With an extra year as reigning champs, UVA players reflect on NCAA title

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — A year after Virginia’s historic run to a NCAA men’s basketball championship, the coronavirus pandemic is giving players some extra time to walk down memory lane.

The Cavaliers defeated Auburn and then Texas Tech in a pair of memorable thrillers at the Final Four in Minneapolis, capturing the school’s first-ever national title in the sport.

This season was cut short before the Wahoos got to play in the ACC Tournament due to the COVID-19 crisis. But that allowed the players to look back at the close finishes from last year’s March Madness when replays of UVA’s Elite Eight, Final Four and national championship games aired on television in place of this year’s tournament games that were canceled.

“Watching the game just brought back all the memories,” senior guard Braxton Key said. “I kinda forgot how big that stadium was. You can tell from the camera angles how big that stadium was and just how late in the game, how guys made big plays. Some things you don’t see the first or second times. But watching it again, you’re looking for different things.”

The replays helped senior forward Mamadi Diakite remember his own personal journey, from growing up in Guinea to taking the stage at U.S. Bank Stadium as national champions.

“I felt like I was back in the moment when I was playing,” Diakite said. “It hasn’t hit me yet this whole year until now in the postseason when I’m not doing anything. So being able to watch that and realize that I was part of something very special is big for me.”

Junior forward Jay Huff looked at the bright side after Virginia’s attempt for back-to-back titles came to a halt.

“Our initial thought was, well if the season is over, we’re still technically champs so I don’t mind it,” Huff said. “I think it’s a good thing. Some people have joked about it. Not in a negative way.”

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