I got a little wistful after UVA’s win over Clemson the other night. Maybe it was the celebratory Fireball shots my friends and I took following the nip-and-tuck victory. But more likely, it’s that I realized we’re coming to the end of a special era of Virginia hoops. No matter how long of a run this team makes in March, our time is running short with some of our favorite players.
So here’s a plea to UVA hoops fans: don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate this team and program as much as possible over the next few weeks.
Going into the weekend, Virginia has anywhere between 3 and 10 games left to play in the 2015-2016 campaign. That’s 3 to 10 more times that we fans can get our hopes up, hold our collective breaths, yell, scream, jump, cheer, implore, and exhort. That’s 3 to 10 more times we’ll get to watch Malcolm Brogdon dazzle us with his skill and intelligence. That’s 3 to 10 more times we’ll get to watch Anthony Gill wow us with his strength and hops. And that’s 3 to 10 more times we’ll get to be delighted and frustrated by Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey.
My hope for the team is that they’ll play 10 more times and come out winners. My hope for the fanbase is that we’ll celebrate each remaining game with the gusto it deserves.
If there’s something I’ve noticed about Virginia fans over the years, it’s that we’re not an easy bunch to please and that we don’t do a great job of just being happy. We are, after all, the same fanbase that thought George Welsh had "lost a step" and that the football program needed a fresh start to get to the "next level." Fifteen years later, we’re on our third "fresh start" and we haven't come close to matching the Welsh glory years.
Don’t think I'm selling this team short. I believe Tony Bennett's squad has all the tools it needs to achieve postseason greatness. I think these Cavaliers have an excellent shot make noise deep into March or April. But if I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that post-season college basketball contains an important element of randomness. A JR Reynolds sprained ankle here, an Anthony Gill sprained ankle there, a Justin Anderson appendectomy for good measure…you get the idea. And as much as we fans want to, we can’t guarantee that Virginia’s season will end on a positive note.
That’s why I hope we’ll all take a moment to savor what’s occurred in Charlottesville the last three years and to celebrate our last bit of time with a special group of Cavaliers. The roster turns over considerably this off-season. Brogdon and Gill will ride off into the sunset to join Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins as the pillars one of the best periods of Virginia basketball history. Six new Cavaliers will take center stage in the fall. I don't know if the future will be better or not. I DO know that it will be different.
Over the last three seasons, Tony Bennett’s teams have given Virginia fans plenty of reasons to be excited and proud. They’ve given us reasons to pack JPJ, to throw game-watching parties with our friends, to travel to away games, to argue on social media with Dick Vitale and Seth Davis, and to walk a little taller when we wear our Wahoo gear in public. It’s been a helluva run and it deserves a helluva celebration.
Here’s to being thankful for what we’ve seen and to cheering our hearts out ‘til the finish. And here's to hoping the finish involves a net, a ladder, and a pair of scissors.