In the NCAA tournament, coach Ryan Odom says only a “special group” can upset a No. 1 seed.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On the five-year anniversary of UMBC’s historic upset of Virginia State, which became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, former UMBC coach Ryan Odom is back. At the big dance.

In his second year as Utah’s head coach, Odom is back in a relief role — No. 10 Utah State plays at No. 7 Missouri — but he knows it won’t be the same in 2018.

“Will 16 beat 1 again? I have no idea,” Odom said. “It takes a special group. It takes a lot of luck to have a chance to win any game in the NCAA Tournament.”

And, in some cases, just to get to the tournament. So as special as the 74-54 win against Virginia was, Odom said, the team’s win against Vermont in the conference tournament final to reach the NCAA Tournament was “even more special.”

“It’s a moment to remember forever with the group of people that I’ve been blessed to coach with and coach with the players,” Odom said.

After beating New Mexico in the Mountain West last week, Odom went to bed after midnight and woke up to a flurry of text messages starting at 5 a.m. It was a group text started by a former UMBC assistant coach. – One year anniversary of UMBC qualifying for the tournament.

“I couldn’t go back to sleep,” Odom said. “This time of year, honestly, it’s hard to sleep when you’re a basketball coach all year. I started looking at my phone. I just laughed, not emotionally.

“… It was really fun because it reminded me why we do it and why we train. It’s about interaction, about having special memories.”

Expectations are different in Utah. The Aggies are playing in their 23rd NCAA Tournament — the most of any team in the Mountain West — and are making it their fourth straight as an at-large team.

Two former UMBC players now play for Utah, including Dan Akin, who started for the Terriers against Virginia. Two others, Stephen Ashworth and Max Shulga, played for Utah in the 2021 tournament against Texas Tech.

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