Thoughts on U.Va. Basketball from a non-basketball fan

Sorry Jay Huff, I don’t know who you are

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Aly Lee is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

I am a third-year in my spring semester at the University of Virginia, and I have never been to a University basketball game.

I know, I know. A good number of you are probably horrified. With the Hoos officially heading to the Final Four, I have weathered many an aghast look when I confess to people that the only sports event I’ve ever attended was the homecoming football game my first year.

Sports have just never really been a prominent part of my life. Sure, I went to tennis camp like any suburban youth, but I never enjoyed it and I certainly wasn’t good at it. Just ask me how I felt about getting a whopping nine laps on the infamous FitnessGram Pacer Test.  

So maybe my aversion to sports culture stems from deep self-loathing over my lack of athletic ability, but I’d like to think I just prefer other forms of less-sweaty entertainment.

Nonetheless, University basketball culture is hard to run from. And now that we’re in the Final Four, it seems like basketball culture has only exponentially expanded — shout out to the brave soul who asked our genetics professor to move our exam because of the game. As such, I have learned a decent amount about the game, the players, the hopes and the fears of the Hoos simply by living at this school. 

So for all you sports fans out there, I present to you my breakdown of University basketball from someone who has never watched a University basketball game.

The Game

It may surprise you that I actually did play basketball in my teen years. Yes, back in good ol’ 2012, my mother decided I was spending too much time looking at random objects under microscopes and forced me to try out for the girl’s basketball team. To everyone’s shock, my lack of hand-eye coordination and feeble attempts at dribbling landed me on Rift Valley Academy’s seventh grade women’s basketball team.

With that I gained an illustrious one season career of missing free throws and an abundant fountain of knowledge regarding this hallowed game.

Here’s how it works. The objective is to get the ball into the basket more than your opponent before the timer runs out. Meanwhile, you can do a lot of “traveling” or “boxing out,” you could also do a “full-court press” and there’s something about “picking cherries?”

Loads of fun. 

Of course, I see that college basketball is not necessarily about the game itself. There’s a captivating camaraderie in standing alongside fellow students with the common purpose of cheering for sweaty, tall men. I mean I’ve seen the Snap Stories — smooshed faces beaming in blue and orange paint, the blare of the buzzer as the timer clocks out, the stadium roaring with the toll of the Good Ol’ Song. The energy is vicariously felt. It does seem like a sort of school-pride infused fun I could possibly buy into.

The People

There are a lot of big names in the University basketball world, so I’ve learned. Here are a few of the ones I’ve heard a lot about.

First and foremost, there is Tony Bennett — the coach. He seems like a solid guy. I sometimes get him confused with Tony Romo, who I believe is a football player and at one pointed dated Jessica Simpson. Tony Bennett is pretty well-liked by students because he’s a good coach, and he is also objectively good-looking.

Then there’s Kyle Guy. Back in first year, I remember my hallmates would sometimes start freaking out because they thought they saw him and his little man-bun at the burger station in O-Hill. He is also apparently getting married soon. Good for him.

I’ve heard quite a lot about someone named Jay Huff. Maybe he’s the man who got injured last year? Or maybe he’s the basketball player who lived next to my brother and walked his small poodle around the parking lot every day.

Lastly, there’s Jack Salt, which is a pretty rad name if you ask me. He could be like Jack Frost but bring salty snacks instead of winter.

Unfortunately, those are the only names I can confidently say right now. I heard a lot of buzz about Mamadi these past few days, but I could not tell you who he is or what he’s like. I apologize to the rest of the team who I know are equally deserving of my recognition.

The Ticket Lottery System

This was one of the first shockers to me about University basketball. Last year, we had triumphantly been riding the No. 1 wave for a while and the hype was hard to ignore. I soon felt it was my collegiate duty to watch at least one game. So, I finally mustered up the energy to request a ticket.

To my utter dismay, I learned that not just anyone can walk into John Paul Jones Arena in a blue and orange jersey.  Apparently it’s a lottery and the more Sabre points you have, the better chances you have of getting a ticket.  

Let me remind you that the last sports thing I went to was first-year homecoming.

Needless to say, I did not get a ticket.

Now I understand the system incentivizes students to support games that might not get as much attention. That’s nice for the golf players or the hockey team. But what if you’re just a curious sports explorer looking to learn a little more about this cultural phenomenon? How can you expect me to understand the thrill of live sports if I am systematically excluded from watching them? Why give such perpetuating privilege to the people already enmeshed in the sports universe? 

This is an injustice. Not that I’m crying about it. 

Our Ranking

I looked it up, and we are number one! Great job, guys! 

I did manage to watch a few clips of this past game from the guy sitting in front of me in class, and I have to say we pulled some pretty remarkable stunts out there. Even I could recognize the insanity of that “buzzer-beater” shot. 

From what I understand, though, we were also number one last year, and we all know how that went down. So you know, I’m going into this March Madness with an open mind and an evidence-based understanding that ranking means absolutely nothing.

Ironically though, I am sort of excited. There is a general buzz around Grounds that’s heart-warming and does make you feel pretty proud to be a part of this school. And though I personally am not all that emotionally invested in how our basketball team fares, I am emotionally invested in my friends who are emotionally invested in how our basketball team fares. It cheered me to see the pure ecstasy on friend’s faces after our harrowing victory over Purdue this weekend. 

And who knows? If the Cavaliers keep it up, maybe I will eventually get to a place where the hype is once again too hard to ignore, and the basketball gods will smile upon me and grant a ticket to my grubby, sabre-pointless hands.

Until then, catch me hiding my Duke water bottle — a gift from my aunt — and looking at things under microscopes. 

And of course, a hearty congratulations to our favorite tall, sweaty men. Best of luck to you in the Final Four. 

Aly Lee is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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