Rest easy, Virginia, UMBC isn’t heading back to the NCAA tournament

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The most notorious 16-seed in the history of the NCAA tournament won’t be heading back to the dance.

UMBC, which became a household name by stunning No. 1 overall seed Virginia in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, came up one win short of having a shot at creating even more history in 2019. The Retrievers fell to top-seeded Vermont in the championship game of the America East tournament Saturday, 66-49.

Though Virginia was UMBC’s most infamous March 2018 victim, Vermont also had its soul crushed by the Retrievers just days earlier. Playing in the same game and on the same court — UVM’s Patrick Gymnasium — a year ago, the Catamounts were stunned at the buzzer by UMBC’s Jairus Lyles, a shot which set the stage for an even bigger shocker less than a week later.

Vermont had beaten UMBC 23 straight times before Lyles’ heroics. The shot also sparked a bit of a role-reversal in the series, with the Retrievers winning both regular season meetings this season by a combined 22 points. The pair of upsets wound up being Vermont’s only two conference defeats of the season.

The old cliche about beating a team three times in the same season held true on Saturday. Vermont controlled the action from start to finish, and UMBC had zero answer for Catamount star Anthony Lamb. The recently named America East Player of the Year scored a game-high 28 points while also pulling down a team-high nine rebounds.

With Virginia once again seemingly locked in as a No. 1 seed and UMBC’s profile fitting that of a 16, there was at least the potential — depending on the sadistic level of this year’s Selection Committee — for the ultimate first round rematch. If it happens, it won’t be in 2019.

Vermont, which is now 27-6 overall and headed back to the tournament for the second time in three years, is a No. 13 seed in the latest bracket projection from Chris Dobbertean.

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