From the Wrong Side of History to National Champions

Ben Dawson

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As the dust finally cleared and March Madness finally came to an end on April 8th, the Virginia Cavaliers were the ones celebrating under the confetti. UVA topped off a 35-3 season with their first ever championship title, defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in an overtime thriller. A story like theirs could not have been dreamed of even by the wildest of minds, and will go down in history as the most memorable turnarounds in sports history.

 

Playing in the ACC, one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, UVA has been a strong team for the better part of the last decade or so. While they may not get the national attention that Duke or North Carolina always receive, you can count on the Cavaliers to be a force to reckon with come March. The 2017-2018 campaign was a historic season, and UVA found themselves sitting as the Number 1 overall seed entering March Madness.

(Photo: UVA Athletics.com)

Looking at a match-up with the lowly University of Maryland Baltimore College (UMBC), over 99 percent of those filling out a bracket immediately penciled in the Cavaliers to move on to the next round. College Basketball Analyst Seth Davis even tweeted “Virginia. Sharpie” prior to the game. UMBC then proceeded to demolish the tourney favorites by 20 points, becoming the first ever 16 seed to defeat a 1 seed.

 

UVA left the court defeated, but came back the next year with a chip on their shoulder, cruising into yet another 1 seed spot in the tournament.

 

Defeating Gardner Webb University in their first game and handling Oklahoma University in round two, Cavaliers fans could breathe again as they survived the first weekend. In the Sweet 16, UVA needed some luck to escape the Oregon Ducks, requiring a last second shot and a clutch defensive stand to survive and advance. Fate continued to be on the side of the Orange and Blue, with a nail-biting overtime win over Purdue. Despite 45 points from Boilermaker star Carsen Edwards, UVA prevailed on the backs of a game tying buzzer beater by Mamadi Diakite to send the game into OT, where the Cavaliers outscored Purdue by 5.

 

(Photo: TheBlotMagazine.com)

Next came the Final Four, and a date with the red-hot Auburn Tigers. Once again, the “basketball gods” seemed to be on the side of Virginia. Down 2 with just over six seconds left, UVA star Kyle Guy was fouled on a 3 point attempt off of an inbound pass. Blocking out the pressure, Guy sunk all three free throws to put his team up 63-62 with less than a second on the clock (shown above). The Tigers could not get a shot up in time, and Virginia was headed to the championship game. (Auburn fans are also upset about a potential missed double-dribble call that would have given the ball back to the Tigers in the closing moments of the game).

 

Closing out the tournament with an overtime victory over Texas Tech, the Cavaliers were National Champions. Kyle Guy was named “Most Outstanding Player” of the tournament, and the city Charlottesville (where the University of Virginia’s campus is located) went crazy celebrating the championship.