Virginia Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome hoists the championship trophy aloft as he walks off the court on April 8, 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Virginia defeated Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime to with the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Final Four. (Jerry Holt/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

The Virginia Cavaliers can now claim the title 2019 NCAA March Madness National Champions. 

It was a historical comeback from last year’s tournament, when the Cavaliers were the first ever No. 1 seed to lose in the first round. Luck, and maybe the refs, were on their side in this year’s go around. 

The Final Four matchups were not the anticipated of many bracket fillers back on selection Sunday. 

Virginia faced off against Auburn in the semifinals of the tournament and merely survived the upset. In the final seconds – 1.5 to be exact – Auburn was ahead 62-60. On a last chance catch-and-shoot attempt in the corner from Kyle Guy of Virginia, the whistle blew just before the buzzer rang and the shot was missed. 

The refs called a foul on the Auburn defender, who did not touch Guy’s shot but didn’t give the shooter just enough room to land. It was a 3-point-shot attempt. After review, the refs put 0.6 seconds on the clock and sent Guy to the line for three, of which he made all, and the Cavaliers advanced. 

In the other semifinal matchup that evening, Texas Tech was able to control the game against Michigan State. After miraculously defeating Duke in the Elite Eight, Michigan State’s late game push against the Texas Tech Red Raiders was not enough. 

Tech defeated Michigan State 61-51 to advance to the National Championship game, the first National Championship game in program history for both the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Virginia Cavaliers. 

The National Championship game did not disappoint. It was a back-and-forth game between the Red Raiders and Cavaliers for all 40 minutes of regulation, with Virginia having a couple points on Tech for the majority. Texas Teach really made a push in the final four minutes to take the lead. 

In the final minute, Texas Tech was down one and made an important block on Virginia. Tech came down the floor with the ball, and with 39 seconds left, the Big 12 Player of the Year, Jarrett Culver, drove to the basket, made a spin move on the defender and laid in two points off the glass to give Texas Tech the lead. 

Tech increased the lead to three with a 68-65 game in the final 20 seconds. That’s when De’Andre Hunter made a kick-out three in the corner for Virginia to tie the game at 68 and force overtime. 

Overtime was even more exciting than regulation. 

Virginia scored, then Texas Tech scored twice, then Virginia scored twice, at least for the first three of the five minutes in overtime. Virginia pulled away in the final two minutes, and the few shots Tech made were followed by quick fouls that didn’t help the Red Raiders. 

One of the deciding factors was a turnover after review by the Red Raiders, where Texas Tech had the ball poked out of bounds by a Virginia defender. The refs went back to look at it, and after zooming in as close as possible on the ball, it appeared to have barely graced the pinky finger of Davide Moretti of the Red Raiders before going out of bounds. 

To many, it was inconclusive evidence as it was only seen from one, maybe two camera angles after full zoom and slowed down frame by frame. Virginia managed the remainder of the game, caught the final rebound and dribbled out the clock before storming the court as the 2019 National Champions. 

Basketball fans question with the Cavaliers’ success down the stretch how much was earned and how much was given. 

In the Elite Eight, Virginia was down three with five seconds remaining and won. In the Final Four, Virginia was down four with 17 seconds remaining and won. And of course, in the championship, it was down three with 12 seconds to play in regulation and won. 

Despite the skepticism, it’s the best college basketball team this year and deserves respect. 

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