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  • No one joined UMBC in the 16-Over-a-1 Club one year after the Retrievers shocked the world, but just the fact that three of them played close first halves showed the tide may be changing.
By Michael Beller
March 23, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. Less than two months later, a second runner, John Landy, doubled the club’s membership. By the end of 1955, three more joined them. Once it finally happened, the impossible became possible, and the Roger Bannister Effect was born.

Sixty-five years later, it has its parallel in the world of college basketball. When 16th-seeded UMBC toppled No. 1 Virginia last year, it did more than just make history and etch its name in the record books forever. It guaranteed that its successors on the bottom rung of the NCAA tournament wouldn’t have to hear that it couldn’t be done because it had never been done. It gave them all hope. It made the impossible possible.

No one joined the 16-over-1 Club this season. UMBC is still looking for its John Landy. But this year’s No. 16 seeds clearly believed they could be the second. That was easy to see here in Columbus, where the Iona Gaels—owners of a 17–15 overall record with three times as many losses in the MAAC as North Carolina had in the ACC—took a 38–33 lead over the Tar Heels into the locker room at halftime. It was just as easy to see in Columbia, S.C., where Virginia, in what had to feel like a repeat of its worst nightmare, trailed Gardner-Webb 36–30 at halftime. Per the TNT broadcast of North Carolina-Iona, Gardner-Webb and Iona were the first No. 16 seeds to lead their top-seeded opponents at halftime on the same day.

North Carolina and Virginia both quickly restored order after half time. The Tar Heels scored the first five points of the second half to immediately tie the game, reclaimed the lead with 18:01 left on the clock, and never gave it back, winning 88–73. Virginia similarly dominated right from the jump in the second half, opening it on a 14-2 run and taking the lead for good with 16:16 remaining in the game, cruising to a 71–56 victory.

The Gaels didn’t just muck the game up or catch the Heels on a bad night. They looked like they belonged with one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Minneapolis in a few weeks. They made ten threes in the first half. They held Luke Maye, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams to a combined 15 points on 6 for 22 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Asante Gist and Rickey McGill comprised, without question, a more productive backcourt than did the one led by Coby White, accounting for seven of the team’s threes, and 23 of its points. Iona was in the game not by default, but on its own making.

One year after UMBC inaugurated the 16-over-1 Club, it remains the only member. Iona and Gardner-Webb both proved on Friday, however, that the Retrievers may soon have company.

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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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