Fresh off of a very exciting conference championship win over the University of Vermont, punctuated by a buzzer-beating three, the 16-seeded University of Maryland, Baltimore County is set to square off with 1-seeded University of Virginia this Friday. While the Retrievers will likely put up a valiant fight, the odds are anything but in their favor.
Let’s preface this brief analysis with a factoid: No 16-seeded men’s team has ever beaten a 1-seed in the 79-year history of the NCAA Tournament. (It did happen in the women’s tourney in 1998, when Harvard knocked off Stanford.)
And while some of the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight are saying one 16-seeded men’s squad has some of the best odds ever to pull of a win this Thursday, that team is not UMBC. (It’s Penn.)
ESPN’s Power Basketball Index gives the Retrievers just a 1.5 percent chance of victory when they take the court against the Cavaliers this Friday. The BPI ranks teams based on strength, pace of play, location, travel distance, rest and altitude, and then simulates their matchups 10,000 times to bolster those calculations.
Betting-wise, the Retrievers are 22.5-point underdogs in Vegas. One small silver lining: If you’re a betting individual, you could still win some money if UMBC keeps it even relatively close.
UVA is 3-0 all-time against UMBC. They most recently played in 2005, when the Wahoos beat the Retrievers 77-66.
Some other trivia to know, per The Roanoke Times: UMBC head coach Ryan Odom worked as an assistant coach for UVA from 1982-89, and UVA head coach Tony Bennett remembers UMBC star player Jairus Lyles from his time playing ball in Virginia, where he suited up for Virginia Commonwealth University before transferring north.
“I know [Lyles] is a heck of a player,” Bennett said, according to the newspaper. “He’s really good and averaging a ton of points.”
While the odds may seem long, March Madness is special because anything can happen. Keep that in mind this Friday while watching Maryland’s lone collegiate team in the tournament trying to make history against this year’s favorite to win it all. The teams face off at 9:20 p.m. on TNT.