Virginia sports fans are constantly told not to allow our highs to get too high nor our lows too low...while enduring the lowest and highest sports moments that one can imagine. Today, we take a look back at this year's worst moments for loyal Wahoos.
Sorry, everyone. We promise, tomorrow's top ten list will include some happier moments! And if you're a true masochist, you can look at last year's bottom 10 list as well.
To parrot my disclaimer from last season, the following events were compiled based on purely subjective criteria. Under consideration were the importance of the game, the manner in which we lost, degree to which fans (and I) follow the sport, where the game was played (home losses hurt more), and extremely subjective factors such as my mood that day. Drop your opinions down in the comments section!
Without further ado, let's remember some of the moments we most want to forget:
The Hoos had two chances to earn the right to play in Madison Square Garden but came up short both times.
The first opportunity was the true heartbreaker here, a loss in a vital early-season matchup at home against Delaware in the preseason NIT. Virginia fell behind by 18 points in the second half before storming back to close within one point. However, the Hoos couldn't finish the job and suffered their most damaging loss of the year.
The team's punishment was two home games against Lamar and North Texas instead of match-ups in New York with Kansas State and Michigan or Pitt. Estimates were that the missed opportunity alone cost UVA about 18 RPI spots, even assuming two losses.
Months later, Iowa came to JPJ, once again with a trip to New York on the line. Virginia hadn't lost at home since November 13...in the Preseason NIT. But the Hawkeyes simply outclassed the Hoos, playing an outstanding game to cruise to the NIT semifinals and end UVA's season.
This wasn't a particularly "bad loss" for the basketball team compared to the others on this list. After all, playing top-three teams on the road is pretty tough. However, considering the potential repercussions of a big win, this one qualifies as a heartbreaker.
The Wahoo defense was tough from start to finish in this closely-contested matchup, and it needed to be against one of the best defenses it faced all season. Somehow, it seemed like things would somehow break UVA's way when Evan Nolte's game-tying three-point attempt bounced high off the rim before falling in the game's final minute.
However, on the team's most important defensive possession of the season, the Hoos suffered a total breakdown. Akil Mitchell left Reggie Johnson wide open under the basket to give the Miami the lead, and Paul Jesperson (remember him?!) inbounded the ball into the waiting arms of Kenny Kadji to seal the deal.
UVA needed a lot to go right for them to overcome favored Virginia Tech and win a conference title. And, for a while, a lot did go right. The Hoo and Hokies both blew by Maryland (and the ACC's also-rans), and UVA led by 10 points headed into the finals. However, UVA couldn't take care of business in any of its 4 head-to-head bouts with VT, including the 285 match that would determine the title.
It didn't go well.
"BAD LOSSES: vs. ODU."
UVA fans had to look at the above phrase far too often this season. Old Dominion had an absolutely miserable season, finishing 5-25, and the Hoos were inexplicably one of the five. Coming into the season, fans figured that the margin for error in the race for an NCAA bid would be slim...and this was a pretty big error.
Down 7 points with 1:09 to play, UVA almost pulled off a miraculous comeback. Joe Harris and Evan Nolte nailed three-pointers, and Nolte added a three-point play. But Teven Jones, needing a three to tie, hit a jumper with his foot on the line, and Harris (who was apparently playing through flu-like symptoms) couldn't get off a last-second heave.
Tony Bennett was critical of the team's effort and discipline, as it appeared the players had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads just a few days early.
"If you like drama, you've come to the right place in Charlottesville, Virginia......KHALEK GET OFF THE FIELD!"
Who can forget that horrifying radio call?
First, Louisiana Tech pulled off an improbable comeback after UVA got out to an encouraging 24-10 lead. They'd score the next 34 points to open up a seemingly insurmountable 44-24 fourth quarter margin. Then, Phillip Sims (remember him?!) looked to somehow bring the Hoos back. Two quick strikes narrowed the score to 44-38 with just over two minutes to play, and UVA fans were prepared to get the ball back with 1:45 remaining and a shot to win. With the way that Sims was playing, it seemed likely that the Cavaliers would find the end zone one more time.
However, the team wasn't as prepared. Coming out of a timeout, the Hoos couldn't figure out which personnel to send on the field and, you guessed it, Khalek Shepherd failed to get off. Five yard penalty, game over.
Tomorrow's list of the year's best UVA sports moments just might include the team's big win over Duke. When you read that, try to forget what happened a few days later, when the Hoos couldn't take care of business on the road against an inferior opponent.
After a Joe Harris free throw put Virginia ahead 52-50, Joe Rohan of BC nailed a three-pointer, while getting fouled, to move in front by 1 point with 8 seconds to play. With the game on the line, Jontel Evans received the inbounds pass and jogged leisurely up-court before stepping out-of-bounds. That was strange / horrifying.
With a trip to Omaha on the line, UVA played two of its poorest games of the season, committing 7 errors in the two-game series and failing to shut down the red-hot Bulldogs. MSU was led by Hunter Renfroe, who went 6 for 6 in game one, and Wes Rea, who is the largest human to ever play the game of baseball.
As the Cardiac Cavs are fond of doing, UVA put up a dramatic 9th-inning run in game two. Down 6-3, UVA pushed across two runs and had the tying and winning runs in scoring position before Derek Fisher grounded out, ending the Hoos' season. After defying low expectations and earning the right to host an NCAA Super Regional, Virginia lost a quick two games and missed a trip to Omaha and opportunity for a national title.
Despite missing out on the chance to play for a second straight bowl game, the Hoos went to Blacksburg and took it to the desperate Hokies. The Virginia defense shut down Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech for much of the game, as VT managed just 129 passing yards and turned the ball over twice, the second a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a 14-7 UVA lead. Would this be the year to end the Hokies' depressing Commonwealth Cup winning streak?
No, it wouldn't. The Hokies tied the game at 14; then, everything went even more terribly wrong. A Mike Rocco interception gave Tech possession in UVA territory, and the Hoos wouldn't possess the ball again. That's because Mike London inexplicably decided to allow the game clock to run down to nothing, rather than save time for another UVA possession. He then used his precious timeouts to ice the kicker for the second and third times that quarter. (London apparently hasn't seen those studies that show icing the kicker to be worthless).
The Hoos blew a prime opportunity to pull off a statement win in Blacksburg, and, even worse, fans had to witness one of the most embarrassing coaching blunders in UVA sports history. His explanation didn't exactly inspire confidence either.
After a basketball season that played more like a dramatic Hollywood feature film than some college kids playing a sport, the season came down to one game, as the Hoos took on NC State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. The game wasn't just a chance to advance toward an ACC title. It also functioned as a de facto NCAA tournament play-in game for UVA. With a loss, Virginia would be a long shot to make the bracket; another signature win would probably be enough to send the Hoos to the Big Dance.
With the season on the line, Virginia barely competed. The team couldn't stop turning the ball over, and Scott Wood kept picking the ball up and hitting 3s (he finished 7 for 12). With Joe Harris at the height of his late-season swoon, Virginia just didn't have a shot in this game.
After a season of so many great moments (and...some not so great ones, based on a look at this top 10 list), this was a rough way to end it. The team went out with a whimper, missing a chance to grab a spot in an NCAA tournament field that they could have competed in.