The conversation with the former U of L Cardinal hoopster took place on a school charter flight to New Orleans for the ’82 Final Four.
He shall remain anonymous. He’d spent the wait before departure at one of SDF’s mini-bars, and didn’t have the clearest of heads.
To be fair, I was more than a bit jacked up myself. One, because that trip to the season’s last weekend was far from a given for my favorite team, all things considered. And, two, because, well, it was back in the day, and you know, well, you know. Let’s just say, my pal who drove me to the airport suggested I might consider a Thorazine drip as an antidote.
Anyway, when the two of us were chatting in our excitement, I kept mentioning how the Cards were going to the Final Four and vaunted, Ralph Samspon-led UVa was not.
“Yeah,” he responded, quizzically since I wasn’t really making my point clearly, “they lost to UAB.” Which U of L had then dispatched on their home court in Birmingham to advance, after the Blazers had upset Virginia, who easily had U of L’s number.
OK, not a great story, but my point — then and now — is that Virginia has been viewed as one of college basketball’s chronic underachievers. Going back to the that era, when Sampson & Mates, often ranked #1, only made it to one Final Four, and an Elite Eight.
Plus, the Wahoos have been at the wrong end of inarguably the two biggest upsets in the sport’s history. To Chaminade in December of ’82. And, yes I know you know, by twenty points last season in the first round as the highest seed to UMBC, the lowest seed.
Coach Tony Bennett has for a number of years carried around the same baggage as such as Dean Smith and Jay Wright before him, “best coach never to win the crown.” Bennett, for his regular season successes had never even made it past the regionals.
Which is to say this monkey on Virginia’s back goes back further than just last year’s wipeout during the first No Break on the Dance floor.
Which is not to say Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter, who didn’t even play in that infamous L because he was injured, and their teammates haven’t had to deal daily with that devastating setback 24/7 for 52 weeks, plus 3 more.
Until last night. Continue reading UVa’s Not So Cavalier Road to Redemption