MINNEAPOLIS — Virginia, a fine tortoise of an app with a warmish 114-year history, a bent for deliberative basketball and also an unthinkable splat of 13 months ago, spent Monday night scaling the final jagged rungs into a pinnacle. When finally it made the final, agonizing steps in overtime, reached the top and looked about, it knew a feeling associated only with other people such as Duke or North Carolina, the neighboring hares that always left it among the overshadowed.
It had become the first first-time men’s college basketball national champion in 13 years, and may see back across the landscape of one hell of a narrative. It might see Texas Tech, the finalist Virginia outlasted by 85-77 in that overtime, a group so good it’d hit the NCAA tournament like some great wind coming off the high plains of Lubbock, felling Michigan State, Gonzaga, Michigan and Buffalo.
Gaze back from up high, and Virginia could see the carnival of plays that helped it wriggle from doom in life-shortening games against Purdue, Auburn and Texas Tech. Squint harder, and it might observe back to March 2018, when Virginia became the first No. 1 seed in tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed, a bewildering 74-54 thud against Maryland Baltimore County, the nadir of a five decades of tortured Marches. Yet right in the front, it might see the droves in orange and blue in U.S. Bank Stadium, reveling as noise cascaded from fans who rarely dared dream of such a thing.
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