Locker Room: UVa could not have hoped for better

We’re heading for the final weekend of college basketball, “The Final Four.” Had you been asked to make a “Wish List” before the NCAA Tournament started could Virginia have hoped for a better situation than it has right now? I doubt it. In fact, no.

The Cavaliers are the only number one seed left. Also there is just one number two seed left. Gone is Gonzaga, Duke, Kentucky, Carolina, Tennessee, and Michigan. And the best thing is UVa didn’t have to eliminate any of them, somebody else got the job done.

Let’s take a look at the final AP national rankings before the tournament began. The “Final Four” was ranked UVa 2, Michigan State 6, Texas Tech 10, and Auburn 18. And every one of them is fortunate to be there. The Cavaliers looked all but beaten by Purdue, but got fortunate, and to win this thing, you must first be good, and second, be lucky. Who would have thought Auburn would beat Kansas, Carolina, and Kentucky three in a row. Michigan State finally knocked out a Duke team that appeared to be overrated and should have been knocked out three different times, and one of those was Virginia Tech. Then you have Texas Tech knocking off Gonzaga. The Red Raiders were beaten in the Big 12 tournament by one of the worst West Virginia teams in the last 20 years. But they play defense. And this year is a testament to the fact that the most important aspect is how well are you playing at the right time? Nobody is good enough to be off their game and still win.

That brings up another issue. All the talk is about offense in basketball these days, but the four teams there have played great defense and have not been beaten on the backboards, even an alarmingly short Auburn team. All four play very hard, if not, none of them would be here.

I also think even without the cooperation of a misguided NBA, the “One-And-Done” style of basketball in college might be headed south. Duke was overrated all year in this opinion and the press must have been given sweet treats before every game. Duke lost twice to Carolina and should have lost three straight to the Heels. Duke struggled to win against the top competition all season, and I don’t care if Zion Williamson was playing or not. I also would have bet a buck on UVa had they played again. And the entire tournament the Devils were hanging on for dear life. At times it seemed like a love affair with broadcasters, but the fact is, a less talented, but more mature and tougher, more physical Michigan State team was better than the “One-And-Done.” I also believe the solid teams, like a Virginia Tech and Virginia, that have juniors and seniors, are more mature, and have been playing together longer are better. All you have to do is look at the NCAA Tournament for proof.

Since the “One-And-Done” became reality and teams like Duke and Kentucky have completely sold out on that strategy, Carolina has won three national championships. Villanova, UConn, and Florida have all won two. Duke has two, and Kentucky one. The “One-And-Dones” win a lot of games, but they do not dominate the NCAA Tournament. Example. This year’s Final Four. Virginia starts one freshman, Michigan State one, Texas Tech has a freshman in its eight-man rotation, and Auburn plays none.

Who’s going to win it? There have been some really super games, the Final Eight games were a basketball fan’s delight. Who’s the best? Don’t know. I will take UVa and Michigan State to play in the final, but a roll is a roll, and Texas Tech and Auburn are playing off the charts. Take nothing for granted. Now pick a winner. I don’t know that I can. Virginia is smooth, a veteran, polished team. Michigan State is slam bam, in your face, physical and tough. I honestly don’t know, but we should root for the home state.

Cannoy’s Words:

I have yet to meet Tyler Cannoy, Pulaski County’s new boys head basketball coach, but I look forward to it.  I am already impressed. I’ve researched him a bit, and one simple statement he makes on his website really does impress me.

“You will never be who you want to be if you keep blaming everyone else for who you are now. Quit Talking.” In other words, shut up, go to work, and get better! I like it. I like it a lot.

Holter’s Words:

It was a surprise last week when Salem head coach Steve Magenbauer retired. His replacement is Don Holter. I do not know him personally either, but I also like his words. When asked what he felt his job was by a Roanoke Times reporter, he responded this way. Following Magenbauer is going to be difficult and you can tell he knows it.

“There’s people that will stand by you, and there’s going to be people that tell you they’re going to stand by you, but wouldn’t care if you got fired. I wasn’t hired to be liked. I was hired to teach these kids how to be a man, and to enhance their character as people, and teach them the game of football. I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to people who tell me I can’t,” he said.

Powerful words from both Cannoy and Holter in this opinion.

Jeff King:

One of the greatest, if not the greatest player ever to wear the cardinal and gold for Pulaski County. Jeff was all-district, all-region, all-state, and all-American in high school. He blocked at tight end like a lawn mower cuts grass. When you ran the football toward him you often came away with a sore spot, or something worse. Jeff King was a serous football player. If you weren’t, you were in a bad place.

He moved on to have a fine career at Virginia Tech and then went pro and played for NFL teams in Charlotte and Arizona. Solid as a rock. The past three years Jeff has been a lead scout for the Chicago Bears and works out of the front office. When Freddie Kitchens, one of his coaches with the Cardinals, became the new head coach for the Cleveland Browns, Kitchens called King and asked if he wanted to be on his coaching staff.

Jeff turned down the opportunity to be an on-the-field coach. He remains today as one of the main scouts for the Bears, and his goal is to one day be an NFL general manager. I’ve never known Jeff not to attain a single goal in his life.


By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot