Resilient Cavs Snatch the Crown

Tonight, I've got nothing prepared. This will be a stream of conscious thoughts on one fantastic final game.

As I'm beginning to write this, it's been about two minutes since the final buzzer sounded and Virginia's players spilled onto the floor in mass celebration in Minneapolis. It was said over and over on TV but it can't be said enough. Virginia's run to the title is a test of resilience that no team has ever faced. It is simply astonishing for the Cavaliers to be 2019 National Champions.

It's not because of the talent. My gosh, the backcourt of Jerome and Guy proved they were as good as anyone in the country (with the exception of maybe Harper and Brown at Auburn). It certainly wasn't due to a weakness in coaching. Tony Bennett was sensational all season and when it mattered, he put his trust in the right players at the right times and it paid off in spades.

It was that this team faced a mental challenge like none other. The only top seed to lose to a 16-seed. A 6-5 record in the NCAA tournament over the last five years, despite being seeded no worse than third.

The Hoos had the reputation of being the team most likely to lay an egg in the tournament. They had earned it; they'd done it so many times before. But for this team, to face the ghosts of UMBC for not just a tournament, but an entire season and win the whole thing? Amazing.

There's an old adage that says it's better to be lucky than good.

Virginia was both.

Yes, they were good enough to win the national title. But wow, the bullets they dodged. Purdue had them down for the count, only to see Ryan Cline miss a huge free throw and Virginia tie it on a wild shot off of a miraculous passed caused by a deflection. Then, they held off the Boilers in overtime to reach Minneapolis.

They dodged the bullet that everyone in east Alabama will talk about for decades ... the no-call on a double dribble, only to get a foul call (and it was a foul) that sent Kyle Guy to the line for three. And, with a blood type of pure ice, he nailed all three shots.

Again, a lot of lucky breaks. Also again, the resilience of Virginia was tested and they passed. That was a pressure moment right up there with sudden death at the Masters or penalty kicks at the World Cup. And Guy's shots didn't even hit the rim as they passed through.

Tonight, they dominated for most of the game, totally putting a clamp down on the Texas Tech offense. I kept waiting for Tech to make their run. For awhile, it seemed like that run would never arrive. And then, in the waning moments, it did.

Gritty ain't pretty often. But it is with Texas Tech. And it was a beautiful last three minutes of regulation from the Raiders, who were mere seconds from tasting their first national title. But once again, when resilience was tested, Virginia answered. This time, it was De'Andre Hunter hitting the biggest shot of the night to send it into overtime, where the Cavs defense stymied Texas Tech one last time.

This was a fantastic ending to the season. No doubt, Texas Tech will be back. Chris Beard has proven that he's one of the elite coaches in the game, and he has something very special brewing in Lubbock. What they did in this tournament, knocking out Gonzaga and winning the state of Michigan, was thoroughly impressive.

But this was Virginia's night. It was their tournament. It was their year; a year of redemption that won't be soon forgotten.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site