Adversity. Resilience. Hoos.
It’s the eve of the final weekend of March Madness. The Final Four. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but I cannot help but be drawn in by the storylines and makeup of the teams left. On the men’s side, the season Virginia is having is something to talk about.
Take it back to March 2018. Everyone remembers it. UMBC upsets Virginia (a 20 point win). A 16 seed beating a 1 seed for the first.time.in.history. The embarrassment, shock, and disbelief for Virginia players and coaches was palpable even for the casual fan…one seeds were 135-0 vs 16 seeds. They had to fly back to Charlottesville and regroup.
The Virginia men’s team worked through the embarrassment in the spring and summer, determined to put themselves in a position for a tournament run in 2019. They grinded out a 16-2 ACC record, (note only one road loss at Duke), and they entered the NCAA tournament a one seed once more. Now they are Final Four bound, the first time UVA has been since 1984.
I tell that background to get to the real meat of this post. Adversity led them here. This group went through a really tough thing in the national spotlight last year. (One article quoted “Cavaliers became a national punch line; they received death threats and needed a police escort to return to the hotel following the UMBC loss.”) They struggled and grew from it, they let it motivate and push them. Coach Tony Bennett said “It stung. It was a painful gift. It drew our team closer.” They learned to be resilient through the pain.
Bennett told his guys before this season, “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.” Here they are, on their way to the Final Four. How could you not root for that? Maybe UVA will make history again this year.
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