Virginia’s Comeback

Virginia avenges last year’s loss to UMBC by winning the school’s first national title


Dev Doshi

Mr. Stokes in his Virginia National Champions T-shirt as he celebrates the win over Texas Tech

Dev Doshi, Writer

The University of Virginia’s men’s basketball team won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship game 85-77 against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on April 8, exciting Virginia fans at Carson.

Virginia’s title run began over a year before that date on March 16, 2018,  when they lost to the University of Maryland Baltimore Country (UMBC) Golden Retrievers 74-54 . That loss had made Virginia the first ever 1 seed to lose to 16 seed in the NCAA March Madness tournament. One keynote to make of that game is that they were without their second best player Deandre Hunter.                                                                                                                             

“I felt like they could’ve done better,” said RCMS student and Virginia fan Akshat Alok.

The next year in the 2018-19 season Virginia had an outstanding year as if they were trying to put the UMBC loss to bed. They finished with a 28-2 win-loss-record in the regular season. The only two losses in the regular season came to the Duke Blue Devils. But the regular season was never the hard part the postseason was.                                                                                         

Since 2009, under head coach Tony Bennett, Virginia had been labeled as “the team that chokes” in the NCAA tournament. They had always under performed in the March Madness tournament never making it to a Final Four. The worst of the games in the tournament had to be the one against UMBC.

“It feels like Virginia always chokes,” said Virginia alumnus Mr. Gordon Stokes

In the 2018-19 ACC tournament Virginia won the first game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack after falling behind early. In the second game Virginia ended up losing to the Florida State Seminoles, but they knew that wasn’t the end they still had the NCAA tournament.

“This was kind of disappointing after the good season but the NCAA tournament is what really mattered,” said Akshat.

In the 2018-19 tournament Virginia was a first seed again, which meant they had to play a 16 seed. In the tournament Virginia would be playing the South region. The 16 seed they were going to play was the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs.

“This year I think the likelihood of another upset is doubtful,” said Jai Agarwal, a college basketball fan and an RCMS student.

Early in the first half of the Gardner-Webb game, Virginia fell behind by 14 points. They pulled closer by halftime but still trailed 30-36. Virginia made adjustments like getting to the basket and being physical, and it paid off as they outscored Gardner-Webb 41-20 in the second half on the way to a 71-56 win. They had survived and advanced to the second round.

“I was having flashbacks to UMBC when they were down by 14,” said Mr. Stokes.

In the second round, they played a game against the Oklahoma Sooners. This Oklahoma game was short of drama, but Virginia came out with a win 71-59 to go on to the Sweet Sixteen.

“This was most likely the best played game out of all the tournament games,” said Akshat.

Virginia’s sweet 16 game was against the Oregon Ducks. Oregon was a 12 seed–the lowest seed remaining in the tournament. In a low scoring game, Virginia won 53-49 advancing them to the Elite Eight.   

In the Elite Eight game they were faced with a tall task against the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue was led by one of the top players in the country, Carsen Edwards. This game was tight the whole way until the end. When everybody thought Virginia was done Mamadi Diakite, a player on the Virginia team, made a floater to send the game to overtime as time on the clock expired. Virginia won this thrilling game 80-75, as Virginia advanced to their first final four under Coach Tony Bennett.

“There was a moment I thought they were done and were going eliminated,” said Jai.

In the final four they played the Auburn Tigers, five seed. Virginia looked like they had run away with it with 5 minutes, left but Auburn came back and took the led with little time left. In the last minute the impossible happened. The referees seemed to miss a controversial double dribble that would’ve ended the game. Then on the final shot of the game Virginia down two passed it to Kyle Guy for a three and he got fouled with .6 seconds left. He made all three free throws and Virginia won 63-62 to advance to the finals.

Photos courtesy of
Kyle Guy gets controversially fouled by Samir
Doughty (Left) with .6 seconds left and makes all
Three free throws to send Virginia to the championship

In the first final game in school history for Virginia they were matched up against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Virginia was down three with under a minute left until Deandre Hunter hit a clutch three. The game went into overtime where Virginia went 12-12 at the foul line on the way to winning 85-77 for the first title in school history.

“After this game I was thrilled because Virginia just won and I had just watch a great basketball game go into overtime,” said Akshat.

Arguably there were four player that could have been named the most outstanding player, but Kyle Guy won the award. Mamadi Diakite averaged 7.1 points per a game in the regular season, but stepped up in the tournament averaging 10.5 per a game. On the other hand Kyle Guy continued his clutch play all season, including the game winning free throws against Auburn, but had slump at the start of the tournament he busted out of against Purdue. Ty Jerome was always there when Virginia needed him making the big shot or the big pass. Finally Deandre Hunter, who was an NBA ready player all year, making play after play to help Virginia win.

“They all had their own game that they did good in,” said Jai.

In the time after the tournament Virginia has had four of their five starters declare for the NBA draft. The four starters that declared were Deandre Hunter, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and Mamadi Diakite(He can still withdraw from the draft). Virginia is still the favorite to repeat the title next year.

UMBC celebrates their once in a lifetime win while
the loss troubles Virginia’s Kyle Guy (Top) but just over
One year later Virginia poses to get their picture
Taken as the National Champions(Bottom).

“It will be hard for Virginia to repeat but they will still have a good year next year,” said Mr. Stokes.