OWINGS MILLS — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh cheered on UMBC the night it pulled off an historic upset over powerful Virginia.
He referenced one of the most unpredictable games in sports history while discussing his team’s surprisingly early exit from the playoffs Friday at his season-review news conference.
“I had somebody mention to me Virginia and UMBC. I was rooting for UMBC at the time, but I think those are things guys will relate to,” he said.
Virginia entered the 2018 NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 overall. A top seed had never lost to a 16-seed in the opening round.
The Retrievers made history that night, pulling the biggest upset in the tournament’s history, 74-54.
Baltimore’s 26-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday will not go down in the history books the same way, but the Ravens’ similarly posted the best record in the NFL this season before falling to the AFC’s lowest seed.
The year after becoming a laughingstock of sorts, coach Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers were college basketball’s national champions. Harbaugh sees no reason the Ravens can’t follow the same path.
“Our guys are tough, they’re resilient,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to start from the beginning. When we come back, we have this press conference when our guys come back, we’ll be talking about building the foundation and starting to stack one good day after another. That’s what we’ll do and try to build the very best team that we can and be the very best team we can be this next season. We’ll see where it takes us. Are we capable of winning the whole thing next year? Absolutely. Without question. Now, we’ve got to go do it.”
The loss to the Titans was one of the most disappointing in franchise history. Falling to the New England Patriots in the 2011 AFC Championship game, featuring a drop by wide receiver Lee Evans in the final minute and a missed 32-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff that would have forced overtime, likely sits atop the agony list for most fans.
Like the Virginia basketball team did a year ago, the Ravens rebounded to win the Super Bowl the following season.
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig