Perhaps the best way to describe being a Virginia fan to outsiders is that it's a lot like being an eternal catastrophic pessimist. "Yes, the sunset was lovely from the observation deck of this cruise liner, but what are we going to do when the engine catches fire tonight?" "Does my home insurance cover asteroid strikes?" "How well does this car handle if all four tires blow out simultaneously?"
Well, here we are again - the Earth having opened up beneath our feet and dropped us into a pit of defeat when victory looked certain.
Every team has their gutting losses - the ones that still sting years later - but it is telling that to find an image that encapsulates Virginia's reaction to the drastic collapse Sunday night, one only had to reach back to September.
Syracuse downs Virginia and is headed to the Final Four: March 28, 2016
Consider the list that Sunday night's gut ripper joins:
- The 2011 ACC Tournament where the basketball team allowed Miami to rally from 10 points down in the final 42 seconds of regulation, and losing in overtime.
- The 2008 Gator Bowl, where Virginia's offense failed to gain a first down in the final 7:32 of the fourth quarter, enabling Texas Tech to rally from 14 points down and kick a game winning field goal as time expired.
- The aforementioned Notre Dame football game last September, where the Virginia defense conceded a long touchdown pass with a scant 12 seconds remaining in a game Virginia led against the #9 Fighting Irish.
This one hurts more, because the stakes were so much higher. The men's basketball program's third Final Four berth seemingly within grasp, only to watch it get yanked cruelly away. In the process, the normally stoic and unflappable Virginia team seemed to get rattled for the first time in...forever?
The stakes being so high, however, is the reason why once the shock and numbness wears off, Virginia fans need to smile.
- When Malcolm Brogdon enrolled at the University, Tony Bennett had a record of 31-31 overall, and 12-20 in the conference at Virginia. Likewise, Evan Nolte, Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson all committed to the program at a similar time. They committed to a program that hadn't been to the Sweet Sixteen in sixteen years.
- The senior class tied the program record for wins in a four year span, and did so with no Top 50 recruits according to the 247 Sports Composite Index.
- The trip to the Elite Eight this year was only the program's sixth all time.