The defending national champion is outside after one game.
The Cavaliers needed a seven-point lead early in the second half, but then went over 10 minutes without a field goal, a stretch which allowed Ohio to take its seven-point lead.
“Man, that game, the atmosphere, even with the restricted lovers, it’s a dream come true to be out here playing with the game I enjoy,” Ohio ahead Ben Vander Plas explained. “Got a few family members up from the racks, playing with a team I love, playing for a coaching staff I love playing . Man, it was a particular moment on the market. We’re just going to keep it moving.”
Virginia, the 4-seed in the West area, did not arrive in Indianapolis until Friday afternoon, after a favorable COVID-19 test and following contact tracing forced most of its roster to quarantine until Thursday. The Cavaliers practiced as a team in Charlottesville on Friday afternoon, failed COVID-19 testing upon arrival at Indianapolis and again in 1:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, and then had a shootaround on Saturday afternoon.
Virginia trainer Tony Bennett would not blame rust or lack of practice time for your reduction, though.
“We arrived in, you know, we thought we had a chance. We surely did,” Bennett explained. “I don’t know if it would have mattered whether it was a regular prep or maybe not. How can you say? We played a fantastic team, and that’s this championship.”
“We prepared to the very best of our skills. Again, Ohio played a better match when they needed to make plays, they made the plays, and we left some on the table. So, again, I’m thankful we got the chance. I thought our guys were ready as they can be given the circumstances.”
This is actually the second time in the past three NCAA championships that Virginia has lost to some double-digit seed in the initial round. In 2018, the Cavaliers were the first 1-seed to fall into a 16-seed when they lost to UMBC. In addition they now become just the third team since 1979 to sandwich enormous losses to double-digit seeds across a national championship in three consecutive tournaments, joining 1986-88 Indiana and 1994-96 UCLA.
“I faced such delight in this championship on so many occasions,” Bennett explained. “I’ve confronted the heartache, too. Again, as I say, you constantly have to be willing to accept them both, know that when your career is done this will not define you, if you win it all or you anything or lose. It’s what you do, you do it with love, joy and passion, then you don’t let it set you beyond what it should.”
Ohio finished fifth at the Mid-American Seminar during the regular season, but the Bobcats won three games in three times to win the conference tournament and earn the league’s automatic bid. They had any COVID-19 issues during the last month of this season, but have won 10 of their last 11 games and are enjoying some of the best basketball in the nation.
Point guard Jason Preston has established himself as a name to see in the NCAA tournament, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for the Bobcats. Preston scored just 52 points total as a high school senior, but has now played himself on the NBA’s radar and can be among the greatest point guards left in the championship.
“Give them a lot of credit. [Kihei] Clark is a very good defender. However, Jason at the second half was able to go around a couple of these, had some big rebounds… Only a phenomenal effort. He is the heart and soul of the team. The entire world saw today he is and what he’s able to do. Just very proud of him”
Vander Plas, a player whom one MAC coach advised ESPN earlier this week was a”Virginia-type participant,” was arguably the best player on the ground for long stretches Saturday. He finished with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, making three 3-pointers. At one point in the second half, Vander Plas scored 10 straight Ohio points.
He is confident the Bobcats will keep it moving, too.
“I think we go into every single game expecting to win, preparing to triumph. So we’re going to attempt and win the whole thing,” Vander Plas explained. “That is what we’re here to do. We are going — what is it, five more games? We are going to try and win five games one at a time.”
Virginia will have tons of staff decisions to make within the next few weeks. The Cavaliers have three seniors within their rotation, including starters Sam Hauser and Jay Huff. Murphy, a junior, can be a projected second-round NBA draft pick from ESPN’s draft positions.
To get a team which entered the season as a preseason top-five group, though, this really is a disappointing end to the effort.
“You know there’ll be probably better times to speak clearer to them regarding what they intended and that they are as men and as gamers,” Bennett explained. “Following the match, not a lot is heard. It’s just trying to encourage them and thank them and inform them that they’ll always be a part of this. Again, they’ll have an ACC regular-season championship, and they have a chance to play in the tournament. That’ll sting how it ended, but that has been the extent of it. Time heals all things.”
Ohio moves on to play with 5-seed Creighton, which held on to beat 12-seed UC Santa Barbara by a single on Saturday. And with Ohio State getting upset by 15-seed Oral Roberts on Friday, the Bobcats are taking the mantle for Your Buckeye State.
“I think we’re just pleased to be moving on. We are very thankful. Our men came in hoping to win a match,” Boals stated. “The very fact that we’re the only 1 left, I think that is great for social media and lovers. However, our bandwagon, continue coming. We need every person to encourage us that we could. I believe this is great for our college.”