Sometimes a team (Virginia) is just meant to lose a game. When the opposing team’s 5th scoring option (Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang) calmly swishes the game winning 15 footer with 2.7 seconds left, then it’s one of those times. This was Louisville’s game to win, and a great game to watch. These were two well-coached, hard-nosed team battling it out throughout the night, neither wilting under the pressure, each team hitting clutch shots down the stretch. Virginia will benefit from this game as they head in to tournament play if they can use the rotten feeling of losing a game on an opposing team’s home court as motivation.
The common thread with championship-caliber teams is that they are all tested at some point, whether it’s overcoming a deficit during an elimination game or overcoming an injury or two. Even the last unbeaten college basketball team, the 32-0 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, had to overcome a 6 point halftime deficit to Michigan in the championship game. Earlier in the ‘76 tournament, Indiana had in fact trailed Alabama, 69-68, with just over two minutes remaining. No matter the adversity or the hostile environment, resilient teams always have the wherewithal, the maturity, and the championship mettle to come through. And make no mistake, Virginia is being tested at the moment with losses to Justin Anderson and now London Perrantes after a scary on-court head collision with Malcolm Brogdon during the Florida State game. The Silver Lining to all of this is that, should Virginia manage to have both Anderson and Perrantes back at full-strength in time for the ACC and, more importantly, NCAA tournaments, they will be a tough team to beat. This is a mature team. Their pack line defense has thus far carried the team through this tough, injury depleted stretch, covering up for the missing offensive firepower from Anderson and now the steady floor leadership from Perrantes. The bottom line is that championships are not easy. They are hard. Kentucky, as good as they are, (and they are really good), has not been tested. Their time will come.