Locker Room: UVa wins it all. From agony to the top of the mountain

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is as good an example as you will see of the “Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat.” The suddenness of it all brings forth great emotion. Often you feel for the loser more so than the winner. And the emotions come so often, and are so real. Every time a team loses the season of over. And in the end, there is only one winner.

Virginia felt the ultimate low a year ago. It became the only team ever seeded one and lose to a 16th team, Maryland Baltimore County. There could not have been a greater embarrassment. The Cavaliers went home to Charlottesville and you heard nothing for a long time. It was almost like they had moved into an underground shelter.

And now today, those same Cavaliers are living a dream. There could be no greater thrill athletically than this one. From the bottom of the barrel to the top of the mountain. Virginia is number one! Just three years ago the “Wahoos” won a national championship in baseball, and now basketball.

The thrill of victory was obvious when Texas Tech was finally defeated.  But the relief was also obvious. Yes, UVa will still be remembered as the only top seed to lose to a bottom seed, but now they have something else to hang on the shelf that takes almost all that sting away. UVa has talent, depth, and is immaculately coached by Tony Bennett.

But winning the tournament is never easy. It wasn’t this time either. In fact, it looked like the Cavaliers were in serious trouble all three of their last games. Were they lucky? Absolutely. It takes good fortune to win this thing, and yes, they got a more generous portion than is normal. UVa is very fortunate.

However, if you are not good luck usually doesn’t help you enough. And the Cavs are good. And for all the breaks they received in wins over Purdue, Auburn, and Texas Tech, they made plays too, and hit huge shots. In the final three games UVa was one more missed shot away from going home. But the ‘Hoos made clutch shot after clutch shot. I understand that the ending of the Auburn win was not how most felt a game of that magnitude should end, and I’m one of them. But remember these three clutch shots. To me they made UVa the champ.

Against Purdue the Cavaliers were down four late and if the next shot bounces off the iron it’s game time. Kyle Guy hit a huge rainbow three out of the corner. He had to make it or lose. Next game against Auburn. None of the last 10 seconds would have mattered, but Guy once again hit a huge three from deep in the corner. He had to make it or lose. Then against Texas Tech, down three in the final seconds again, and De’Andre Hunter drilled another rainbow three from deep in the corner. If he doesn’t make it, there is no overtime and you lose. And every time the shots came off a pass from Ty Jerome. UVa has grit and the courage to take and make the clutch shots.

Give it to ’em. From rags to riches. It was a great tournament, numerous terrific games. But today, the Virginia Cavaliers have gone from agony to the top of the mountain.

Mike Young. I Love it:

​     I thought about it, had conversations with friends about it. But would it really happen? There was talk about other coaches, but this was the one I liked. Mike Young is the new Virginia Tech basketball coach. I remember Mike when he was a young tot. A nice kid. Always loved basketball. Good family too. Mike’s father Robert, (friends call him Red) was principal for a number of years at old Dublin High. For many seasons “Red” assisted Bill Chrisley with the operations of the scoreboard and clock in the press box for Pulaski County home football games.

Always a pleasant man and an easy man to be friends with. A kind person. I suspect his son Mike is a chip off the old block. He does something right because he’s been able to knock off a few of the big boys and win the Southern Conference at Wofford. Most basketball people will tell you that you can’t win at Wofford. Mike Young did, and he came within seconds and inches from having a major impact on this season’s NCAA Tournament.

I don’t know how many games he will win, but I know Mike Young is as excited right now as he has ever been in his life except maybe for his wedding day. But he will work hard. If he can find good players for Wofford, he can certainly find them for Virginia Tech. Mike is returning home to his family. I love seeing a good coach move up in the ranks, but this is a good hire, bring back a proven winner who grew up in Radford. Congratulations to Mike and the entire Young family. I love this hire.

My Best Five:

Back in the day, mostly the 80s, I was a member of the press corps for Virginia Tech working for the old Southwest Times, and AP. This was before Big East and then ACC membership for the Hokies. This was the time of the Metro Conference. I traveled with Tech for football as well, but the Metro was just for hoops.

I loved it. First it was a great time for college basketball and the Metro was a sports writer’s dream. First it was an outstanding conference; Tech, Louisville, Cincinnati, Florida State, St. Louis, Memphis, and Tulane. During this time I was primarily in my 30s. For a young fellow from the coal fields of southern West Virginia, it was a wonderful opportunity to see the country, and visit some historic places. The travel schedule in the Metro far exceeded any other conference in the land at that time. One year during the NCAA Tournament the Hokies were in the Midwest Region. It was played at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Jayhawks. It’s a must see for a basketball fanatic. The Heisman Museum is there. It is one of the truly famous houses of the game.

But flying with the Metro went like this. Louisville (Freedom Hall was a basketball palace right next to Churchill Downs), Cincinnati (home of my beloved Reds right down on the Riverfront), Florida State (during the winter of basketball season, a visit to Tallahassee, Florida was always nice), St. Louis (Gateway to the Midwest, super town, Busch Stadium, played in the Checker Dome, saw the Golden Arch for the first time), Memphis (Beale Street, great jazz music), and Tulane (New Orleans, Bourbon Street, more great jazz, took a ride on the Delta Queen down the mighty Mississippi, spent a New Year’s Eve on the top of the famous Fairmont Hotel with Al Hurt and Pete Fountain, the Super Dome.)

I thought many times you can have driving from Winston-Salem to Chapel Hill to Raleigh. You can have the ACC. I’ll take the Metro travel schedule any day. Admittedly however, I did get ACC credentials through Wake and then head coach Carl Tacy who many remember I’m sure began his coaching career at old Pulaski High School. So I ran that road too. I had a lot more energy back then. But knowing every year you were going to get all expense paid trips to New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, and so forth was almost too good to believe for an old hillbilly like me. I learned a lot, some of it best left unmentioned. Let’s just say Bourbon Street is not a good place for a family vacation.

But I’ve had a conversation a couple times during the playing of this year’s NCAA Tournament and there were so many great games. It seems today there are a lot of good players. The best ones do not necessarily play on the best teams. I think there’s some meaning to that statement. I enjoyed watching the tournament this year, but I thought back and answered who were the best college players I saw during my time. Not on television, but in person.

I came up with this five. Michael Jordan and James Worthy of Carolina, Larry Bird of Indiana State, Rod Griffin of Louisville, and Michael Thompson of North Carolina State. It was during this period of time that I saw and realized what a great athlete was. I saw a lot of really good players, saw games in some really historic buildings, had credentials for seven NCAA Tournaments, and loved every minute of it. And I would take those five players above and gladly take on any five you can come up with.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot

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