Virginia is For Real!

UVA Wins ACC Tournament

The University of Virginia won the ACC tournament with a convincing 71-63 win over Roy Williams and his North Carolina Tar Heels.  Virginia defeated North Carolina for the second time this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.

This season, Coach Tony Bennet led Virginia to a stunning record of 31-2. Along the way, the Cavaliers set a school record for victories, won the conference tournament for the second time in five seasons and will most certainly (actually they have) entered the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the No.1 overall seed, as the field of 68 was announced today.

Virginia has no rookie sensations, no “one-and-dones”– a.k.a., no sure-fire NBA lottery picks, and no players that everyone in the country knows by name. Nonetheless, Virginia is clearly the No. 1 team in the land and they’ve put together one of the most dominant seasons in the storied history of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and the Cavaliers won the ACC Championship regular season title and the ACC Tournament with sheer grit, finishing 20-1 against league competition. Not bad for a bunch that started the season unranked and picked to finish sixth in the ACC, the finest college basketball conference in America.

“I think we always knew this could be a special team,” guard Ty Jerome said.

And now that the Cavaliers are favorites. How will they do it? They try to out-underdog the underdogs. I love it. “You fight like you’re not supposed to win or nobody expects you to win,” he explained.

And so it’s true: UVA is for real. They’re the real deal, the real McCoy and are not to be taken lightly. And here’s the spiritual tie in: UVA this year represents what believers should be every year: respected and respectable.  We who believe in the God of Heaven should be at once and always noble and honorable, decent and proper, and, well, what we say we are. To use a tried and true truism, we need to practice what we preach. UVA certainly does.

The UVA defense is lights out. And they score just enough to be a respectable offensive threat. In other words, if you say you’re a defensive team, then don’t try to run when you know you can’t. They do what they do, and they’re proud of it, even if nobody likes it. We want offense. They know they can win with defense. And that’s that.  The UVA defense is the truth. They defend the perimeter and smother you on the interior so that opposing teams feel like they can’t even breathe when they’re got the ball. Offenses bog down and melt down under the UVA’s constant pressure.

So there.  UVA is my pick not only to go to the Final Four but to win the whole thing. 

Let the madness begin.

Winning Cures Everything

Everyone loves a winner.  Because winning cures everything. It cures frustration and fury and disappointment and depression and everything else in between.  Winning ways will win you admiration and approval and applause and affection, not to mention esteem and honor.  It’s an axiomatic truth; winning cures what ails us, and we have a lot of maladies that we need healing from.

When you’re winning, you’re conquering and overcoming and triumphing over your foes and your fears. And  your fiercest foes may not be as dangerous as your deepest fears or your weariest woes.

This year, the North Carolina Tar Heels showed us how to win ugly. And even though it wasn’t pretty, it was beautiful.  North Carolina avenged a last second, buzzer beater, gut wrenching loss to Villanova in last year’s final. And if that wasn’t a horrible way to lose, I don’t know what is.

This year, while Gonzaga may have been the sentimental favorite, it would have been awful and even cruel and unusual punishment for North Carolina to lose in the finals for a second year in a row.  So the basketball gods asked the God of the universe for permission to let this one go Carolina’s way. 

We all want God to right our wrongs and cure our ills and forgive our iniquities heal our diseases. Especially this time of year during early Spring, the time of the singing of the birds, when hope springs eternal.  We all need a second chance, or more specifically, another chance, at life. After we slip up and trip up and mess  up, we all need another shot at redemption. This is what we all hope and dream and strive for; atonement, renewal and restoration.  

So don’t give up and don’t give in. Even when you lose a tough one, believe that you can bounce back and win the big one.

March Madness: ALWAYS Have a Plan “B” (Oklahoma!)

hield-buddyBuddy Hield averages 29 points a game. He single handedly carried his team on his back through their bracket en route to the Final Four in Houston. And Oklahoma was supposed to give Villanova a run, or at least a game, IF Buddy and his buddies could hit their three pointers. Not! It didn’t happen. In fact, the unthinkable happened; Oklahoma got blown out of the gym, losing 95-51. Unbelievable.

The Sooners didn’t just lose, they were creamed and crushed, slaughtered and massacred, trounced and pounced right out of the Final Four. It was their worst loss of the season and the worst margin of defeat in Final Four history. Hield, who won several national player of the year awards, finished with nine points. Nine points. He came into the game shooting 46.5 percent from 3-point range, but finished 4 for 12 from the field, including 1 of 8 from beyond the arc.

Hield, who became the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer in the game, said Villanova was ”one of the best teams I’ve ever played in college.” Hield had more to say: ”Just credit them for what they were doing. They made it tough on me throwing multiple bodies at me,” said Hield, who had six points against West Virginia, the only other time this season he was held below 10 points. ”They just played terrific tonight.”

So, for Villanova, they had a game plan. Several Wildcats get credit for their great defense against Hield, as Nova used multiple players to chase Hield all over the court. They limited his shots by not allowing much separation when he didn’t have the ball and smothered him even more when he did. ”We were just loading into him,” Mikal Bridges said. ”We just tried our best to limit his touches and load to him when he had the ball.”

So, since the Oklahoma Plan “A” did not work, what was the backup plan? What was their Plan “B?” There wasn’t one. That’s right; they had NO contingency plan. No options for unlikely exigencies or unforeseen eventualities. What if Buddy had a bad game? What if the team had a cold shooting night? What if Oklahoma couldn’t make a shot or buy a basket and Villanova couldn’t miss? You guessed it? That’s exactly what happened.

My dad taught me to “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” He taught me that everything won’t go your way. And anything can happen. Nothing is for certain. At least not in sports. And in life, life happens. So you need to plan for what might happen. And that’s why you need more margins in your life. You need margins on your term paper and margin in your bank account and margin in your commute to work and margin in your marriage. You just do.

So here’s to Villanova and North Carolina; they play in the National Championship game tonight. So each team certainly has a game, plan. Let’s just hope that if each team’s Plan “A” doesn’t work, that they have a Plan “B” in their hip pocket.