by Cameron Deloatch, i64sports
Last season, the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers faced off against #16 seed UMBC Retrievers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers got ran off of the floor in one of the most shocking upsets in tournament history.
Everyone started to question Tony Bennett’s Movers and Blockers offense and the flaws in the Pack Line defensive scheme. As a basketball fan, I personally don’t find Tony Bennett’s team style appealing but this year they found a way to win it all and redeem a very disappointing ending from last season.
Throughout the regular season, Virginia was able to lead the nation in scoring defense which was expected. They won the ACC regular season with their only two losses coming to Duke.
But in the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers took a tough loss to Florida State in the second round of the tournament. That loss started to stir up more questions about UVA’s legitimacy and their chance to win a national title.
In the big dance though, UVA can say they were one of the more fortunate teams but sometimes that’s what it takes to win a national championship. In the opening round of the NCAA tournament against Gardner-Webb, the Cavaliers were down by 6 at halftime and it showed signs of another upset. The Cavs eventually turned it around and won.
Fast forward a couple games later in the Elite 8. The Cavaliers were faced up against Carsen Edwards and Purdue. Virginia was able to withstand a 42 point explosion from by Carsen Edwards in overtime. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined for 49 points and a buzzer beater to from Mamadi Diakite to send the game into OT helped push the Cavaliers to the Final Four.
In their Final Four matchup against Auburn, Tony Bennett and his guys were pushed to the absolute limit as Auburn’s contrasting style gave UVA major problems. Even though the Tigers were down a man in forward Chuma Okeke (who had 20 points and 11 boards against UNC) they gave UVA all they could give. After surging from a 10-point deficit in the closing moments, the Auburn Tigers looked like they were going to punch their ticket to the National Championship.
A bad shot from Auburn led to a Kyle Guy three-pointer which led to a missed free throw by Jared Harper which led to the most controversial play of the tournament. As Ty Jerome was bringing the ball up court, he dribbled it off of his foot and then picked it back up which should’ve been a double dribble call but fortunately for UVA, they didn’t call it.
On the inbound, Kyle Guy received a screen as he got the pass in the corner and was fouled on a three-point attempt as time expired. Guy knocked down all three free throws and sent them into the National Championship game against Texas Tech.
In the National Championship, lottery prospect DeAndre Hunter had arguably his best collegiate game by pouring in 27 points and also holding Jarret Culver, who could be a top 5 pick in this years draft, to 15 points on a dismal 5-22 from the floor. Guy also came up huge, adding 24 points. Jerome picked apart the Red Raiders defense all night as he dropped 8 dimes to go along with 16 points to help UVA pull off one of the biggest redemptions in college basketball history.