MINNEAPOLIS – For years, Virginia Cavaliers have been accused of boring their opponents in defeat. They watched relentlessly. They were dealing with offensive goods. They celebrated chronometer violations as other programs celebrate dunk alley-oop.
Their critics, legion and including just about all the great speaking leaders who were not former basketball coaches, said the Cavaliers were playing a style that could not win six consecutive games in the NCAA tournaments. And given what happened last year, these critics seemed to be right.
Yet, as Monday bleeds until Tuesday, Virginia guard Ty Jerome is sitting in front of his locker and wearing a new white hat. Under the gold bill is the word CHAMPIONS.
Boring? The Cavaliers had only 13 seconds tied, in the elite eighths, in the national semifinals and in the national title game. They won all three. This annoying brand causes heart attacks. "I feel so bad for [ESPN’s] Stephen A. Smith, "Jerome deadpans. "He said he hated watching us. And he had to watch us every turn of the tournament. I feel so bad for him. It must have been so difficult for him.
The Cavaliers have produced anxiety as effectively as their heroes. In the eighth elite against Purdue, rookie Kihei Clark threw a pass that Mamadi Diakite turned into a drummer buzzer to force extra time. In the Final Four against Auburn, goaltender Kyle Guy pushed a three-pointer to keep the Cavaliers in and then won the match with three free throws. On Monday, goalkeeper De'Andre Hunter scored 27 goals, scoring three shots to keep Virginia alive and take overtime control from an 85-77 victory over Texas Tech, denying thousands of prognostics "first at 50 victories ".
When asked how the Cavaliers could stay so calm against an almost certain defeat, Jerome thought for a moment. "We are probably not as calm as we seem," he says. "We always believe in each other. If we have a chance to fight, we will keep trying to make the right game. Guys are not afraid of the moment.
They were not afraid of the moment because no result on the field could be worse than the one they had suffered at the end of last season. After those two hellish hours, it seemed like we would only remember those Riders for one game. But as Guy has often pointed out this season, we have all touched on a chapter in their history. They controlled the next one.
Almost everyone dreams of doing the story in a certain way, but future historians rarely consider the possibility of being the first to do something really embarrassing. Virginia entered history in 2018. The Cavaliers were the first seed No. 1 in the history of the NCAA tournaments to lose a seed No. 16. But that was not all. Virginia was the No. 1 seed of the tournament and the Cavaliers lost to UMBC. by 20. In a Facebook post from April 2018 that had to leave some blood on the keyboard, Guy explained how one feels to be this type of pioneer. "There are not many people who know that it is the ONLY person (of the program in this case) in the world to be on the wrong side of history," wrote the most notable future player in 2019, Final Four 2019. "No one has done this before, and it may not be long before it happens again, so no one understands that pain and fear are ridiculed."
Throughout the off season, Virginia coach Tony Bennett has asked how to address the defeat against UMBC after the Cavaliers resume for the preliminary training. "How am I going to frame this?" He asked his wife Laurel. Laurel Bennett had an idea. Nearly four years earlier, she had attended a series of TED conferences in Charlottesville. A conversation stuck with her. Donald Davis, a former Methodist minister from North Carolina who makes a living as a professional storyteller, had told his father's story. Laurel loved the story so much when she heard it that she showed it to her son and daughter as soon as it was posted on YouTube. But she had not thought about it for a while. As she pondered her husband's dilemma, Davis's screech of honey echoed in his ears. She sent Tony a link to the YouTube clip titled How history transforms the cashier. "That's the way your team has to look at this," recalls Laurel Bennett. "You will not improve or become stronger after this loss simply because it happened. The only way to improve is to react properly. "
Tony clicked on the video and there was Davis on stage in his tie. Davis explained that all the inhabitants of his small town of Appalachia called his father, the banker Joe, but one day, an older acquaintance of Joe called him Cripple Joe. Irritated by what he perceived as a slight, Davis asked his father why this man could be so mean. Davis's father responded with a story.
When Joe was five, he cut his leg with an ax. The injury would make Joe unable to work on the family farm with his brothers as he gets older. So everyone in town called him Joe Cripple. But Joe's mother, Donald's grandmother, gave wise advice. She told Joe to tell the story of his injury to anyone who would ask him questions. "If you do not tell this story enough, when you turn 50 and look at your leg, you'll be five years older and you'll be pitiful," Davis said on the stage that day in 2014, channeling his grandmother. "Because when something happens," she says, "she's resting on you like a rock." And if you never tell the story, it's based on you forever. But when you start telling the story, you get out of under that rock and you end up sitting on it.
Joe Cripple has stopped feeling angry at not being able to work on the farm. Instead, he went to the business school. Back home, he began a successful career that allowed him to raise his younger brothers and sisters after the death of his father. He became the banker Joe in part because he had gone on to tell his story. "It's never, never tragic when something that people think is bad happens to you," said Davis, a graduate of Davidson and Duke. "Because if you can learn to use it well, he can buy you a ticket for a place where you would never have gone otherwise."
Tony Bennett watched the conversation and he had an idea. When the Cavaliers arrived for their first day of training in October, they were expecting a grueling workout to help them prepare for their grueling Pack-Line defense during the season. Instead, they simply watched a 17-minute TED discussion. "You do not tell the story to change what happened," Davis said on screen. "You tell the story to change you."
And so the Cavaliers told their story whenever someone asked …
Guy told the story. He told this at the Charlotte's Spectrum Center – the site of UMBC's loss – on the occasion of the CCA basketball media day in late October. He, Bennett and forward Jack Salt stayed in the same hotel where they stayed for the UMBC match. Guy already had the habit of telling the story. He posted it in the Facebook publication in April. He had already told how much the Cavaliers needed a police escort and had to enter through the back door through the back door of this hotel because someone had sent them death threats.
He was therefore ready when the first question he asked was about the loss. "For me, it never forgets, but I'm really trying to get past where I'm not hanging my head on it," replied Guy. "I think it took me a little longer than some other guys, but it's just because I'm an emotional kid and I'm really passionate about certain things. This has deeply affected me. To make sure that he never forgets, Guy had slumped a photo while UMBC was gaining as the background of his phone.
Virginia's assistant coach, Jason Williford, told the story. About three days after the loss, he was unable to leave his home. He did not shave. He barely moved. He thought only what he could have done differently, how the Cavaliers could lose their place in the history of basketball. Finally, after Williford's wife asked him It's okay? Many times, he realized that he needed to catch a razor and deal with the outside world. The only way to change the story would be to move forward and write a new ending.
Jerome told the story. When he came from Charlottesville to visit his parents in New Rochelle, New York last summer, he came across many signs for UMBC as he was crossing Maryland during both stages. of his trip. "All summer, I have not made peace with her," says Jerome. "I've always been a gym rat, but this defeat has brought me to a whole new level." Virginia force personnel had to throw Jerome out of the basketball complex several times during in the summer, because they feared a desire to improve falling into an unhealthy obsession.
Hunter told the story. He missed the UMBC game with a broken wrist and took defeat differently. He thinks about it for a week. Then he tried to erase it from his mind. But he could not. So guess who was in the gym with Jerome most of those nights?
Bennett told the story. Moments after the mid-term celebration of UMBC players, he chose Guy and Jerome to join him at the post-game press conference. Seniors Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall suffered enough. That would be their last memory of college basketball, and Bennett could not do anything to change that. But he could Avoid twisting the knife by asking questions about it. So Bennett chose two sophomores who still had time to do things right. "We are going to go, and it will be one of the hardest things you have to do," recalls Bennett. "But it will mark your life, and it will be something we will try to overcome." Shortly after, he took Jerome for lunch. There, they discussed how the Cavaliers could evolve in an offensive way so they could return if they ended up in a double-digit hole in the NCAA tournament. "From a basketball perspective, it was such a crucial and devastating moment in many respects and humiliating that I knew we had to be there for each other like never before," Bennett said. "So it was sitting together, talking and just working through things and fighting them, and trusting each other."
The Virginia assistant, Brad Soderberg, told the story. The Cavaliers went 29-3 and won another No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Unlucky after 13 minutes in the first round against No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb, the Cavaliers were drawn by 14. Soderberg's chest tightened. It could not happen again, is not it? "I was really stuck," he says. "And I do not think I'm a bad guy for that. I think it was real. It's one thing to be the first seed to lose to a 16, but it crossed my mind "Why not do it two years in a row?" You can not just say, "Keep going, guys." "But the Cavaliers' shots started to go down, they reduced the deficit to six at half-time, they took the lead less than four minutes into the second half and got a 71- 56.
"I did not ask the other guys: did you feel it? But I know we've all done it, "says Soderberg. "What I know is that when the match was over in the locker room, you would have thought we had won the national championship."
After that, everyone is relaxed. They had begun to lift that stone themselves by telling their stories. When they eliminated the possibility of a new facial application, they threw stones and broke them into pieces. Now, the next chapter could really start.
And what chapter it was. Reaching the national title required two miracles to the limit.
The first took place in the Elite Eight in Louisville, Kentucky, with 16.9 seconds to go. Ryan Cline of Purdue had a free throw to give the Boilermakers a 70-67 lead. If Cline made the next free throw, Virginia would have no chance. Purdue would qualify for the Final Four, and Carsen Edwards' 42-point night would be one of the best in NCAA tournament history. But Cline missed.
Purdue coach Matt Painter ordered his team to commit a foul. Now Jerome stood at the goal line with 5.9 seconds to go. He made the first free throw. Even if, later, everyone would assume that he had missed the second express, Jerome intended to do the second. "I armed him," he says. Diakite could not grab the rebound, so he pushed the ball to the other white jerseys. He sailed on the middle and Clark picked up the ball at the top of the opposite key three seconds from the end.
The other players and coaches of the Cavaliers agree that if they were in this situation, they would have made a desperate shot. But Clark, less than a year away from high school, offered Diakite one of the best passes of all tournaments, who recovered the ball and hit a jumper over the stretched arm of Purdue's center. 7'3 ", as time went on. Virginia had come back from the dead to force overtime and the Cavaliers would lose a win of 80 to 75.
Virginia looked dead again a week later at US Bank Stadium. Auburn led 61-57 while Jerome dribbled on the right wing, clock approaching zero. He had to do something, but he did not seem in a hurry. Near the baseline, Guy ran around a screen fence to the right corner. Jerome threw the ball. The guy caught and shot. The Virginia section roars as the ball passes through with 7.4 seconds to go, but the Cavaliers are still lagging behind. They must have failed. Once again, an opponent stood at the line of fouls with a chance to bury Virginia. Auburn goaltender Jared Harper made his first shot. He missed the second. The unruly Hoos thought they would still have a chance. Instead, they have three.
Just before the bell rang, Guy stood up from the left corner and pulled a three-pointer. The ball went off the edge and Auburn's players rushed to the field to celebrate. Guy heard the whistle before everyone else. Auburn's Samir Doughty had collided with Guy's right thigh as he was shooting. Guy would have three free throws. If he could do anything, Virginia would play for a national title.
"I would have lost my mind," says Diakite. The lost spirit was reserved for fans of Auburn. The furious referees had missed Jerome's double dribble and angry that Doughty was called for the type of contact that had been ignored for most of the match. Guy remained calm, however. After the whistle, he raised his shirt on his face to steal a private moment and recover. Then he made the first shot. Then he did the second. Then Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called a timeout to get Guy back. As the Cavaliers huddled together, Guy retired alone to the side. "I just wanted to be in my own space," says Guy. Then Guy returned to the finish line and sank the third to seal a win from 63 to 62. "We all practiced these throws like a kid," Guy says. "They were probably a little more spectacular than the free throws, but no matter what it takes to win."
Once again, Virginia had survived the end of the season. "You can call it luck. You can call it religion. You can call it magic, "says Guy. "It's the madness of March."
It would only get more furious.
On Monday, Virginia led by eight with just over five minutes to play when Texas Tech started coming back. Jarrett Culver, best player of the year, has more than 35 seconds to give the Red Raiders a lead of 66-65. Norense Odiase made two free throws 13 seconds later to advance to three. Once again, Virginia was in her final possession. This time, Hunter caught the ball in the right corner. His three-pointer crossed the net with 12.9 seconds left.
Virginia stopped at the other end, but Hunter did not see Guy trying to call the timeout to stage the last move. Hunter launched a pass that sailed through Guy and out of bounds, giving the ball to Texas Tech with a second to play. But Virginia's key, Braxton Key, prevented Culver from winning the match, and the teams went into overtime.
In overtime, the title ignited another rebound committed at the other end of the field. Thanks to Virginia thanks to another Hunter pointer, Jerome missed a float and three potential rebounders exchanged the ball towards the other basket. Texas Tech's Davide Moretti slid the ball, but Hunter hit the ball with his hand. After initially granting possession of their spotlight to Texas Tech, the three officials regrouped around a rebroadcasting screen. A slow-motion close-up appeared to show that the ball was bouncing off Moretti's little finger. Virginia got the ball and made 8 to 8 of the free throw line. It ended properly with the ball in Hunter's hands. He grabbed a rebound and threw the ball into the air as the horn sounded.
A few minutes later, confetti covered the floor. The nets had been cut. Guy, Hunter and Jerome sat in the corner of a halfway stage and watched the editing of this "One Shining Moment" tournament. Virginia's presence in the last year consisted of a picture of Guy looking miserable while a UMBC player was being celebrated. This year ended when Guy jumped onto the field just before being named the most outstanding Final Four player. In the coming days, Guy will choose a new photo as a background on his phone. "I'm going to celebrate," he says.
Guy's fiancée Alexa Jenkins encouraged her to write her feelings last year. Guy was the first Rider to tell the story. The others then bought a ticket for a place where they would never have had another way. Monday night, Jenkins was standing on the ground, radiant.
"It was," she says, "the story of ultimate redemption."