On Monday, the Virginia Cavaliers claimed the "Turnaround Title" after defeating Texas Tech in the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The 2018 loss to UMBC prompted motivational speeches throughout the year from Coach Tony Bennett, who told the team that the sting of the loss was simply setting them up for success down the road. Here is a look at Virginia’s storybook journey through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the top.
Round of 64: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Gardner-Webb
As they entered the Round of 64 facing another 16-seed, the Cavaliers stared down the possibility of becoming the first No. 1 team to lose to a No. 16 seed team twice. A 14-point deficit in the first half threatened repeated history, but Virginia settled in and saved their tournament run in the second half, both eliminating “curse” narratives and defeating the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs 71-53.
Round of 32: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 9 Oklahoma
Bennett made the last-minute decision to start Mamadi Diakite over Jack Salt in the Round of 32, which proved to be the right call. Diakite led the team to a win over No. 9 Oklahoma, scoring 14 points and coming down with 9 rebounds. Virginia’s famous defense held the Sooners to only 4 of their last 18 shots in the first half, and just 19 of 52 (36.5%) throughout the entire game, helping Virginia triumph over the Sooners 63-51.
Sweet 16: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 12 Oregon
Virginia advanced to the Sweet 16 where they met No. 12 seeded Oregon. The Cavaliers, a team known for consistently hitting 3-pointers, struggled from the deep field in the third round of the tournament, but a key basket from Jerome gave the team a three-point lead with 3:34 remaining. The made-basket gave Virginia just enough momentum to defensively take the game away from the Ducks, outlasting Oregon 53-49.
Though the Sweet 16 win was a huge victory for the program, Virginia guard Braxton Key kept focus shifted forward.
"I mean, it's definitely a milestone for us," Key said. "But we're not done yet."
Elite Eight: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 3 Purdue
Virginia's Elite Eight game set the tone for games that would be decided in seconds. The matchup against No. 3 Purdue was Virginia’s first overtime of the tournament, and Purdue, more specifically, Carsen Edwards, wasn’t going down without a fight. Edwards put up 42 points, draining ten 3-pointers, but the next leading scorer for the Boilermakers only pitched in seven points. UVA’s Junior guard Kyle Guy injured his ankle in the first half but returned after half-time and hit back-to-back 3’s, finishing with 25 points (21 after halftime) and 10 rebounds. Jerome, Diakite and De’Andre Hunter combined for 48 points as the Cavaliers defeated the high-scoring Boilermakers 80-75.
Final Four: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 5 Auburn
Virginia’s bout against Auburn had the nation on the edge of their seats. Auburn led by 2 as the clock ran down to its final seconds. Guy took a last-effort game winning 3-point shot to win the game, and missed, causing Tigers fans nationwide to begin celebrating. However, it was revealed that the referee blew the whistle signaling a foul on the 3-point attempt. Guy, an 81.1% free-throw shooter, took the line with the season on the line, down 60-62. He sank all 3 of his free-throws to take the lead with 0.2 seconds left in the game. Virginia moved past Auburn 63-62.
Guy spoke to the play-calling Tony Bennett and the faith he had in the free-throws he had taken all year.
"It was a great draw-up by coach. We've run it all year. I've gotten a lot of great shots from that corner," Guy said. "I had confidence in myself [at the line]. It's what we dream of."
Despite the controversy of the final seconds, the game was played at Virginia’s pace, patience on offense and tough-to-break defense to limit fast-breaks for the usually up-tempo Tigers. Jerome had one of his best games of the tournament, finishing with 21 points and shooting 50%, but Guy was the right one to be fouled at the end.
National Championship: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 3 Texas Tech
The championship game between No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 1 Virginia shaped up to be a battle of defense. The two elite defensive teams went a combined 1 for 10 to start the championship game, but then the lead began to change every couple of minutes before heading into overtime. UVA’s Hunter was the star of the show, putting up a career high of 27 points and hitting four of five 3-pointers. Perhaps the greatest of his 3’s was the clutch go-ahead 3-pointer with two minutes to go in overtime.
Virginia brought home the National Championship for the first time in school history, pulling away in overtime to beat the Red Raiders 85-77. Virginia held three spots on the Final Four All-Tournament team, belonging to Hunter, Jerome and Guy, who also earned the title of Most Outstanding Player.
As Kyle Guy put it, “I don’t think Hollywood could have done a better job with the ending.”
Shooting Consistency: Ingredients of a National Champion
While March Madness is filled with intense bracket speculation and shocking upsets, Virginia’s title was not as difficult to predict after a closer look at the numbers and they way champions have historically played. It’s no secret telling how Virginia made it to the championship game. The championship team controls each game at their pace, being patient with possessions and dominating at defense. Virginia’s five starters and first few off the bench evenly contributed to scoring and benefited from Tony Bennett’s coaching. The Cavaliers ended the season 47.4% from the field and 39.5% from the deep field. Virginia’s 39.5% average placed the team 7th among three-point shooting records in the NCAA this past season. Duke, who lost to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, had one of the worst three-point shooting records at 30.8%, ranking #328 in the NCAA. Another differentiator? Virginia’s basketball program has been using Noah Basketball for 10 years.
According to John Carter, our CEO, the best shooting teams are those with the greatest consistency among all the players.
"If you watch Virginia play, and if you watch Ty Jerome v. De'Andre Hunter v. Kyle Guy, their trajectories all look very, very similar," Carter said in SportsTechie’s coverage of Virginia and Noah Basketball. "Whereas you watch other teams, you might see some players shoot a high arc, some shoot flat, and some shoot in between. But you don't see that with the best shooting teams - they're optimal."
Learn more about how championship team Virginia basketball uses the Noah system from Tony Bennett himself by clicking here. Congratulations to the University of Virginia!