Virginia heading to Final Four for first time since 1984

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Purdue’s got dudes, but Virginia has a Guy.

Kyle, to be exact.

Guy hit five second half threes, finishing with a team-high 25 points and 10 boards and ensuring that Virginia kept pace with God Mode Carsen Edwards as he lead the Virginia Cavaliers to an 80-75 overtime win against Purdue.

379 days removed from becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed and Virginia was off to the Final Four, the program’s first since 1984 and the first of Tony Bennett’s career.

And all it took was surviving one of the most impressive individual performances that you will ever see.

Edwards, as he was all tournament, absolutely caught fire on Saturday night. He finished with 42 points, matching his output against Villanova in the second round and equaling the most points scored by a player in an NCAA tournament game since 2004. He made 10-of-18 threes while single-handedly blowing apart one of the best defenses we’ve ever seen in college hoops. Purdue is known for running some of the best stuff in college basketball, and by the end of the game their entire offense was ‘give the rock to Carsen and get the hell out of his way.’

It should have delivered a win.

With a minute left in the game, Edwards banked-in his tenth three, giving Purdue a 69-67 lead that was pushed to three by a Ryan Cline free throw with 18 seconds left.

But on the ensuing possession, Jerome was fouled intentionally with 5.7 seconds left in the game, setting with a wild and thrilling finish deserving of the moment. Purdue held a 70-68 with Ty Jerome at the line shooting his second of two free throws. He missed and the ball was tipped out all the way into the backcourt. Bennett did not call a timeout, and his diminutive freshman point guard Kihei Clark fired a 60-foot dart to Mamadi Diakite, who hit a 10-foot jumper to force the extra frame.

In the extra frame, it was De’Andre Hunter that eventually scored the game-winning bucket. He had been dreadful all night, but with 30 seconds left on the clock, Bennett isolated him at the elbow and he went right through Grady Eifert and scored the go ahead bucket.

After Edwards missed a jumper at the other end of the floor, it was Guy — who else — that corralled the loose ball and hit the two free throws to push the lead to three. On the ensuing possession, Edwards tried to find Ryan Cline for a game-tying three, but he threw the ball out of bounds, all-but sealing the win for Virginia and sending the Wahoos to the Final four.


(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Virginia never once shied away from The Loss.

It never made sense to, because no matter where they went or what they did, their story would be right there in front of them. A UMBC mention found its way onto just about every Virginia broadcast. A UMBC sign could be found in the student section at every road game. Duke tried to bring former UMBC point guard K.J. Maura in to sit with the Cameron Crazies when Virginia came to town.

Being the only No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed was never going to get erased from the records books or the memory of those that watched it all unfold live.

History cannot be changed.

But the narrative can.

And prior to Saturday night’s epic, thrilling, everything-that-is-great-about-March win, the narrative of this Virginia program, its players and the coach that built it all was that this group was not cut out for winning in March.

It started with the players. They are — well, were — choke artists, not mentally tough enough to be able to handle the rigors of playing in a one-game knockout tournament. For all their regular season success, the only year in the previous five NCAA tournaments that Virginia lost to a team that was seeded the same or higher came in 2017, when No. 5 seed Virginia lost in the second round to No. 4 seed Florida. Once things started going bad, they were powerless to stop it. Ask Syracuse, who erased a 15 point deficit in the final eight minutes the last time Virginia played in an Elite Eight. Ask UMBC.

Virginia trailed Gardner-Webb by 14 points and won that game. They gave up an 18-5 run in the second half against Oregon, blowing an eight-point lead in the process, and won that game. They trailed Purdue by 10 in the first half and then blew another eight-point second half lead — surviving a banked-in three with a minute left — to win.

So much for that.

The other side of this was that Virginia couldn’t win playing the style that they play. They slow the game down too much. Defense wins games but offense wins championships. A system can only carry you so far if there aren’t pros running it.

So much for that, too.

“Not only did we silence his critics,” Guy said after the game, “we silenced our own.”

And it’s fitting that Guy played such a central role in this win, because he turned into something of the posterboy of the UMBC loss. His pictures were the ones that went viral, crouched down, head between his knees; crying as he buried his face into his jersey.

(Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

A year later, he is the one leading Virginia to the win that changes the narrative.

Because the story isn’t over yet.

The loss to UMBC can never be taken away.

But neither can this run to the Final Four. Virginia and these players will always be able to say that.

And with two more wins, they’ll be able to cut down one more set of nets.

Tony Bennett is no longer the best coach to never get to a Final Four, but he is one step closer to joining the pantheon of national title-winning coaches.

That’s a helluva was to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of getting hired at Virginia.