Days, minutes, even seconds before March Madness began, fans across the country frantically filling out their brackets to compete with their friends and co-workers. Some have been watching games all year and can expertly name players and coaches by heart. Some don't have the time to fill out the bracket on their own so they let the computer choose for them. And still, others have never seen a game in their life but are reluctant to miss out on the fun.
But nobody saw UMBC coming. A small school that had only made it to the NCAA tournament once before this year with no McDonald's All-American level players competing against a team that many had picked to win the entire tournament.
Just by watching the UMBC Retrievers play, you could tell that they gave it their everything. They played with so much heart and so much love for the game. They refused to be intimidated by the odds that no 16 seed had ever beaten a one seed before.
All the while, as the game went on, another star broke out onto the scene. The UMBC Athletics Twitter page. Their tweets matched our surprise, our excitement, and even an intense desire to be respected for their accomplishment. Before the game began, the UMBC Athletics twitter account had 5k followers. Right now, they have 107k followers.
UMBC captured the hearts of the viewing public across America. The Cinderella run, the rags to riches, the idea that any person can overcome a deficit of talent with hard work. UMBC represented a lot of Americans. They reminded us to never give up and to never sleep on those who are hungry for more.
And that didn't end when they lost to Kansas State. If anything, seeing how well they played against Kansas State only reinforced their right to be in the tournament. This was no fluke. To say that luck played no part in their win against Virginia would be presumptuous but regardless, UMBC made history that night. And for the group of seniors that had given everything to their program for four years, they walked off the court with their heads held high, listening to the applause come from every corner of America.
Remember the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers. This isn't the last we'll hear of them.