Virginia’s Road To The Championship


Brendan Conniff

The Virginia Cavaliers made history on April 8th by defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the NCAA March Madness championship. This was Virginia’s first-ever national championship since their basketball program was created in 1905. After suffering a brutal loss to a 16 seeded UMBC in last year’s tournament, Virginia rallied and began the long road to the championship.  


After finishing the regular season with an outstanding record of 35-3, the Cavaliers proved themselves worthy of a number one seed in the NCAA tournament. They were matched up against the 16 seeded Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. Determined not to repeat last year’s brutal loss, Virginia relied on their stars Deandre Hunter and Ty Jerome to demolish Gardner Webb in the second half, winning the game 71-56. Next up – the Oklahoma Sooners.


In the second round, Virginia was locked in from the beginning of the game all the way to the end, never allowing Oklahoma to get within 10 points. With Deandre Hunter, Ty Jerome, and Mamadi Diakite all scoring over 10 points, Virginia managed to secure the win, with a final score of 63-51. Oklahoma has a very well-known basketball program, however, they seemed to have a down year this year, and were no match for Virginia.


Now in the Sweet 16, Virginia faced off against the 12 seeded Pac-12 champions, the Oregon Ducks. Oregon recently beat the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 championship and was in fact arguably more deserving of a higher seed. They showed that against Virginia as it was a close game throughout. It ultimately came down to Virginia’s defense. As Virginia’s best scorers, Deandre Hunter, and Kyle Guy, led the offense, it was up to players such as Mamadi Diakite and Ty Jerome, who are great defenders to lock off Oregon’s best scorers in Lou King and Payton Pritchard. Virginia forced many missed shots in the closing minutes and took the win with a final score of 53-49.


The Elite Eight is where nerves really start to kick in for the teams that make it. The Purdue Boilermakers were a solid team in the regular season earning a three seed in the tournament. Led by Carsen Edwards, Purdue managed to knock off the two seeded Tennessee Volunteers. Scoring 29 points, Tennessee just did not have an answer for Purdue’s offense, however, Virginia did. While Carsen Edwards still managed to absolutely dominate this game as he scored 42 points, which is unheard of in the tournament. And on top of that, he set a record for playing in four consecutive tournament games scoring 25+ points. However, Carsen Edwards could not beat this Virginia team by himself. Virginia is a very well balanced team. In this game, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome scored more than 20 points, and Deandre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite scored above 10. In an outstanding overtime finish, Virginia won 80-75. Onto the Final Four where Virginia played the five seeded SEC champions Auburn.


Auburn was the hottest team in the tournament with the highest three-pointers made and best three-point percentage as a team in the tournament. Auburn’s best player, Chuma Okeke, suffered a season-ending injury in the Sweet 16 and Auburn was rallying around that. However, the saying “defense wins championships” holds true in this game as Virginia managed to out-defense Auburn’s offense. In a nail-biting finish, Virginia got the stop they needed on defense with two seconds left and with .6 seconds left, Kyle Guy got himself fouled on a three-pointer, which meant he got three free throws. Down by two, Guy sinks all three, winning Virginia the game 63-62


The 2019 college basketball championship featured Virginia and Texas Tech. Both defense first teams, it came down to whose offense could outperform the others. While both teams played defense first basketball, it was a high scoring game, however, after being up the whole game, Virginia fell apart late in the game and allowed Texas Tech to come back and force the game into overtime. Overtime started by exchanging threes however when Virginia’s defense prevailed by stealing the ball and shooting another three, creating a six-point lead, the game was over. Virginia won their first ever college basketball championship. The road to the championship was long but ultimately a success.