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Home / Sports / 2019 NCAA Tournament championship: Virginia completes epic journey from last year's ugly exit to win its first title

2019 NCAA Tournament championship: Virginia completes epic journey from last year's ugly exit to win its first title

MINNEAPOLIS – Only college basketball could give us something so storybook – too rich for movies; too perfect for documentaries – like Virginia winning the 2019 NCAA championship.

On Monday night inside Bank Stadium, UVA coach Tony Bennett, humbly seated on his stool, dropped his head in blissful victory, the weight of his own desires and dreams finally vaporizing around him, as the game clock expired and Virginia Cavaliers completed the greatest redemption arc in college hoops history.

Virginia's 85-77 overtime triumph against Texas Tech and its no. 1

-rated defense came in at undeniably epic, and historic, 2019 national title game, just the eighth ever to require OT. Virginia's first championship in school history and Bennett's first title as a coach completes the circle, the curvature of which started on March 16, 2018, when no. 1 jumpsuit seed UVA lost by 20 points to no. 16 UMBC and became the most infamous loser in NCAA Tournament history.

Bennett and his Cavs teamed up to win the Raiders team that was agonizingly close to winning its first national title.

"I'm thankful in a way for what happened because it did, it drew me closer, most importantly, to my faith in the Lord, drew me closer to my wife and children, just because you realize what's unconditional," Bennett said Monday night. "In those spots when the world's telling you you're a failure, you're a loser, and you're the worst thing going on, and all that stuff, you say, OK, what really matters? in a way. "

The scenes about the stadium were indelible as the title was clinched. Kyle Guy leaks through the air, goofy grin and all, and De'Andre Hunter throws the ball seemingly halfway to the ceiling as the clock hits all-zeros. Bennett was hugged by his assistant, Jason Williford, every UVA player and coach convened on the court – except one.

Ty Jerome was cry-smiling as he climbed over the bench to get to his family first. They, and hundreds of others in the Virginia fan section, were drenched in tears. Confetti falling, streams of gold and silver draping Virginia and its fans in victory. The Bennett family, seven rows back, bear-hugged This was catharsis.

Virginia junior guard Kyle Guy

It also felt inevitable.

"The whole time I We were going to win, "Laurel Bennett, Tony's wife, said. He said, 'I want to win.' 'I just thought it was going to happen a national championship more than ever before. "http://www.cbssports.com/"

The images of UMBC's The dichotomy of 2018 vs. 2019 is phenomenal and appropriate (the University of Virginia was founded in 1819) win a live forever as part of the power and stun-factor of march, as wants Virginia's slouched-over grief. "This is a baptism by championship."

"Joy is in competition," Guy said. "But to (bennett) a national championship and do it for him, the program, and our families, it means the world, and I wish the words, but it still does not feel real. "

A peaceful, thankful, joyful Dick Bennett soaked in the scene on the court afterward He did not come for Saturday's semifinal win over Auburn, but he was not missing this, be it in a win or a loss.

"Words they are not very accurate when they say, "he said, later adding," the thrill is worth the anguish, believe me. "

Virginia responding to the loss to UMBC by winning 35 of its 38 games this season masterful. The Cavaliers needed strokes of luck, sure, but they earned and deserved this. Things got dark, if not bizarre, after the UMBC loss, much more than some might even realize.

"The team got these death threats," Laurel Bennett said. They did come back to the hotel, they came in a side door, a policeman went up with each of them to their rooms. "

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<p></span><figcaption class= Tony Bennett cut the last strands of the net after leading UVA to thenational title.

It exacerbated the situation. In the days and weeks after, Tony and Laurel decided for their family and for that program that the loss would be the start of something positive. It had to. No matter what the next season would bring, 3/16/18 would not define Virginia basketball.

In light of this win, though, it has. It's the ultimate example of popping back up after getting knocked down. This story has no parallel in the history of American sports.

"We had so many talks and they were all good," Laurel Bennett said. "They were hard and he was upset, but it was perspective, what really matters, what that meant, what we would learn from it." Already thinking about this is going on to talk about forever He had that interview about the man in the arena, and I think people were more struck by that response to a loss than they've ever been or ever wishing to say something about a win. "

On Monday night, Bennett was the man in the arena – the biggest of them – and the one on about conquer the incredible.

And of course it had to be like this. After the magical escape against Purdue in the Elite Eight; Kihei Clark's pass to Mamadi Diakite is the decision of the tournament. After the freaky escape from Auburn in the Final Four; the foul on Guy a cosmic kiss, again, in UVA's favor.

On the final night of this 2018-19 season, one more elite opponent to topple. It would be dramaturgical, the typical situation for this team, this tournament. For the third straight tournament game, Virginia trailed into second half. Hunter's 3-pointers from the corner – great pass, Ty Jerome – giving way to overtime, making true the first title to go to OT since 2008.

"My (Apple) Watch keeps telling me to breathe," Kathi Bennett, Tony's sister, said.

Hunter, Guy (Final Four's Most Outstanding Player) and Jerome played as well as on Monday as they had all season, combining for 67 of the team's 85 points. The Hoos scored 1.21 points per possession on the best defense, statistically, in two decades. This was a coronation.

And yet Virginia, dominant as it was for most of this 2018-19 season, never made it easy in the postseason. Even the 2019 first-round game against Gardner-Webb was rife with horror flashbacks, UVA trailing by double digits in that game before coming back to win.

"The one thing I said to you in the locker room," I said Gardner Webb, and you did not panic in that moment, "http: //www.cbssports. com / "Bennett said." http://www.cbssports.com/"And you fought, and you found a way out. That, I think, has prepared you for this moment of a national championship game. "http://www.cbssports.com/"

The clutch play of Hunter – his 3-pointer to the game with 68 seconds remaining in regulation is one of the biggest shots in school history – and the resolve of UVA to steady itself in the extra period, which is the right ending: Virginia does drama, but it also separates and, normally, suffocates the oppositi on.

3-pointers came from two epic defenses? How to make the first title game in college? This deserves the finish of this NCAA Tournament.

The Wahoos twice blew 10-point leads. That only amped the anxiety. Texas Tech had it – until it did not. Just like Oregon, Purdue and Auburn. The best team, in college basketball won the national title. That does not happen every year. This 2019 is the story of the fledgling, fruitful start of another.

Virginia junior guard Ty Jerome

"Forget last year, this is everything you dream of since you're a little kid." Little kid, "Jerome said. "I just think this is a dream come true, and it's even more than that because you'll never even imagine your teammates and your coaches. "

The moment makes them unbelievable."

But this is the material validation of Virginia's standing in college basketball. Bennett has guided Virginia to 178 wins the past six seasons – that's 30 wins per year. It's as good as almost any program in the sport.

Maybe this winds up as the only title Bennett ever wins. But with the "Virginia's style can not win in the tournament", they'll be in the Final Four Again in 2020 (they'll be a preseason top- 10 team) or multiple times in the coming decade, as long as Bennett's still in charge.

Know this: The five-of-a-kind six-season team at KenPom. They were great before winning a national title. They're legendary, if not outright validated, now – and probably going to be more dangerous going forward. Winning a championship is just going to strengthen this program, Bennett and boost its ceiling.

It's an unbelievable story that has become believable because of Bennett's unique disposition. This is the best story.

"I think there's a bigger plan going on, and I did not need it, but I was using it in it," Bennett said. "I'm sorry, but I'm sorry, but I'm sorry, but I'm sorry my head down and said, 'Thank You. I'm humbled, Lord, because I do not deserve to be in this spot, and I'll give thanks. "http: // www .cbssports.com / "

Bennett steeps himself in humility. He's one of the most likable coaches in sports because of how he and his team handled the most embarrassing loss a college team could ever take. [19659002] "It's a great story," he said. "That's probably the best way I can do this."

One of the greatest ever in sports form with Final Four-sized expectations becoming standard in Charlottesville.

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