”Ladies and gentleman, your 2018 America East champion UMBC Retrievers!” bellowed assistant athletic director Mike D’Archangelo. Behind him the front doors of the RAC opened, and graduate-guard Jairus Lyles led his team out, as they processed toward the UMBC team bus.
Surrounding them on both sides were fans holding black and gold pom-poms, and the UMBC cheerleaders they moved onward towards the drop off circle where the bus awaited them. The team boarded the bus, and the fans cheered as they prepared to make their journey toward BWI to fly to the NCAA tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina.
”We brought respect back to the UMBC brand, making it to the conference finals and NCAA tournament. Our support was huge this year, we brought respect back [to UMBC basketball] and national prominence to the UMBC brand. It was our family, friends, and fans who came out each game and supported us through and through, so to see people come and show us love means so much and shows were building something special here and doing it the right way,” said sophomore-forward Arkel Lamar.
As the fans cleared, the door to the large bus closed, and police sirens filled the air as the Retrievers’ police escorts lead them around the traffic circle that separates Hilltop Circle, and the onramp to I-195 and onto the highway toward the airport.
After the Retrievers land, they will have two days to prepare for March Madness. They have a tall task in front of them, as they will take on the No. 1 overall Virginia Cavaliers, who boast a modest +22.5 point line over the Retrievers. Can the Retrievers be the first ever 16 seed team to win a game in the NCAA tournament?
That question will be answered on Friday night at 9:20 p.m. Retriever fans have already bought all available bus tickets to Charlotte. Any other devoted fans can either watch on TNT, or take a road trip to cheer on UMBC.