UVA wins 20 for the first time since 2001
With last night's victory over arch rival Virginia Tech, the UVA men's basketball team not only captured at least a share of the ACC regular season title (if they beat Wake Forest on Saturday, it's all theirs) but the team also upped their overall record to 20-8, the first time they've reached the 20-win mark since the 2000-01 season. Those 'Hoos, under the tutelage of Pete Gillen, reached a regular season record of 20-7 when Donald Hand ran the offense, Keith Friel couldn't miss from outside, and Travis Watson controlled the middle. That season just so happens to be the last time the 'Hoos made the NCAA Tournament, which they're almost certain to do again this year when the NCAA Selection Committee (of which UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage is a member) announces their field of 65 on Sunday, March 11.
But a great regular season does not necessarily a great post-season make. The '00-'01 Cavs fell to Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament and then found themselves on the short end of a March Madness upset, losing to Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAAs in an 86-85 heartbreaker.
If the Wahoos win on Saturday, they'll match the regular season win total of the Jeff Jones-coached 1994-95 team (21-7), a squad that enjoyed considerably greater success in March. With future NBA point guard Cory Alexander handling the ball, Curtis Staples shooting out the lights, and the duo of big men Junior Burrough and Jason Williford on the inside, those 'Hoos made it all the way to the "Elite Eight" round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Arkansas in the Midwest Regional Final, 68-61.
But how do this year's Cavaliers match up to those two UVA teams that made it to the Final Four? Not too shabbily. The 1983-84 Cavs (the first season without Ralph Sampson) rode the ballhandling of Rick Carlisle (currently coach of the NBA's Indiana Pacers) and Othell Wilson, and the broad shoulders of Olden Polynice to a so-so regular season record of 17-10.
But the 'Hoos turned up the gas in that year's Big Dance, vanquishing Iona, Arkansas, Syracuse, and Bobby Knight's Indiana to reach the Final Four, where they lost 49-47 in overtime to the fabled University of Houston squad that featured future NBA superstars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon (who went on to be one half of the Houston Rockets' "Twin Towers" with Sampson).
But no Virginia team before or since has achieved the dominance of the Terry Holland-led 1980-81 Cavaliers. With second-year Sampson towering over the court at 7' 4" and a supporting cast that included guards Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker, the 'Hoos lost only to Notre Dame and Wake Forest on their way to a 24-2 regular season. The winning ways carried over to the NCAAs, where they defeated Villanova, Tennessee, and BYU, only to lose to despised ACC rival North Carolina in the Final Four by a score of 78-65.
- photo by Will Walker