If Virginia and Tony Bennett win the 2019 NCAA title, they’ll do so in part by tapping into an ACC tradition of benefiting from timely fluke plays.
When Dean Smith finally won a national championship in 1982 after six fruitless visits to the Final Four, his North Carolina squad was benefited by a fortuitous break in the final minute of a 63-62 victory. In that case, after freshman Michael Jordan hit a go-ahead jumper with 17 seconds to go, with the ball and a chance to win Georgetown guard Fred Brown passed not to a teammate but directly to James Worthy of UNC. Time ran out before the Hoyas got another shot.
Another fluke helped clinch Smith’s second title in 1993. Michigan forward Chris Webber -- later shown to have taken money from a bookie in an act that resulted in his team’s NCAA record being vacated -- wasn’t penalized for a traveling violation. Instead, trapped in a corner, Webber obliviously called a timeout his team didn’t have, allowing the Tar Heels to salt away a 77-71 victory.
Now, in the 26th appearance by an ACC member in the NCAA championship game, Virginia will get a shot at Texas Tech for the Cavaliers’ first title.
Like Smith, a championship for Cav coach Tony Bennett is much-delayed. And, like Smith, Bennett, the 10th-year UVa mastermind has benefited from one and perhaps two fortuitous, fluke calls, in this case in the NCAA semifinal.
First there was the double-dribble by Ty Jerome overlooked by officials that would have given Auburn the final possession with a two-point lead. Then, in the final second, sharpshooting Kyle Guy was foolishly fouled on a 3-point try. The senior, All-ACC guard made all three foul shots to capture the victory.
Should Virginia win, it would become the fifth original ACC member to secure an NCAA title after Duke, Maryland, North Carolina and NC State. (Virginia joined the ACC in December of 1953, the league’s first season, but that’s close enough for founder’s status.) Recent additions Louisville and Syracuse won championships while members of other conferences.
In 25 previous appearances in the final game, ACC teams have been victorious 14 times. (NC State lost to Oklahoma State in the 1946 championship contest before the ACC began.) During this century ACC squads now have made 10 trips to the ultimate test in 20 seasons, with seven titles.
Duke reached the final 11 times, nine under Mike Krzyzewski. North Carolina has gotten that far 11 times also, five under Smith, four under Roy Williams and once under Frank McGuire.
Starting with McGuire’s 1957 team, when UNC first established the ACC as a basketball conference, league teams have made 26 of 63 finals. That’s 41.3 percent, closing in on an appearance every other year.
| END GAME
ACC Teams In NCAA Championship Game Since 1954
(Asterisk Indicates Victor)
|1957||UNC*||54-53||Kansas (3 OT)||Frank McGuire|
|1974||NC State*||76-64||Marquette||Norm Sloan|
|1983||NC State*||54-52||Houston||Jim Valvano|
|2004||Ga. Tech||82-73||UConn*||Paul Hewitt|
|2009||UNC*||89-72||Mich. State||Roy Williams|
|2019||Virginia||TBD||Texas Tech||Tony Bennett|
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