio Spurs teams.


Collegedata.com calls UMBC “moderately difficult” to get into for student admissions. Fifty-seven percent of 2017 applicants were admitted, down from 59 percent in 2015, according to the Princeton Review.

It costs in-state students $27,066 for tuition and room and board, and the average 2016 graduate walked away with $25,505 in debt, according to collegedata.com. The undergraduate population was 11,142 in 2017, 55.5 percent male, though diverse.

More than a quarter of the student population is Asian, and nearly a fifth are black students. The university was founded in 1966.

The Celebration

But if you have a Baltimore friend who got swept away in the moment, you may have heard what at first sounded like a line of unintelligible gibberish spewed from them.

“O’s, Stroh’s and Natty Boh’s!”

Even though it’s more of a baseball-season thing, it’s March. Baseball season is right around the corner, so they may have let fly with it.

The quintessential Baltimore phrase celebrates three things that natives like best about their town. Two of them are beers.

The O’s are the Baltimore Orioles, Stroh’s refers to an old brand of beer that was recently relaunched in Detroit, and Natty Boh is a shortened name for National Bohemian, which is another, perhaps ironically, celebrated brand of beer that is brewed in Baltimore but owned by Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Maryland-Baltimore County will face No. 9 seed Kansas State in the Round of 32 on Sunday.

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