Arts, Leisure and Sports
University of Virginia players and coaches wake up this morning still reeling from an embarrassing — and historic — loss over the weekend. Head Coach Tony Bennett says it’s the risk you take when you step into the arena. UVA became the first number-one seed to ever fall to a 16-seed in the NCAA tournament, losing to University of Maryland-Baltimore County in a 20-point rout. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The doors to the Virginia’s locker room opened, the last protection for a group of players sitting in a state of shocked quiet after the most improbable of losses. Some fought back tears. Some hung their heads or stared blankly down at their cellphones. Others could only shake their head. And now it was time to confront the questions along with the disbelief: how could this have happened? How could Virginia — the team that rolled through the Atlantic Coast Conference and claimed the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament — become the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed with Friday’s 74-54 loss to UMBC? “If you play this game and you step into the arena, this stuff can happen,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Yet it was a jarring turn of events specifically because it hadn’t happened. Ever. 135-0. That’s where No. 1 seeds stood in NCAA Tournament history against 16-seeds. Sure, there had been a few close calls — most notably Georgetown surviving against Princeton in 1989 for a 50-49 win when a freshman named Alonzo Mourning blocked Kit Mueller’s final-play shot. But there had been nothing like this before.
The questions following the Cavaliers (31-3) to Charlotte were more about whether this would be the year for Bennett’s program to shake a modest history of postseason stumbles and make the leap to the Final Four, which had eluded him in two previous NCAA Tournaments as a top seed. Virginia had its calling-card defense allowing just 53.4 points per game, while the offense offered more perimeter scoring options in Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and Ty Jerome even as the Cavaliers still played the methodical offensive pace that reduced the number of possessions and often turned games into grind-it-out, ugly crawls. Even after losing ACC sixth man of the year De’Andre Hunter to a broken left wrist suffered during the league tournament, Virginia (31-3) arrived at the NCAA Tournament with a school-record win total and five straight weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 — the program’s first time atop the AP rankings since the days when 7-foot-4 great Ralph Sampson roamed the paint.
That Virginia team lost the top spot after a December 1982 loss to NAIA team Chaminade in what many have considered the biggest upset in college sports. And now the first Cavaliers team to make it back there has perhaps an even more shocking loss, this one to end a season. “It’s not the end of the world,” senior forward Isaiah Wilkins said of Bennett’s postgame message to the team. “It feels like the end of the world. But it’s not.”
As stunning as the loss itself was the way it unfolded. The America East Conference champion Retrievers — who had lost by 44 points at Albany on Jan. 21 — turned a 21-all tie into a second-half romp. They scored 53 points and shot 68 percent while spreading out Virginia’s suddenly flummoxed defense. Meanwhile, Virginia couldn’t make a key shot to stem UMBC’s surge, making just 3 of 13 3-pointers after halftime and 4 of 22 for the game. The lead grew and grew, sending murmurs at first through the Charlotte crowd that soon began to churn into a growing buzz and a tangible feeling that a historic moment was quickly becoming inevitable. Virginia never figured out a way to stop it, either.
“I don’t know, I can’t think about it,” Hall said when asked when he felt it was getting away. “I don’t know, man. They were hitting mostly every shot they took. We were scrambling behind the plays. Don’t know, can’t tell you.” By the final minutes, the Retrievers were up big and in celebration mode with constant gestures seeking more noise from their already-rowdy section of fans. It was the kind of position everyone expected the Cavaliers, not the Retrievers, to be in as the game wound to a close just like every other 1-seed before them.
These games are supposed to be routine, almost a formality. Instead, the Cavaliers ended up trying to find answers to locker-room questions when no easy ones were to be had. “Somewhere in the game, we just got lost and we lost our heads and lost what our vision was and what we’ve been doing all year,” graduate guard Nigel Johnson said. Asked whether he worried one bad night would overshadow the season, Wilkins cut off the question.
“I don’t care about that,” Wilkins said as he fought back tears. “I don’t care about that.” It certainly creates a complicated legacy. This was a team that went 20-1 against ACC opponents, won the program’s third ACC Tournament title and spent the past two weeks of the season as a unanimous AP No. 1. It was all part of wildly unexpected climb from being picked to finish sixth in the ACC. In the end, the Cavaliers stunned everybody one last time.
The 50th annual Festival In the Park invites you to take a “Slow Ride” this May – announcing the venerable band “Foghat” as the headliner music event on May 26. Festival president Skip Brown made that announcement this morning. Brown says Foghat appeals to several generations – the younger crowd has made the band’s Slow Ride a popular choice on the game Guitar Hero 3. He also says Festival in the Park will expand beyond Elmwood Park this year to some of the surrounding streets.
“Floydfest 18 Wild” this year is from July 25th through the 29th, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 170. Its been a year of personal and professional changes for co-founder Kris Hodges. He is also the CEO of “Across the Way Productions.” Kris Hodges spoke with WFIR’s Gene Marrano recently about those changes – and about the music, arts and outdoor festival. Here is a “Longer Listen:
Major changes announced for minor league baseball today. In Single-A visits to the pitcher’s mound by coaches and other players will be limited to ten per game; at the Double-A and Triple-A levels there are even fewer mound visits and a 15-second pitch timer will be employed. Its all an effort to reduce the length of games. At all levels including Class A that includes the Salem Red Sox, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. Ben Gellman is a spokesman for the Salem Sox: