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A Look Back at the 2013-2014 Season: the Return of the Wahoos

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Last season brought the joy of basketball back to Charlottesville, and the Hoos back into the national conversation. Let's relive some of the magic.

Streeter Lecka

There are many events people agree will change their lives forever. Your first day of Kindergarten. Graduating from college. Your wedding day. The birth of your child. The 2013-2014 Virginia Basketball season.

Ok, that's not entirely accurate. Most people don't remember their first day of Kindergarten.

There's More HOOps Week!

The University of Virginia Men's Basketball program came into the 2013 season with expectations that Wahoo fans were unaccustomed to. Ranked in the AP (24th), USA Today (25th) and ESPN (19th) preseason polls, the first time Virginia had been ranked in the preseason since the 2001-2002 campaign. In the ACC, Virginia was picked to finish fourth, behind Duke (surprise!), newcomer Syracuse, and UNC (super surprise!).

Non-Conference: Pre-Harris/Bennett Summit

Virginia easily dispatched James Madison in the season/home-opener behind 5-5 shooting and 13 points from the unknown quantity of Anthony Gill. The next game welcomed in-commonwealth rival VCU, and the guests were anything but hospitable as Treveon Graham knocked down a last second three pointer to give the Rams a 59-56 victory. Easy wins over Davidson and Navy took the Hoos into the Corpus Christi Challenge, where they won four straight over Liberty, Hampton, SMU, and Missouri for the Challenge crown (or trophy, but crown sounds way more fun).

In their second opportunity to make a statement against a ranked team, Virginia laid an egg in the form of what officially HAS to be the worst basketball game since Dr. Naismith first hung peach baskets back in 1891. Wisconsin left Charlottesville with a 48-38 win (blech), and left the Hoos reeling. A follow-up loss to Green Bay Wisconsin didn't help to squash the stress monster building in the Virginia faithful.

Tony Bennett and the guys rebounded with back to back wins over Northern Iowa and Norfolk State before heading on the now fateful, season-changing, and pivotal (insert dramatic words here!) road trip to Tennessee. The 35 point demolishing of Virginia by the Vols shook the team and fans to their very core, pushing Joe Harris (#swoon) to visit his coach on that legendary evening in late December (drink!).

After a mediocre non-conference, Virginia stood at 9-4. They were unranked and had no 'signature' wins, but no really terrible losses. Fans were unhappy, to say the least, and some had begun to wonder how much of a soup sandwich the ACC schedule would turn out to be.

Some kept the faith, but any true Virginia fan would tell you that even with the optimism there was an underlying fear of total implosion.

What happened next was better than anyone could have imagined. Virginia traveled down to Tallahassee and began a streak that would see the Hoos win 16 of 18 games to close the season out, finishing on top of the regular season standings and earning the top seed in the ACC tournament.

Regular Season: the Bringers of the Cavalanche

Since you don't have 36 hours to read a blow by blow of all the exciting action over the course of the regular season, here are my five favorite moments:

5. Miami at Virginia- 26 February 2014

This game was the trappiest of trap games. The Hoos had climbed to No.12 in the nation, were coming off of a big drubbing of Notre Dame, it was a midweek game, and had a matchup with Syracuse looming. In years past, this would have been the should-win that they would have dropped. Instead, London Perrantes went 5-5 (including 4-4 from three) and Malcolm Brogdon added his own 15 as Virginia cruised to a cool 65-40 win.

Oh, and Justin Anderson blocked an alley-oop attempt.

**Honorable Mention: @NC State for an absolute beat down; @Clemson for battling tough and winning**

4. Virginia at Notre Dame- 28 January 2014

Undoubtedly, Digger Phelps and Bob Knight are still singing London's praises for the passing clinic he put on in this game. Virginia was starting to demand notice nationally, and the decisive 68-53 victory made it all look too easy. Notre Dame turned it over 20 times (a season high), and we got the gem of Malcolm Brogdon being "too Hollywood". Thanks, Bob Knight!

3. Virginia at Virginia Tech- 18 February 2014

Rivalry games are always something else, and the pressure is especially high when you're ranked No.14 and they're hovering just above dumpster fire in terms of season success. Add in that Karl Hess was the referee, and it has all the makings of a disaster show. Down 11 points in the second half, the Hoos rallied behind Justin Anderson and climbed back in for a four point victory. The win was their tenth straight, and was a promising sign of resiliency for the squad.

The Justin Anderson effort at the 3:13 mark is incredible. He was the spark for that win.

2. Virginia at Pittsburgh- 28 February 2014

This game has a legitimate claim to the number one spot, but I have to put it here at two. Pittsburgh plays a similar game to the Cavaliers, and to call this one anything other than a rock fight is just plain wrong. When Pitt banked in a three, things seemed a little bleak, but Uncle Malcolm came through in the clutch and buried the game winner as time ran out.

First, the shot:

You have to love Jay Williams trying to rush London with the, "You gotta get going". You can't rush #CaliSwag.

The shot was actually Malcolm's first ever game winner on any level of play, something Perrantes wouldn't let him forget in the post game:

1. Syracuse at Virginia- 1 March 2014

While the Pittsburgh game was more dramatic, the Syracuse win came with more history. The Hoo Crew was on point, the team battled and eventually wore the Orange down with another second half Cavalanche, and the Hoos added yet another double digit victory to their resume. Everything about the game was fantastic, from the pre-game buzz and excitement:

...to the in game heroics:

...to the post-game ceremonies:

All of it was amazing, and propelled Virginia into the ACC tournament with some momentum (nevermind the game in College Park).

ACC Tournament: Champion Central

Nothing was a better microcosm of Virginia's season than the ACC tournament. Started with a 13 point win over Florida State, then a three point victory over Pitt, and a slugfest against Duke. Joe Harris (#swoon) played like a maniac, Brogdon came through in the clutch in the championship, Akil Mitchell proved that he was a premier defender, Anthony Gill continued his late season onslaught of destruction, Justin Anderson earned his '6th Man' moniker, and London Perrantes was as unflappable as ever.

Justin Anderson's arms raised in celebration after tipping the potential game-tying shot as time expired against Pitt became an iconic image for the season.

Oh, and don't forget the triple block.

Each game saw Greensboro Coliseum turn more and more into JPJ South as fans realized that this could actually be the year that the Hoos not only make it to Saturday, but make it into the Cavalier history books alongside Ralph Sampson.

Although these highlights have been shared many times by us here at STL, there's no limit on this awesomeness.

NCAA Tournament: the Dream Comes to a Close

The Duke win, coupled with a couple other key losses, made Virginia in the last one seed for the NCAA tournament. Virginia earned a meeting with Coastal Carolina, and after a way to close for comfort first half, the Hoos did their usual second half barrage of points to a 70-59 win.

Let's all pause and give thanks for Evan Nolte, who came in and dropped eight points in under eight minutes, solidifying Virginia's win and offering up two three pointers and a very definitive slam dunk.

Thanks, Evan.

Against Memphis, Virginia dominated from start to finish, shooting 56% and holding the Tigers to just 41% from the field. Joe Harris (#swoon) dazzled with 16 points, with Gill, Tobey, Brogdon, and Anderson all in double digit points. With the 78-60 win, Virginia finally earned the elusive trip to Madison Square Garden to take on Tom Izzo's Michigan State team.

Despite a valiant effort, the Hoos fell to the Spartans 61-59 and the 2013-2014 season was officially over.

For their work over the season, Malcolm Brogdon made First-Team (Coach's) and Second-Team (Media) All-ACC, while Joe Harris was named to the media's Third-Team. Akil Mitchell earned a spot on the All-ACC Defensive Team, and London Perrantes the All-ACC Freshman Team. On top of that, Justin Anderson's work off the bench was good enough to get him the nod for the ACC's Sixth Man Award.

Some milestones achieved in 2013-2014:

-30 victories tie school record

-Tony Bennett improved Virginia's ACC record for the fifth time in five seasons at UVA

-First Sweet 16 trip since 1995

-First ACC Tournament title since 1976

-Joe Harris finished his time in a Virginia jersey as the 11th all time scorer with 1.698 points

Suffice it to say, the 2013-2014 season was one to remember. The best, though? That Tony Bennett did it all with a group of guys that were so easy to support. They worked as a team. Bought into the program. So, thank you.

Thank you to Akil, the lockdown defender and team leader.

Thank you to Malcolm for being a versatile threat on the court and a humble guy in the locker room.

Thank you to London for forgetting to be a first year and just being a badass.

Thank you to Justin for having a never ending source of energy and high fiving Coach in the ACC tournament, which it totally one of my favorite pictures ever.

Thank you to Mike for the sky hook and the most polite dunks ever.

Thank you to Anthony for the strength around the rim and convincing beat writers you were a magic enthusiast.

Thank you to Teven, Evan, Darion, Devon, and the Green Machine for your dedication and preparation that made this team that much better.

Thank you to Joe, for being the most selfless player and sacrificing personal accolades for team success.

And thank you to Coach Bennett for giving us the team Charlottesville has been waiting decades for. These guys are just beginning to achieve their potential.

Let's see what happens next.