“Virginia-Comeback from a Burden”
You cannot imagine what the burden must have been like.
The University of Virginia lived with it, not just the challenges of the NCAA tourney, not just the rigors of the so very tough Atlantic Coast Conference, not just the national expectation, and surely not the non-stop questions that followed this team everywhere.
Virginia beat Texas Tech to win the NCAA title on Monday night, grinding their way to an overtime win. They held off the spirited comebacks in both the first half and second half, to finally put the Red Raiders away in overtime.
But it was more than just a 45-minute marathon of tough guy basketball. It was more than withstanding the barrage of 3’s. It was more than the emotional mood swings of seeing a 9-point lead in the opening half, and a 10-point bulge in the second half disappear.
Virginia carried a year long legacy of the worst moment you could ever imagine in March Madness history, losing a year ago to Maryland-Baltimore County. You remember that, a number 1-seed losing to a number 16-seed in a lst round game in 2018.
Oh the disgrace. Oh the despair. Oh how could that happen. It happens the first weekend of each spring, some lower seed rises up and punches the better seeded team in the mouth.
But Virginia had to carry all that around in the pit of their stomach for a full calendar year.
From preseason workouts at University Hall, to the start of the non-conference schedule, thru the meat grinder that is the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, on thru the ACC tourney, and then the last three weekends of this tournament.
The questions of how-why never ceased. The answers were standard. Bad day, bad outing, red hot opponent. We have moved on but have not forgotten.
Never wilted, never gave up, never made excuses, just owned it They lost and they would never forget. They would dedicate every minute of this season to rectify what happened.
And did they ever.
Tony Bennett’s defense. The explosiveness of DeAndre Hunter, the shooting of Ty Jerome, and the spit and shots made by Kevin Guy. It made it all possible on a Monday night in Minneapolis.
Texas Tech was trying to do something that had not been done in the Lone Star State since the 1960s, have a team from that state win the tourney. That was really a long time ago, back in the day, the Texas Western historical win, led by Don Haskins, and 5-black starters, something that had never been done before. Lots of basketball historians respect and do remember “Glory Road”.
They got close, but they couldn’t stop U-Va.
11-straight free throws in overtime. Hunter’s huge baskets at the end of regulation and the start of overtime set the stage for the sprint to the table to get the NCAA trophy.
The albatross of last year has been removed. Replaced by Orange & Blue confetti, championship hats with a “V” on it, V for victory, V for Virginia.
And the best yet, virtually all those starters will return next season.
What a comeback, not just against Texas Tech, but against UVa history.
No one could believe it would happen, but the University of Virginia did, and they got it done.
The believe now not just in Charlottesville, but in Richmond and Williamsburg, Lynchburg to Front Royal, Staunton to Lexington, probably everywhere but maybe Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech.
And to quote Jim Nance and his CBS-TV crew, after all the last second heroics, “how good is this” as they headed to overtime.
Yes Virginia, there is a Christmas. The ghosts of Christmas pasts are gone. It came in April, an NCAA basketball title.