MINNEAPOLIS – The Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 85-77 to win the NCAA Tournament on Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Here are six observations from the night the Cavaliers won their first championship in program history.
– Grinding to a halt
The start of the game was a tough watch, to say the least. The first three possessions each resulted in missed shots as the shot clock expired. By the time the under-16 timeout rolled around, Texas Tech hadn’t yet made a field goal – they still led 3-2.
The first eight minutes or so were a long way from being entertaining. Things picked up when Texas Tech caught fire from 3-point range. Funny enough, the Red Raiders at one point had 19 points, with none of them coming by way of a 2-point field goal. Their first five makes were all threes.
The beginning of the game was what everyone feared with two of the better defenses in the country. The first half for the most part was just a rock fight on the biggest stage. Luckily, it got much, much better.
– De’Andre Hunter improved his draft stock
Hunter was a sure-fire top 10 selection in the June’s NBA Draft, but Monday night at U.S. Bank Stadium may have pushed him even closer to the top five. Hunter finished with a game and career-high 27 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Twenty-two of his points came in the second half and overtime. He also hit the shot that saved Virginia’s title hopes down the stretch of regulation as he was left open for a three with under 15 seconds left.
Aside from his stellar offensive game, Hunter was also the best defensive player on the floor in a game that was filled with them. Much of the night he was tasked with handling Jarrett Culver (more on him below), Texas Tech’s impending lottery draft pick. Kyle Guy was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, but Hunter was unquestionably the most impactful on Monday night.
– Culver could have been better
While Hunter improved his draft stock, Culver didn’t aid his very much. He’s still going to be a top 10 pick, barring something unforeseen in June, but he may have slipped a bit after this weekend. During the Final Four he finished an unimpressive 8-of-34 from the floor. Not great on that stage for a guy of his caliber.
With that said, he still did have moments where he impressed. That included his left-handed layup off of a nifty spin move to put Texas Tech up with under a minute to go. It was a flash, but he’s got plenty to work on. Facing a guy like Hunter defensively is a bit of a taste of the next level for him, and it can be used as an experience to look back upon as he prepares for the NBA.
– The replay system
Okay, everyone is all for getting the call correct, for the most part. But when Texas Tech saw a call overturned in overtime that was a bang-bang play that could have gone either way, but barely grazed the ball after it was knocked loose by a pair of UVA defenders, the game felt over.
The possession didn’t win the game for Virginia, obviously, but it felt like it was going to be awfully difficult to come back after that call was changed.
– Redemption for the Hoos
Last season Virginia became the first ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a really cool story to see the program rally from that embarrassment to win the title the very next season.
With that being said, more people are still going to remember Virginia for being the team to lose to a No. 16 seed than for being a championship winning team, fair or not.
– One Shining Moment
One Shining Moment is the video montage that’s played following the completion of the NCAA Tournament every year. It’s aired both on CBS (or whichever channel is carrying the game) and shown inside the arena.
It’s also terribly overrated and played out. We could all do without it.