Cavaliers go overtime for redemption

MGN Online The Virginia Cavaliers won their first NCAA championship crown in Minneapolis on April 8.

There is nothing that quite compares to the memory of a first kiss, your first love or your first championship. The Virginia Cavaliers will never forget Minneapolis where they became champions of men’s college basketball after surviving the determined, tenacious, and hounding pressure of Texas Tech to win their first NCAA Crown.

History will say that the 35-3 Cavaliers were the best team all year— one of three teams from the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference seeded number-one in the field of 68 teams, favored to reach the Final Four. North Carolina and Duke lost on the road to Minneapolis, so Virginia came to town the clear favorites as, I like to say, “paper champions.”

They are champions now for all-time, after winning one of the most controversial Final Four games in recent history over poor Auburn.

In the final seconds, the clock was showing 0.00 when the U.S. Bank Stadium P.A. announcer said Auburn 62-Virginia 60. Hold the phone!

Virginia guard Kyle Guy was fouled on his last-second three-point attempt with 0.6 seconds left. Guy had ice in his veins like a surgeon with a steady hand. He made all three free throws. And Virginia escaped 63-62. Should the official in that situation have called a foul that late? History will always ask that question.

Earlier, Texas Tech put the clamps on Michigan State 61-51 in the other National Semi-Final. The Spartans, the Big Ten Champions, upset Duke 68-67 in the Elite 8 and ruined virtually 70 percent of three million tournament brackets. The Zion Williamson circus, Duke College’s player of the year, never got to town.

Instead, on Monday night, CBS got exactly what it needed: a competitive and exciting championship game that went to overtime with no big-name heavyweight schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas in sight.

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Left standing were two teams, Texas Tech, and Virginia, with no championship history between them and from smaller regions of the country. Why would a national TV audience be compelled to watch them?

Virginia led throughout the title game building huge leads by upwards of 10 points in both the first and second halves. But, relentless Texas Tech kept fighting back using their bench advantage to grab a 68-65 lead with 22 seconds left.

Coach Tony Bennett called time out and Virginia got the ball in the hands of the hot-handed De’Andre Hunter, a future NBA lottery pick. He hit the 22-foot 3-point shot to tie the game 68-68 with 1.0 seconds left.

The championship

Overtime on Monday night for the National Championship? Do you think Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard is second-guessing himself today about not fouling Virginia before the game-tying three made by Hunter?

Virginia ran away from Texas Tech in overtime to win it 85-77. Hunter had five points in the first half. He scored 22 of his game-high 27 points during the second half and overtime and hit seven of eight shots.  He was unstoppable!

Guy was also steady with 24 points. He was named the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Virginia also outrebounded Texas Tech 39-32 and beat the Red Raiders up the floor in transition and got good looks at threes. They made 11 of 24 three-point shots.

It’s the third time (Duke twice) the Atlantic Coast Conference school has come to Minneapolis and won the NCAA Championship Final Four. The ACC has now won 11 NCAA titles since 1985, the Big East has won eight, the South Eastern Conference has won six, the Big Ten won three and the Pac-12 two.

The Twin Cities did a great job hosting the Final Four; many people told me they love it here and that they had a great time. Don’t you love it?

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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