BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For the first time since 2008, University of Maryland Baltimore County is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
The Retrievers learned Sunday night they’ll take on top-seeded Virginia in the first round Friday.
“This is the best time in the history of UMBC, ” UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski III said during Selection Sunday.
UMBC is the only Maryland team in the men’s tournament this year, and Coach Ryan Odom calls this a storybook ending that isn’t over yet.
“We certainly are excited that UMBC is representing our area, and we’re going to do our best,” Odom said.
The Retrievers punched their ticket Saturday, stunning fans by taking down perennial American East powerhouse Vermont with a thrilling three-pointer by Jarius Lyles.
“Everyone was holding their breath and as soon as that swish happened, we just went crazy!” UMBC senior and cheerleader Nailah Turner said.
At UMBC Sunday, loyal fans and students filled with excitement and anxiousness packed the Commons for a selection show watch party.
“I’m ready for it. I think we can beat any team that’s coming in front of us, so let’s go,” junior Kiran Williams said.
UMBC, an underdog team headed into their first matchup, hopes to stare down one of the most dominant defensive teams in college basketball.
“We’re ready for everything. We come to games with expectations to win. Like, we’re not afraid of nobody,” senior guard K.J. Maura said.
Still, players say they’re living a dream — marching headstrong into March Madness.
“It’s crazy, man. It’s just one of those lifetime things that you say to yourself as a child, ‘Man, I want to get there one day.’ And we finally get here. So it’s a blessing,” senior guard Jourdan Grant said.
UMBC now heads to Charlotte, North Carolina to face off against Virginia.