By Staff Writer Ben Pfeffer.
A top seed has never lost to a bottom seed in March Madness history… until 2018 when the Virginia Cavaliers set a record low and lost to the UMBC Retrievers in the first round of the tournament. They were determined to erase this bad memory from their school’s existence by redeeming themselves the next season. That is exactly what they did.
In the 2019 March Madness tournament, Virginia was again ranked a 1 seed and therefore had to play Gardner-Webb, a 16 seed, in the round of 64. At a point in the first half, the Cavaliers were down by 14 points and everyone thought, “oh my god it’s happening again.” But, the Cavaliers stayed calm this time and focused because they knew they were the better team and needed to prove it to the world. They went on to win 71-56 with De’Andre Hunter leading the game as the top scorer with 23 points.
The next game was in the round of 32. Virginia finally had an easily won March Madness game against 9 seeded Oklahoma. They won 63-51, leading the scoring in both halves of the game. Mamadi Diakite, who normally starts on the bench, started against Oklahoma and went on to lead the team in scoring with 14 points that game.
Virginia then made it to the sweet-16 and had to play against the under-seeded Oregon Ducks, seeded 12. This game was a very low scoring game. Oregon held Virginia to shooting only 36% and allowed them to only score 53 points. However, Virginia’s renowned defense held off Oregon even more than Oregon held off them. Virginia held the Ducks to only 49 points giving them a 53-49 victory. They made it to the regional final, the elite 8.
Virginia’s next opponent was the most difficult yet, the Purdue Boilermakers. This was the most exciting and nerve-racking game for both sides. Carsen Edwards of the Boilermakers carried his team and scored 42 points. The Cavaliers were down by 2 with seconds remaining and Mamadi Diakite scored a 2-point buzzer-beater tie it 70-70 and make it to overtime.
Virginia outscored Purdue 10-5 in overtime and ended up winning 80-75. Star player from Virginia, Kyle Guy, had not been scoring up until this game, but he showed up when it counted. After going down with an ankle injury in the first half, Guy scored 5 three pointers and 25 points in total and lead his team while Ty Jerome scored 24 points with 4 three pointers. Virginia had lived up to its 1 seeding this year and redeemed itself from last year’s embarrassment.
Virginia was in the final four. The next opponent was 5-seeded Auburn. This game had an even crazier finish than the Purdue game. Virginia gave up a ten-point lead and went down by four. Then, Kyle Guy made a three to make it a one-point game with 7.6 seconds left. Auburn then had fouls to give and did so. On one of them, it looked as if Ty Jerome may have double-dribbled, but he also might have been fouled before that happened. Either way, there was no call against either team.
Guy got the ball in the corner with 1.5 seconds left, down by 2 (62-60). He then shot a three pointer… and missed. End of the tournament for Virginia? Auburn was celebrating, and the PA announced even said that Auburn had won, but Guy knew immediately why the referee blew his whistle.
It was a foul on Auburn because. He was fouled by the Auburn Tiger bumping into him after blocking the shot. He had three foul shots to win the game. He made the first two, then Auburn called a timeout in an attempt to ice him, but it didn’t work. He made the final shot to go ahead 63-62. Auburn attempted a final shot and missed. Virginia had won and made it to the finals.
In the finals, the cavaliers went up against Texas Tech. It was back and forth many times in the game. Towards the end of regulation, Texas Tech was up 68-65. Hunter then got wide open and drained a three pointer. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech’s star player, missed a three to win the game and that ended regulation with it being tied 68-68. Another overtime game for Virginia and the first overtime in the finals since 2008.
In overtime, the Cavaliers simply outplayed Texas Tech. Virginia got head when Texas Tech had to start fouling. The Cavaliers scored all 12 of their 12 free throw opportunities in overtime and outscore Texas Tech 17-9 putting them up 85-77 and securing the national title. Hunter lead the team with 27 points while Guy followed with 24 points.
Virginia had silenced the critics and turned a loss against a 16 seed into a win in the championship. Virginia had won its first national title in school history.