Wes McElroy

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: Cardiac Cavaliers do it again. UVA wins first National Championship in basketball

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Wes McElroy
April 03, 2019 - 2:37 pm

Stay up-to-date with Final Four happenings with 910 The Fan's very own Wes McElroy, LIVE from Minnepolis! 

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What an amazing night!

In 2019, there's so much that is copied. Movies are remade, songs are redone, and televisions shows are recycled.

Originality is often lacking.

However, for the Virginia Cavaliers, their story is unlike anyother and forever will be.

What's made for a nice little anecdote by Tony Bennett last year when he said that Ty Jerome told him the loss to UMBC would only be part of their story; became reality tonight in Minneapolis.

"Forget last year,"said Ty Jerome." This is everything you dream of since you're a little kid. I'm not even thinking about UMBC right now. I'm just thinking this is a dream come true, and it's even more than that because you never even imagine you'll be able to spend a year with people you actually love, your teammates and your coaches. Not a lot of people get along like we do, so to share this moment with them is unbelievable."

In many ways it is. But it's also reality.

This Virginia Cavalier team may be one of my all time favorite stories in sports. Not just because they won it all, but that they didnt accept that one part of their story would be their final chapter.

It wasn't easy emotionally or mentally but instead of just accepting what life had thrown at them, they realized there was something bigger out there for them and they fought for it and grew stronger and more together because of it.

"I told them this, it's about the joy of competition and the fun in the pursuit of a championship. That, I love it," said Tony Bennett. "They -- the quote that my wife -- actually, I just saw, she went to that TED Talk, and you talk about being almost prophetic. What that says, if you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn't have gone any other way. I don't know, maybe we could have, but I don't know, going through what we did last year and having to -- you know, it helped me as a coach. All the stuff that they talked about, I think, bought us a ticket to a National Championship.

At the time, you wouldn't have thought it, but they were battle tested. They were -- you can't go through the stuff that no one's experienced. Again, it's a game. We talked about it, but they had to deal with things, their own stuff inside and the opinion of others, and just come together and tighten in a way, and they went after it in terms of developing their own game and then how they played.

They were a joy to coach. I mean, they worked, and anything I said, Yes, sir. They would just go after it. We pushed them hard, but we also loved on them too, and I think it was the balance of that, and they knew it. And they knew we were in this together.

That's why we said this was our united pursuit. That was our theme, and I loved it because it was everything we had."

The adversity bought Virginia a ticket on one of the most incredible and thrilling stories of redemption.

But it's a story that the men of this team have realized (and maybe some fans along the way)  will carry with them into their careers, fatherhood, and beyond, that life can throw you the most humiliting and humbling challenges, it doesn't mean that it becomes the final chapter but rather just one installment of life.

Tony Bennett is a good, humble man. He is all class and about as comfortable in his skin as a human being out there.

Tonight watching him watch his team was the look of a man who knew he just coached men more about how to succeed in life then just in a game.

The truth is, he did. 

And hopefully, taught some of us something along the way.

Video of the end of the game


Fans and Media both are chomping at the bit for this game to finally get here.

Monday on the National Championship game is a long day in bittersweet anticipation because it is the biggest game of the college basketball season. Yet also the final game of the season.

Few things I'm watching for tonight:

*the first four minutes of the game and who has to adjust to whom at the first media timeout.

*UVA needs De'Andre Hunter to play like a NBA Lottery Pick

* What is the Mamadi effect?  Every game Diakite has played some sort of pivotal role in Virginia's NCAA tournament run.

*Kris Wright of TheSabre.com discusses how rebounds/offensive boards/2nd chance shots could be a major factor 

*David Teel of the Daily Press makes a great point how block shots once again could be pivotal for both teams

*Mike Barber of the Times Dispatch describes what Texas Tech will try to do to UVA and why the Cavaliers havent seen anything like it yet.

Prediction:  I'm getting wild and crazy with the over, but I had this score flash into my head Saturday night and I'll stay with it.

Virginia 64 Texas Tech 60


Odds on tonight, MOP, Prop Bets

courtesy of BetOnline (www.BetOnline.ag,Twitter: @betonline_ag).

“In what is the lowest scoring defensive battle in NCAA Finals history since 1985 (Villanova/Georgetown was 112) with a total of only 118, it seems our bettors are siding with Texas Tech after shutting down MSU to only 51 points allowed. Almost 60% of the money is on them at +1.5 and over 65% on them to win outright, looks like we are Virginia fans tonight.”

Dave Mason, Sports Book Manager, BetOnline.ag

Texas Tech vs Virginia

Texas Tech                   +1½      (59% of the money is on Texas Tech)

Virginia                         -1½      (41% of the money is on Virginia)

Total                             118       (54% of the money is on the under, 46% is on the over)


Most Outstanding Player

Jarrett Culver                2/1

Ty Jerome                    2/1

De”Andre Hunter           9/2

Kyle Guy                       9/2

Matt Mooney                 5/1


Texas Tech vs Virginia Props

Double Result (First Half/Second Half)

Texas Tech- Texas Tech            2/1       

Texas Tech - Virginia                 9/2       

Tied – Texas Tech                     16/1     

Tied - Virginia                            16/1     

Virginia – Texas Tech                5/1       

Virginia - Virginia                       3/2       


Margin of Victory

Texas Tech by 1 to 3 Pts                       7/1       

Texas Tech by 4 to 6 Pts                       8/1       

Texas Tech by 7 to 9 Pts                       10/1     

Texas Tech by 10 to 12 Pts                   12/1     

Texas Tech by 13 to 15 Pts                   16/1     

Texas Tech by 16 to 18 Pts                   20/1     

Texas Tech by 19 to 21 Pts                   28/1     

Texas Tech by 22 Pts or More                12/1     

Virginia by 1 to 3 Pts                             6/1       

Virginia by 4 to 6 Pts                             8/1       

Virginia by 7 to 9 Pts                             9/1       

Virginia by 10 to 12 Pts                          1/1       

Virginia by 13 to 15 Pts                          12/1     

Virginia by 16 to 18 Pts                          18/1     

Virginia by 19 to 21 Pts                          20/1     

Virginia by 22 Pts or More                      8/1       


Will the game go to Overtime?

Yes      +800    (8/1)

No        -1250   (2/25)


Largest Lead

Over/Under                               10½     


Lead Changes in the Game

Over/Under                               4½


This is a long day for Virginia fans and yes, the media as well. I'm lucky to have a radio show to get me through/entertain for 3 hours.

As you can see this Virginia team is keeping it light.


Want to Watch with the Wahoos?

If you want to watch the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, John Paul Jones arena will open to the community to watch the game.

Doors will open at 8pm in advance of the 9:20p tip.

Admission and parking for the event are free of charge.

The clear bag policy and entry procedures will be in effect. 

Did Tony Bennett ever have a Kyle Guy at the line moment to win the game? Yes, he did.

Sunday afternoon


Virginia is in their first National Championship game.

However, there isn't much time for reflection on the Sunday before the National Championship with the quick turnaround and then need to quickly prepare for what will be your biggest opponent.

But Tony Bennett did take some time when asked to reflect on why he took the Virginia job because he could see this someday happening.

That's one of the things that drew me to have a chance to coach in the ACC because of the storied programs and the storied coaches, the Hall of Fame coaches. Can you go and take a team and build your program in a way that you think is best and compete against the best?

There's a way that I know works -- or that I believe works. So when you get in those spots, you hope, you have a vision and you hope, but you never truly know. When you come in and say, This is going to happen. We're going to be a Final Four team, or we're going to win the ACC, you believe it, and you hope it, and then you just go to work. That's what it is.

So, yes, everyone has the dreams and the goals, but it's -- that's why we have a door knocker. You just keep knocking. You never know when sometimes the door gets slammed in your face, but sometimes you get your foot in the door and then your shoulder, and then you can bust through. It's just a continual process

Bennett was also asked in preparing for Texas Tech if playing and practicing tough defense can prepare you for an opponent that also prides itself on D.

 I think, when you try to play hard defense, you understand the value of offensively how mentally tough you have to be, how sound you have to be, and you have to take what the defense gives you. But it's a challenge. When our defense is at its best, it really makes people work to get contested shots.

Obviously, Texas Tech, in their own way, they make people work, and they swarm. So understanding that and not just saying, oh, they haven't seen our offense, they've seen offenses before. That would be false confidence. But understand and, hey, it takes hard, tough offense, and you work to get quality shots, and then you turn around and play the same way against them.

Staying healthy.

There are so many things that go into winning a championship: preparation, play, and yes, sometimes luck.  For Virginia, you can't leave out that this squad has finally had health.  

After so much talk going into the post season about years past with wrist injuries, illness, apendix's, and other issues, Virginia's Jason Williford discussed how this team has had the benefit of catching a break from the injury bug.

Does Tony Bennett ever get mad? Does he ever swear?

No, Virginia last night wasn't a dream.

But last night must have felt like a nightmare for Auburn fans.

Here's the video of them storming Toomer's Corner thinking they've won.  

Slowly watch their reaction as realize that Auburn did in fact lose. 

What Virginia, were you worried?

Of course you were because this is Virginia basketball and history shows when there’s an opportunity for heartbreak, you’ll end up shattered.

There sat the Wahoo faithful waiting for that cruel Charlie Brown moment where joy would be ripped away from you, all would go wrong, and fate, again, would be so cruel.

But not this time.

Read my Sunday Times Dispatch Column on Virginia's incredible win over Auburn in the Final Four

Kyle Guy, you will never pay for a meal (or probably a wedding present again)

Was it a foul on Samir Doughty?  Yes.

Two Videos. Twenty Seconds. Two Coaches.


Saturday Afternoon 

2 hours from tip and the anticipation is building for Virginia and Auburn.

This is my 4th Final Four but only my second covering a local team (VCU in 2011) and while not a fan, the anticipation is still incredibly high to see how the movie plays out of a team you've been following or covering all season long.

Few things I'll be paying attention too tonight at tip:

1) Nerves.  This will be the biggest crowd any of these guy will ever play in front of with 80,000 surrounding them. Whether it's jitter rattling or adrenaline pumping, both teams will have to reign it in to the things that got them here.

2) Pace. (Duh.)  This is the story of the game.

“Do we do what got us here, or do we play them the way you need to play them in order to be able to contain that system?,” said Auburn head caoch Bruce Pearl“It’s obviously a touch matchup.”

"I think we definitely have opposite playing styles," said Ty Jerome. "Keeping that transition will be a huge key. Keeping that will be a huge key. Taking care of the ball will be a huge key. It's the same thing we try to do every game, making them take a tough shot and win the majority of the possessions

Who dictates?  Who has to counter?  This will be fascinating to watch.

3) Turnovers and 3's

Virginia averages 9.0 turnovers and hold opponents to just over 28 percent from beyond 3.

I think it's a testament that we're going to have to take care of the ball," said Kyle Guy. "I think we had like 15 or 16 turnovers the first time we played NC State and then significantly less the second time we played them. Unfortunately, we won't have two chances at Auburn, so we're just going to have to be disciplined in what we know how to do."

Auburn’s is the yin to UVA's yang as they force over 17 turnovers per game and make on 37% of 3s.

Yes, Carsen Edwards had success against Virginia, but he was also drilling from 30 feet. 

4) Hoo steps up?

I put up this poll yesterday.  The variety tells you what each players means to this team.

My Prediction

Virginia 72

Auburn 65

Saturday Morning

The Final Four is a surreal sports enviroment.  It's one of sports biggest stages (and considering it's a basketball game played in a NFL football stadium), it sure feels that way.

VCU's Mike Rhoades experienced as an assistant with the 2011 Rams team.

He called into the show yesterday afternoon to recall the memories of the Rams, what it's like to plan against the Cavaliers style, and his respect for Tony Bennett scheduling VCU.

Listen HERE!


(Updated Friday 8:32)

Video from the Radio Show today. What UVA's run reminds me of the Washington Capitals and their run to the Cup?

(Updated Friday 2:12)

Tony Bennett, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome were asked about how different it is shooting in a football arena.

Worth the read:

Shot selection
Wes McElroy

Here's some video where you can see the sight lines are different:

Tigers Under the Weather

Two big factors for Auburn in this game aren't feeling so hot.

Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl noted that both Jared Harper and Bryce Brown are "under the weather".

"Bryce is also," said Pearl. "We've got a bunch of guys that are sniffling and hacking and coughing, but we don't play today. Jared would be-he would be less than 100 percent if we had to play today. If we played yesterday, Bryce would have been less than 100 percent. He'll be fine tomorrow."




Friday Noon

Here's what it will look like when Virginia runs out on the court of US Bank.

Friday Morning 10:45central time

Here’s a question for you if you aren’t a UVA fan:  Have you adopted the Virginia basketball team?

Has this UVA team and Tony Bennett been a team you’ve adopted now that they’ve made it to the Final Four?

Maybe you aren’t a “Wahoo” or go to UVA.  Maybe you aren’t even a die hard college hoops fan, just the casual sports fan who loves March and their brackets.

Maybe you picked them in your brackets?

Or maybe your brackets are D.O.A?

However, this is March Madness and most likely if you are reading this-you live in Virginia.

So, I ask is UVA an adoptable team?

Have you adopted them? Are you pulling for them Saturday night?

I was wondering about this, when thinking about the last Virginia team that went to the Final Four: the VCU Rams in 2011.

People across the country fell in love with VCU because of their underdog story. They were David who kept knocking off Goliath’s.  I remember Jimmy Fallon doing a whole bit on the Rams on his Late Night Show.

The Rams started off as “V-C-Who?” and in 3 weeks, everybody knew “who” they were.

Virginia isn’t this “unknown.”  They are a #1 seed so that doesn’t make them an underdog. In fact, they are the favorites Saturday night.

However, Virginia is a great story and we love great stories.

They went from being upset/embarrassed on the national stage.  And while some may be hearing about this over and over, this  team, led by Tony Bennett couldn’t have handled it any better in the moment, in the off season, or this season.

They’ve handled with total class.             

But this really has been a great sports story. It’s been  in it’s own unique way an incredible comeback story and could only get better if they win it all.



Sitting here in Boston with a long layover, chomping at the bit to get to Minnesota.

However, it's a good opportunity to point out if you missed the interview with Richmond native and UVA Associate head coach Jason Williford, you should really check it out:

Listen here!!!

If you aren't headed to Minnesota and are looking for a place to party and watch the 'Hoos, the Richmond Times Dispatch has put together a list of places where events are going on.

Wahoos Watch Parties can be found here!

(However, if I were home, my plan would include being at Hurleys Tavern with a large portion of wings and a Guinness.

Final thought before boarding---Congratulations to the Richmond Flying Squirrels on their Opening Night Sellout!!  Enjoy the ball game tonight. Have funn. Go Nuts!!