One year after suffering the most shocking loss in NCAA tournament history, Virginia will play for a national title. Here's how the Cavaliers got the job done and what comes next.
The Cavaliers have pulled off back-to-back miracle finishes:
First, there was Mamadi Diakite's game-tying shot at the end of regulation against Purdue, in a contest the Hoos went on to win in overtime. But even the victory over the Boilermakers might take a back seat in Virginia lore to what happened against Auburn.
Tony Bennett's team was down by four points with 17 seconds left on Saturday, and it still trailed by two with 1.5 seconds remaining. That's when Ty Jerome inbounded the ball to Kyle Guy in the left corner, who was fouled by Samir Doughty in the act of shooting a 3 with 0.6 seconds left in the game.
Guy made all three free throws, Auburn's attempt at a full-court miracle fell short and the rest is history. Virginia won 63-62, and the Cavaliers will play for the title.
Controversy was everywhere in the last five seconds
It wasn't just the call against Doughty. With approximately 2.8 seconds left on the clock, Jerome was bringing the ball quickly up the floor as his team trailed 62-60. The junior attempted a behind-the-back dribble, when the ball hit the back of his right foot.
As Jerome retrieved the ball after it had bounced away from him, he picked it up instead of continuing his dribble. The play should have been called a double dribble.
Jerome and De'Andre Hunter played Virginia into the national title game
In a game that will be remembered for Guy hitting three supremely important free throws, it was two of his teammates who put the Cavaliers in position to pull off another improbable finish.
Jerome led all scorers with 21 points and was 4-of-9 on his 3s.
Hunter came out strong after halftime. In the second half, he scored 10 of his 14 points in the latest Virginia game that came in under 60 possessions (59) and went down to the wire.
Auburn mounted an amazing comeback
The game actually looked to be effectively over when Virginia led 57-47 with 5:22 remaining, but the Tigers fought back thanks to three made 3s down the stretch by Bryce Brown. The senior finished the game with 12 points, but his heroics in the final minutes were nearly enough for Bruce Pearl's team to pull out the win.
In particular, Brown and his teammates excelled at taking care of the ball and maximizing the number of chances they had to score. No Auburn player recorded more than two offensive boards, but as a team, the Tigers pulled down nine offensive rebounds. It was almost enough.
Virginia will need better shooting at the line and more second chances Monday night
Before Guy went 3-of-3 at the line in the last second of the game, Virginia had gone just 3-of-9 on its free throws. If not for the miracle finish, wasted chances at the line were going to be this team's last memory.
Speaking of surprises, the Cavaliers rebounded just 17 percent of their missed shots. On a night when Bennett's team was recording its best shooting of the tournament since the Gardner-Webb game, the lack of scoring opportunities nearly cost the Cavaliers their season. Virginia will want to do better on the offensive glass on Monday night.