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Congratulations Virginia, 2019 NCAA Champs!

Couldn't be happier for our Charlottesville friends and family

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NCAA Men’s Final Four - National Championship - Texas Tech v Virginia
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 08: Head coach Tony Bennett of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates with his team after the 85-77 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four National Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 08, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Well that was satisfying: despite warnings that a Virginia-Texas Tech game might not make it out of the 40s, Virginia won the 2019 National Championship 85-77.

Texas Tech made sure that Virginia was a worthy champion. The Red Raiders fell behind early but fought back, hitting several threes to catch up. And late, when Virginia had an eight point lead with 6:16 left, The Red Raiders turned it up and charged right back and soon enough Tech cut the lead to 59-56 and at that point it was anybody’s game.

And unlike many times over the year, in the Bennett era and before, Virginia came through.

Both teams played tremendous defense, as expected, but when the game was on the line, Virginia hit most of the big shots. UVA hit all of its last 11 free throw attempts. Unlike most of the tournament, Texas Tech, not having encountered the shock of UVA’s Pack Line, panicked a bit and chunked up some poor shots.

Virginia just kept going and made winning plays. De’Andre Hunter was brilliant in winning time and really, so was the whole team.

And that’s saying a lot because Texas Tech broke teams in this tournament. That defense is incredible.

Yet Virginia handled it all beautifully and are absolutely deserving champions. We couldn’t be happier for them and it’s also good for the ACC.

Speaking of that, the conference has won titles in this century in 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017 and now 2019. That’s impressive even if you put an asterisk next to 2005 and 2009 when UNC was cheating its collective ass off.

Perhaps the best thing about Virginia’s national championship is that the program seems entirely honorable. It’s a good model for the rest of college basketball.

So enjoy the moment, Wahoos!

Now here’s the hard part.

Things just changed. We saw it firsthand in 1991 when Duke beat UNLV and Kansas and the hotel scene was just starkly different. There used to be a small core of fans who were close to the program. We got pushed further away, starting that night. Big donors strutted around, whipping out fancy cellphones and making various ostentatious displays of power. Those people were nowhere to be found when Duke was losing. They only show up in good times and they leave when the good times do as we learned in 1995.

Don’t misunderstand. We loved that first title and we’ve loved the ride ever since. It’s been incredible and we wouldn’t trade places with any other fan base. But the core of people who stood by Duke basketball in the dark days were displaced and that was dispiriting.

The media spotlight is going to stay hot. If Kyle Guy has too much to drink at his wedding it’s getting reported. If Tony Bennett’s dentist says something about his teeth we’ll all know.

The focus on your program just changed and it may be hard to deal with.

Bennett is amazingly even keeled but everyone is going to want a piece of him now. It’s going to be hard to maintain focus, not to mention humility, when everyone is blowing smoke up your BVDs.

The point is getting’s certainly not easy. Dealing with it after you get there is not easy either.

By coincidence, we saw a comment by Billy Donovan about his own experience winning his first title.

He was so focused on that that when he finally got it, he was depressed. He thought it would utterly change his life and in some way validate him and it did none of that.

We’ve come to realize that part of Bennett’s strength is his faith and that helps to keep his even keel. That doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

We’re not trying to be killjoys because we’re very happy for everyone who cares about UVA basketball. It’s just that things will be different and how you manage that is going to be important.

Again, congratulations and see you on the court next season!

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