To say that I was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually damaged after last year’s Round of 64 heartbreak to University of Maryland Baltimore College would be an understatement. Out of the barrage of texts that I received — mostly from “friends” excited to tell me that my college basketball team of choice was garbage — the one conversation that I think summarizes my feelings best came from my dad. After talking me through his emotions after his beloved Florida Gators were absolutely clobbered by the powerhouse Nebraska football team for the national championship in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, the only response I could muster was, “whatever.” I couldn’t care less about his national championship woes. We didn’t even come close to that game. What went wrong? I thought I had embraced the pace!
Well, a lot of things went wrong. Losing emerging lottery pick DeAndre Hunter before the tournament didn’t help, and combine that with a poor shooting night and a game in which UMBC went literally unconscious from deep, you’re going to have a recipe for disaster. I spent the summer mending my heart after the loss. Sure, hats off to Villanova for putting together a great run, but that was supposed to be US. I didn’t know if I could trust the Hoos after what had happened. Could I love a college basketball team again?
Leading up to the season, I heard murmurs about the team, but I tried to ignore them out of fear. “The offense is so much better,” they said. “Jack Salt now looks like an absolute tank with a neck beard.” “Braxton Key might be eligible.” Despite all the good news, I couldn’t get my hopes up. How could I? But once the year started, I realized how wrong I was to be cautious. This team is truly filthy. Last year’s team was a once in a lifetime unit, but it would be foolish to admit that they didn’t have flaws. A 30th ranked offense in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency isn’t stellar, but compare that to this year’s team, who can flat-out score in a multitude of ways. How does a number two ranked offense in adjusted offensive efficiency sound, coupled with a number two ranked defense in adjusted defensive efficiency? THAT’S FILTHY. Plus, I haven’t even gone into the positive impact that Mamadi’s blonde hair has brought to the team.
Look Tony — I’m addressing you now, Mr. Bennett — I’m tired of people saying you can’t win in March. I get that there’s somewhat of a track record there, but if there was ever a team that has all the tools to win the natty, it’s this group of guys. So go take what’s yours, my dude. I’m tired of hearing this played-out narrative about Virginia basketball. We’re bad for the sport! We’re the most boring team to watch in the country! We only win because of a system, not talent! It’s time to write a new narrative.
It’s time to give this team every bit of support that we’ve got. Go pack a bar, host a watch party or, heck, even buy a ticket to a game for this year’s tournament. This might be the best shot we have for a long time to finally make the whole country embrace the pace, whether they like it or not. My heart has mended from last year. I don’t want it to get broken again, but I don’t think it will. Let’s get it, Hoos. Don’t let me down.
Benjamin Miller is the Humor Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.