Virginia’s redemption tour is complete, wins its first NCAA men’s basketball national title

MINNEAPOLIS — History was guaranteed at the NCAA men’s basketball championship on Monday, with the Virginia Cavaliers and Texas Tech Red Raiders making their debuts in the national final.

And when it was over, redemption for Virginia was complete.

A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed in men’s college basketball history to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers are national champions, defeating No. 3 seed Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

It almost felt like it was a script for a movie. Winning a title was a fitting ending considering how 2018 ended for Virginia (35-3).

After being shocked by No. 16 seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the NCAA tournament last season — the Cavaliers lost that one by 20 points — Virginia was the lone No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four this year.

Head coach Tony Bennett, whose father Dick Bennett led Wisconsin to a Final Four in 2000, joined exclusive company when reaching the Final Four, making him part of the second father-son pair to reach the Final Four as head coaches. The other duo is John Thompson Jr. (Georgetown in 1982, 1984, 1985) and John Thompson III (Georgetown, 2007).

This was the third Final Four appearance for the Cavaliers and first since 1984.

It was the first Final Four and championship game appearance for Texas Tech (31-7), a school that has just one national championship in any team sport in its history. That came from the women’s basketball team in 1993 led by the legendary Sheryl Swoopes. That team is so revered in Lubbock that there is a freeway named after the coach, Marsha Sharp.

A school in a state better known for football — NFL MVP and former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes was in attendance Saturday and Monday and spoke to the team — Texas Tech and its Red Raiders have made a swift ascension on the hardwood.

Led by head coach Chris Beard for the past three seasons, Texas Tech’s previous best NCAA appearance was reaching the Elite Eight, which came last year. After losing five seniors from the 2017-2018 team, the Red Raiders leaned on veterans in graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens as well as returning seniors Norense Odiase and Brandone Francis.

An assistant for the Red Raiders under Bob Knight and Pat Knight from 2001 to 2011, Beard has been a head coach in Division I — the highest level in the NCAA — for four years.

He previously coached in Division II for Angelo State and McMurry University in Division III (both in Texas) and for the American Basketball Association’s South Carolina Warriors. His first two head coaching opportunities came at the junior college level with Fort Scott Community College in Kansas and Seminole State College in Oklahoma.

This year’s NCAA men’s Final Four had a bit of a different feel to it. Missing this year were the well-known established blue bloods: This is the first Final Four since 1987 that doesn’t have Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville or UCLA.

Monday was the first meeting between the two men’s basketball programs.

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