BY BRANDON WENNER / VN STAFF WRITER
Virginia turned the humiliation of 2018 into immortality on Monday.
About a year ago, Virginia became the first and the only number-one seed to lose to a number-16 in tournament’s history, as falling to the UMBC Retrievers, 74-54, in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
This year, Virginia looked in trouble again.
In the Elite Eight, Purdue led Virginia, 70-67, with 5 seconds left in regulation.
In the Final Four, Auburn led Virginia, 61-57, with 17 seconds left in regulation.
In the national championship game, Texas Tech led Virginia, 68-65, with 12 seconds left in regulation.
All three of those games have something in common: Virginia triumphed
On Monday, April, 9, the Virginia Cavaliers won their first national championship after defeating Texas Tech in overtime, 85-77, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The tournament has come to a close now and, as usual, it brought along heartbreak and tears, as well as fist pumps and jumps for joy.
There were no perfect brackets submitted by college basketball fans again this year; in fact only 0.02% of people correctly predicted the Final Four of Michigan State, Texas Tech, Virginia and Auburn.
Northern Kentucky, which represented the Horizon League this year, fell to Texas Tech, this year’s runner-up, in the first round.
In the second round and in the Sweet Sixteen, University of Central Florida and Virginia Tech, respectively, came up short in their attempts to upset the illustrious Duke Blue Devils and head coach Mike Krzyzeweski due to missed go-ahead buckets in the final seconds of regulation in both games.
The Michigan Wolverines failed to reproduce their 2018 tournament run, when they ended as runner-up, but they were able to make their fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance in seven years before falling to Texas Tech in a defensive showdown, 63-44.
The Red Raiders held the Wolverines to their lowest scoring game ever in tournament history, and the first half was clear evidence as to how strong both defenses played as it ended 24-16 in favor of Texas Tech.
Michigan State made its first Final Four appearance since 2015 – eighth in 24 years under head coach Tom Izzo – before losing to Texas Tech, 61-51.
This insured that this year’s championship game would not feature a school from North Carolina or Michigan for just the second time since 2012.
Before advancing to the Final Four, the Spartans had to upset this year’s number-one overall seed, Duke, in the Elite Eight, which they did thanks to a game-winning three-pointer from fifth-year senior Kenny Goins. It completed Izzo’s second win against Krzyzewski and his first since 2005.
After facing much adversity over the season, Michigan State finished the season on a 14-2 run, including three wins against Michigan, were crowned co-champions of the B1G for conference play (16-4) and captured the B1G Tournament title.
Point guard Cassius Winston finished the season by earning himself the B1G Player of the Year Award as well as being named to the Associated Press First-Team All-America.
Despite an earlier-than-hoped-for exit for the Wolverines and Spartans, they had the furthest thing from a disappointing season as they both finished with 30 or more wins.
As it goes every year, there were disappointing endings for teams with high hopes.
The number-one seed from the Midwest region, North Carolina, was dominated in the Sweet Sixteen, 97-80, by number-five seed Auburn and head coach Bruce Pearl, former head coach of the Detroit Titans’ Horizon League opponent UW-Milwaukee.
Tennessee suffered a heartbreaking loss to Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen due to a controversial shooting foul on a three-point attempt from Carsen Edwards, the Boilermakers’ star point guard, with two seconds left.
This gave Edwards the chance to tie the game for Purdue and send the game to overtime, where they held off the Volunteers, 99-94.
Purdue’s drama continued. The Boilermakers fell short in their Elite Eight matchup with Virginia when Mamadi Diakite, the Cavaliers’ 6’9” forward, hit a buzzer beater to send the game to overtime where Virginia pulled away with the victory, 80-75.
Purdue’s Edwards, who recently declared for the 2019 NBA Draft, was the standout performer of the tournament.
Edwards led all scorers in the tournament with 139 points on 45.1% shooting over Purdue’s four-game tournament run. He had 26 points vs. Old Dominion, 42 vs. Villanova, 29 vs. Tennessee and 42 vs. Virginia.
A near-identical situation occurred in the Final Four matchup between Auburn and Virginia.
A shooting foul was called on a three-point attempt by Virginia guard Kyle Guy with 0.6 seconds left in regulation, two points in favor of Auburn.
The three made free-throws from Guy sent Virginia to its first national championship in school history, with the game ending just out of Auburn’s grasp, 63-62.
The three-week tournament’s drama certainly did not disappoint, giving credibility to the March Madness nickname.
For those who failed to end their season the way they had hoped, as the saying goes, “there’s always next year.”