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Virginia’s season was special regardless of when they lost in the NCAA tournament

Mar 29, 2014, 5:32 AM EDT

Travis Trice Travis Trice

NEW YORK — Virginia had a phenomenal season, and there is simply no way to go about arguing that fact.

Standard college hoops ideology will tell you differently. The No. 1 seed Cavaliers lost to No. 4 Michigan State in the semifinals of the East Region, 61-59, and the given the way that we look at tournament departures in this event, the bottom line is going to be that Tom Izzo and the Spartans pulled off the upset against Virginia, the top-seeded team in the East Region.

It will be discussed at length on Sportscenter. The myriad of radio interviews that national writers have lined up for the mid-Atlantic stations on Saturday and Sunday morning will undoubtedly be centered on the fact that the dual-ACC champs were unable to get past the Sweet 16 in their first season as a contender under Tony Bennett.

It’s a fair discussion to have. When you get knocked out of the tournament in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed, people are always going to have questions to ask.

But that doesn’t mean that the questions are always going to be fair, and it does mean that any lingering doubts that the good folks of Charlottesville, VA, are going to be validated in their frustration with yet another disappointing finish to a successful season.

Because, when it comes down to it, the difference between Virginia winning an advancing to the Elite 8 and Virginia losing in the Sweet 16 came down to a pair of three pointers.

Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris led the way for the Cavs with 17 points, but it was a missed three from Harris midway through the second half that ended up being the difference maker.

With 10:39 left in the game, Harris got a wide-open look from the right wing that would have put Virginia up 43-36 at a time when the Spartans had managed just 13 points in the previous 18 minutes of basketball. That three wouldn’t have been a dagger, but it would have been a momentum-changer, the kind of basket that could simply take the wind out of Michigan State’s sails.

Instead, the miss sparked a 15-4 Spartan run, with five layups or dunks sandwiching a three-pointer from Travis Trice. Payne and Dawson were responsible for ten of the 15 points Virginia would make a run of their own, tying the game on a three from Justin Anderson with less than two minutes left, but once again it was Payne and Dawson coming up big. Payne hit a three to give the Spartans a 54-51 lead, and on the ensuing possession he threw a lob to Dawson that game Michigan State a five-point lead in the final minute.

That was the difference.

Those two three-pointers.

Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s the fact that Michigan State’s guards are just that much more equipped for handling the moment. Maybe it’s simply the fact that the Spartans dug too deep of a hole. The bottom-line is that Michigan State advanced and Iowa State didn’t.

And while it’s fair to be upset about the result, it’s difficult to quibble with the fact that the Spartans were simply better prepared for the weekend.

  1. ballsoharduniversity52 - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    Hats off to the Cavaliers.

  2. 1historian - Mar 29, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    They lost because their coach left his heart in San Francisco, but next season he’ll be around to pick up the pieces.

    No problem.

  3. spartyfi - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    That team can D up something serious but the better (more talented) team won. Nothing to be ashamed of in their performance nor their accomplishments. Good year VA! I just thin VA lacked the depth and it showed a bit in their legs at the end.

    Sparty On…to the Elite 8…go State!

  4. t8ertot - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    The difference was a blatantly obvious non call push off at the end of the game, which would have given UVA the ball back. Izzo got Coach K treatment from the refs

    • spartyownsyou - Mar 29, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Actually if you watched the play the defender held onto both of Keith Appling’s arms first so if anything it should have been a foul on Virginia

  5. spartyfi - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    MSU had too much depth and it showed at the end. VA was just a little more tired. What a great game by both teams. Be proud UVA, you had a great season.

    Go Green!

  6. spartyfi - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    t8ertot – You mean the one where the defender was hugging him which is a foul on UVA? The same one where the VA player tried to sell it? You might want to watch that play again!

  7. tigers182 - Mar 29, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Right after Virginia knocked it out of bounce and got the ball back?

  8. tigershen23 - Mar 29, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    Wow, every. single. game. was great today. This Michigan State team is terrifying, but I also gained a lot of respect for Virginia through this game. BRING THE PAYNE!

    One thing that I’m interested in is the fact that Dayton can be NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. This guy’s analysis is pretty convincing:

    http://www.bracketbusterbusiness.com/2014/03/28/march-madness-2014/dayton-national-champions/

  9. spartyownsyou - Mar 29, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    I guess Michigan State’s season was just a little bit more special then?

  10. bigbenh8tr - Mar 29, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I almost sroppes stopped watching at halftime because the officials missed so many blatant hand checks on michigan st in the first. Game would have been dofferent if it weren’t for the 2nd foul call on Joe Harris that wasnt even close to a foul. Great MSU team but disgusting how the referees treated Izzo. Cant wait until the corrupt ncaa 9s disbanded and we have to settlw on watching the d league

    • spartyownsyou - Mar 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      I guess you should have sroppes watching anyway because you obviously weren’t paying close attention to the game if you think Michigan State was getting preferential treatment.
      The outcome wouldn’t have been any dofferent whether you watched or not though.

  11. musketmaniac - Mar 29, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Acc = garbage

  12. philliephaninva - Mar 29, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    UVA sucks!

  13. babyfarkmcgeezax - Mar 29, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Haha Coach K, care to rip the A-10 and tell us how vastly superior the ACC is again? Not a single ACC team reached the Elite 8. Pure mediocrity!

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