A year after becoming the first No. 1 seed in men’s college basketball history to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers have reached the title game, defeating No. 5 seed Auburn at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
It was far from assured, however. Auburn led 62-60 with 1.5 seconds left. But Virginia’s Kyle Guy was fouled by Auburn’s Samir Doughty while launching a buzzer-beater attempt with 0.6 seconds remaining. He hit all three free throws, giving the Cavaliers the 63-62 win.
In addition to the foul, there was a no-call that has fans talking. It appeared officials missed a double dribble by Virginia’s Ty Jerome, which happened a few seconds before Guy was fouled. If that turnover had been called, Auburn, instead of Virginia, would have had the ball late.
The Cavaliers are aiming to win their first national championship. They’ll face either No. 2 seed Michigan State or No. 3 seed Texas Tech, who play in the other semifinal later Saturday.
Jerome led all scorers with 21 points. Guy had 15, while De’Andre Hunter had 14 for Virginia.
Doughty had 13 points for Auburn, while Bryce Brown and Jared Harper had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Winning a title would be a fitting end considering how 2018 ended for Virginia. After being shocked by No. 16 seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the NCAA tournament last season, Virginia (34-3) is the lone No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four this year.
This year’s NCAA men’s Final Four has a bit of a different feel to it. Missing this year are the well-known established blue bloods: This is the first Final Four since 1987 that doesn’t have Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville or UCLA.
Instead, the most experienced team left in the field — and the only to win a championship — is Michigan State. The Spartans are no stranger to the Final Four, with head coach Tom Izzo leading them here eight times in his career, winning it all in 2000. Michigan State also won the national championship in 1979.
Until Saturday, Auburn and Texas Tech had never been in a Final Four. This is Virginia’s third Final Four appearance and first since 1984.
While there is no true Cinderella in this year’s Final Four, the closest one was Auburn (30-10).
The Tigers beat three of those blue bloods — Kansas, UNC and Kentucky — en route to Minneapolis, making Auburn the only team to have beaten those programs in consecutive games in NCAA tournament history.
The men’s championship is Monday at 9 p.m. ET.