One year ago today, the Virginia Men’s Basketball team brought home the program’s first National Championship. The Cavaliers used a dramatic 6-game run featuring a last second tying shot, three last second free throws for the win, and two overtime games to eventually capture the title 85-77 over Texas Tech.
The championship brought closure to the narrative that the Hoos couldn’t win the big game playing Tony Bennett’s defense-first style, and allowed Virginia fans a chance to finally celebrate a basketball title.
We asked you, the fans, to share some of your stories from Championship Weekend, and woo, boy, did you all come through. We’ve dropped some of our favorites below, but don’t hesitate to leave your stories in the comments!
Thank you to everyone who shared their stories...we loved them all!
Please note some of these were edited for space considerations. All images were provided by the authors of the story. Last names were included if they were given.
I was about 20 feet from the court playing tuba for the pep band. It’s tough to describe the feelings during the title game, because I was so stressed that it all became a bit of a blur. There were times for taking a minute to appreciate just how awesome of an experience being at the Final Four was, but that was for before tip-off and after the final buzzer. Everything in between was screaming, playing, or praying. I remember chugging Monster energy drinks with the rhythm section on the bus beforehand while the cheerleaders played pump up songs (Blow Your Mind by Ohana Bam and Burn the House Down by AJR were favorites because UVA basketball used them in hype videos).
I remember having my breath taken away every single time I walked into that spaceship of a stadium...my greatest memory of that night is standing next to the players as they ran back to the locker room to keep the celebration going while we got a chance to head onto the court and take photos. This stands out to me because a year before, I’d been in the band for the UMBC game, just a few feet a way from a distraught Kyle Guy and Isaiah Wilkins as they left the floor under the worst of circumstances. As much as I hurt as a fan after that loss, I hurt for them more, so to see the pure jubilation on every single player’s face after the title filled me with joy, especially with so many legendary alumni on hand to witness it all.
The rest of my time in Minneapolis was trance-like, mainly because our work as a band wasn’t done. We went and played the victory rally and then had to pack everything up. By the time we were finally free it was after 2 am and we had a plane to catch in the morning. That plane ride is another thing I will never forget. Not only did we get to see the team celebrating and some more free championship swag (a cup and stickers!), but just before we disembarked in Charlottesville, Tony Bennett came to talk to us and thank us for the work we put in. It was a little gesture, but it is one that easily could have been forgotten in the whirl of victory and preparing for a rally at JPJ. However, he still made the time for us ensuring we all felt a part of the victory, and that’s something I’ll carry with me always.
I was with friends in my brand new place when we beat Purdue. I had just closed on my first home and moved in a week prior and decided to have friends over for the game. As soon as we won, i got an email from VAF saying we could request tickets to the Final Four. My sister was supposed to visit me and my new place that weekend and I JUST closed on a new place...but I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity go, and I had a feeling I had to be in Minneapolis. I’m a Philly girl and the Eagles had won their Super Bowl in Minneapolis the year prior, so I just HAD to go. First, I called my sister and basically paid her to cancel her flights. Next, I called my friend in Chicago to ask if she wanted to go (huge fan who was in Chicago and at the game at the United Center when we lost to Syracuse in 2016 so i knew she needed redemption). Next, I used points to buy plane tickets in/out of Chicago — we were going to road trip to Minneapolis together!
Turns out her mom/sister wanted to come too so us four ladies made the trek to Minneapolis together. We only booked a hotel for one night (so we wouldn’t jinx ourselves) so as soon as the Auburn game finished — for real — we frantically went on hotels.com to find a place to sleep. It was the most frantic feeling trying to celebrate and find a hotel all at the same time. By the time the title game arrived, we all made sure to wear the EXACT same thing we wore for the Auburn game. The rest was history. I made a point to not look at my phone during the game so I could live in the moment. I finally took it out after Braxton’s dunk in overtime to seal the deal. I had 215 text messages. We knew we won, my friends knew we won, the world knew we won. Although I had just bought a home two weeks prior it was BY FAR the happiest moment of 2019 (and er, um, my life). Go Hoos <3
— Leslie Alpert
I was in Minneapolis, watched the game live. Afterwards we went downtown to celebrate. We went into a bar, and there was an older Texas Tech fan there. You know what he was doing? He was buying drinks for UVA fans at the bar. He was congratulating us, and wanted to celebrate the game overall. That struck me as an incredible display of sportsmanship. I can say that I met multiple Texas Tech fans in Minneapolis over the four days we were there. To a person, I found them to be great fans and outstanding people.
— Hutch Carpenter
I was in Columbus, at a sports bar called Chumley’s, and I knew almost no one at the time (I was living there since I was about to start dental school at OSU in the fall and if I moved there early I could apply for in state tuition). On Mondays, they have a special so the place is always packed.
I basically watched the entire game alone, since half the bar wasn’t interested (it’s Columbus, they’re a football town), and the ones who were interested were mostly rooting for Texas Tech because they were the lower seed.
But I happened to sit next to the one other person rooting for UVA, just some random OSU undergrad student who happened to really appreciate Tony Bennett as a person and coach. We bonded over UVA, even though neither of us could hear the audio in the loud bar. When the game ended, we were both almost in tears while everyone else was pissed, especially a large group that had bet on Texas Tech.
I wish I could’ve been in Charlottesville to celebrate with everyone. But it was definitely a unique experience that I’ll never forget
— Anish Doshi
Among the 60+ annual events, the UVA Club of Richmond hosts game watch events bringing together local UVA students, alumni, family and fans to cheer on our Hoos! Throughout the 2018-2019 season a growth in club membership attendance echoed a growing anticipation that this special team could complete a truly remarkable rebound just one year removed from suffering a historically tragic loss.
Throughout the entire 2019 NCAA tournament, Kickback Jack’s located at 9318 W Broad St in Richmond, VA graciously hosted our members in a private room complete with enough screens to see the game from every imaginable seat. During both the Final Four and Championship games our club drew approximately eighty fans creating a overwhelming level of energy within the private room. Even when once comfortable leads were sacrificed for seemingly insurmountable deficits the Richmond area faithful remained positive. Indeed the cardiac cavaliers kept us on the edge of our seats, but looking around the room in the waning moments of regulation in the NCAA championship game there was a clear sense of confidence that we would prevail!
Following the late overtime half-court entry pass which led to a breakaway dunk for Braxton Key, it became apparent that UVA would indeed win our first basketball national championship. Everyone stood in unison with cell phones recording as De’Andre heaved the ball high into the air to wind down the final seconds of the game and the celebration began. The group instantly erupted into an emotional celebration followed with chants of “Go Hoos”, high fives and hugs all around and a final embrace as we all sang the Good Old Song.
— Paige Holder
My brother and I traveled from New York to Minneapolis for the championship game. We bought tickets the day of the game and unknowingly sat in a sea of Texas Tech fans. We were incredibly nervous, as I am an alum (Class of 2003) and my brother adopted UVA basketball as his own. After 2018 and all of the tournament disappointments, it was an amazing experience being there for Dre’s three, Braxton’s dunk, and the moment where we realized “oh my god, this is actually going to happen.”
Watching “One Shining Moment” in the arena is one of the many moments we will never forget.
— Adam Parker
After watching the thrilling finish to the UVa-Purdue game at my house with a group of friends, we sprinted through the Corner, to the Lawn, and proceeded to streak not once, but twice. After returning back to our house on Gordon Street, several of my best friends and I made immediate plans to road-trip to Minneapolis. Six nights later, we were standing — not sitting — in the front rows of the student section in US Bank Stadium. During the calendar year of 2019, I only cried twice. The first time was right before the UVa-Auburn game as Tony Bennett was being introduced. I couldn’t believe what a difference a year had made, and just had to imagine how incredible Coach Bennett and the rest of the team felt as they were getting ready to play in the Final Four. Two nights later, I cried for the second time as De’Andre Hunter threw the game ball in the air, streamers fell onto the court, and the team took turns cutting down the net. It’s impossible for me to not get chills every time I watch highlights from those games, remembering just how awesome and emotional those moments were for myself, my friends and the entire UVa community.
— Chris Kaylor
I got up that Sunday morning and drove by myself from Roanoke, Va. to Minneapolis to watch the game in person. I had no room, no ticket and no real plan....but I was on a mission to see my Hoos play for the title!! I wouldn’t change a thing about and it still doesn’t seem real!! Wahoowa!!!
— David Manning
I was deployed in the Middle East. I was sitting in my room in one of the trailers on base. We actually had the Armed Forces Network so I could watch the game on a TV. I think it started at 0400 or 0500, so I had to wake up early to watch it. I was used to it by that time because the games throughout the tournament were all at different times and I didn’t miss a second of any game. The emotion was very high. I definitely think I woke up some of the people around me who were still sleeping.
It was so exciting to watch them win. I think my mom called right after the game ended. It was probably 0730-0800 at this time so I had to text my boss that I was going to be late into work. Our family is all die hard UVA fans growing up going to all the sporting events so it was just a dream come true.
I was at the game by myself. Bought a ticket to MSP the moment we went into overtime against Purdue. Figured I’d figure out the game tickets eventually. I had seats on the baseline in UVA’s section, and the people around me embraced me as I was the only person who came without knowing someone. So many ups and downs in the game....from leading at half to needing Dre’s three for OT. When we headed to OT we all just had a feeling it was our time. So amazing and worth it.
The joy of victory a year ago was made so much sweeter due to the stinging defeats of years past, namely 2016 and 2018, and what made last year even better was that I enjoyed it with the same friends — Missy Jenkins and Brian Gavron — who I was with when we lost to Syracuse and UMBC.
Fast forward to last year. Missy and I had traveled together to Charlotte for the ACC Tournament, Columbia for the first and second rounds, Louisville for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, and now we were together for the Final Four. Brian Gavron joined us for the festivities in Louisville and Minneapolis.
I’ll never forget turning around and looking up into the UVA section as the buzzer sounded as thousands of Wahoos embraced triumphantly. I hadn’t thought of it until that moment, but across US Bank Stadium, across the Commonwealth, and across the world, groups of UVA fans, alums, and former players were experiencing the same thing I had experienced with Missy, Brian, Carl, Kyle, Caroline, and others throughout the past month. UVA basketball was the vessel for our happiness, but what mattered most was memories with our friends throughout the last few seasons that we’ll cherish forever. That moment, as streamers fell from the rafters and Hoos shared their happiness with their friends and loved ones, was the mere pinnacle of a long trip together.
Oh, and I got my wife a dog based on an agreement during the 2016 season that if UVA ever won a basketball national championship, she’d get her long desired puppy. We named him Bennett.
— Kyle Matous