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Two locals try to beat history & the odds today

UMBC and Mount St. Mary's, playing in their NCAA Tournament opening rounds this afternoon and tonight, respectively, are hoping to accomplish what Belmont nearly did yesterday against Duke.  The Bruins, a No. 15 seed, came within one point of knocking off No. 2 seed Duke. Holding a lead with less than a minute to play and three opportunities to go ahead at the end, Belmont should have won that game but let the Blue Devil get away, 71-70.

Now, the UMBC Retrievers (a No. 15) playing against Georgetown (a No. 2) at 2:55 p.m. and the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers taking on No. 1 overall seed North Carolina at 7:10 p.m. have to hope there's a little of that upset magic left for them. The Mount is the last team to get into the tournament as a result of its play-in victory over Coppin State and the Tar Heels are the No. 1 seed overall. What UMBC and Mount St. Mary's certainly want to avoid is the embarrassment of Mississippi Valley State (No. 16) which lost to UCLA (No. 1) by 41 points yesterday, 70-29.

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Since the tournament went to 64 teams, just four No. 15 seeds have won in the first round and exactly zero No. 16 seeds have won (that's 0-92). The last time a No. 15 knocked off a No. 2 was in 2001 when Hampton did it to Iowa State by a point. Four years earlier, Coppin upset South Carolina.

In Las Vegas, UMBC is about a 17-point underdog and the halftime spread is about 10 points while Mount St. Mary's is about a 25-point underdog and the halftime spread is about 14 points.

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