Without question, one of the highlights of my winter has been watching UVA basketball dominate the ACC. Those of you who aren’t familiar with UVA sports, let me break it down for you: we’re great at lacrosse, pretty good at baseball, but when it comes to football and basketball, what I would consider the “main events” we typically don’t make it very far. Year after year, it’s tough being a UVA fan.
Until this year…for the first time in my lifetime, UVA was the regular ACC champion.
But wait, it gets better! Sunday, they went on to defeat Duke to win the ACC tournament–something that’s been nearly 40 years in the making.
I’m so excited I don’t even know what to do with myself.
What’s more, when you go to fill out your March Madness basketball bracket this week, guess who you’ll find in the #1 spot in the Eastern region? UVA!
Those of you with big fancy sports teams like Alabama, Ohio State, UNC or Duke who win bowl games and tournaments, you might not understand how special this is. But those of you who are typically routing for the underdogs, you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s what amazing about this year’s team: their season did not start out on the road to victory. In fact, in December, they took a beating from Tennessee losing 87-52.
But their story wasn’t over…
New Year’s Eve, team star and senior, Joe Harris, went to Coach Bennett’s house and said, “Coach, what do we need to do to turn this team around?”
Together, they marked out a strategy that truly did revitalize the team, following that meeting, they went on to hold a 19-2 record, securing both the regular season title, ACC tournament victory, and #1 NCAA tournament seed.
(Don’t you love a good underdog story?! I mean if this isn’t like a real-life version of Friday Night Lights, I don’t know what is!!)
Not only is it exciting to have a team I love actually WIN, but this year’s basketball team has taught me a lot:
1. Even when you take a beating and things look hopeless, don’t give up. Reorganize, re-strategize, and keep on going–UVA’s embarrassing loss to Tennessee wasn’t the end, in many ways, it was the beginning.
2. Success isn’t about one person, it’s about the entire team–these players aren’t out for their egos or their personal stats. In fact, one turning point for the team’s strategy was for senior stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell to step back and allow others to score more. Now, rather than 1 or 2 players scoring a majority of their points, they have 6-7 players who all share the scoring and the praise.
3. Stay humble--watch any interview with a player or Coach Bennett and, without question, they always reference staying humble. Coach Bennett has built a team rooted in humility. They haven’t let rankings or projections get to their heads, they’ve stayed grounded, always focused on the immediate task at hand.
4. Anything is possible–I’m sure on December 30th following a 35-point blow to Tennessee, no one imagined what the rest of the season held for this historic team, but this is truly a season and a team that has gone on to exceed the expectations of both the players and the fans and it has been quite a ride.
Go Hoos, Go!
Want to read more about the Hoos?
Tony Bennett, Joe Harris reap rewards of their faith in each other, Sports Illustrated
ACC Tournament Final Video Highlights--these videos make me cry every time!