The Friday action in Charlotte wraps up on TNT at about 9:20 EDT with No. 1 Virginia taking on No. 16 Maryland – Baltimore County. This unlikely pairing in many ways; here is what we mean.
It was no shocker Virginia was the top-seed in this region. However, UMBC had lost 23 in a row to American East regular season champion Vermont and had to play on the Catamounts home court last Saturday. But the Retrievers (that is their nickname) hung around, took several body blows from Vermont and was the more poised team in the last five minutes and won 65-62 as 10.5-point road underdogs.
The prize for completing this task, a trip to Charlotte to face the best team in the country all season in Virginia. The college basketball odds are stacked against UMBC as 21.5-point underdogs and being the 16th seed. Nonetheless, the Retrievers have nothing to lose and can play loose and maybe can cover for those having the courage to take them for college basketball picks.
Now more than ever preseason polls in college basketball are worthless. Virginia (31-2, 20-10 ATS) was not even ranked to start the year and all they did was thoroughly dominate the ACC. Nobody plays the Pack-Line defense like the Cavaliers, in part because nobody teaches it like Tony Bennett. Virginia plays defense like an orchestra, with every player on the floor having a job to do wherever the ball is. When you finish No.1 in scoring defense (53.4 PPG) and No.3 in field goal percentage allowed (37.5%), you are doing something right.