RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s supposed to be one of the best nights in sports- the final game of the NCAA Tournament where a national champion is crowned, but with COVID-19 canceling the NCAA Tournament, teams and fans have been forced to wait another year.
Of course, last year’s championship game saw UVA create forever memories for itself and its fans. With no Big Dance in 2020, the Cavaliers and the Wahoo faithful have some extra time to reflect on that title on the night that this season’s winner would’ve been crowned.
"Kinda been neat to look back and reflect," said Cavalier assistant and John Marshall graduate Jason Williford. "What we were able to accomplish, it was pretty cool. I still get goosebumps every time I see those videos."
Williford has been alongside head coach Tony Bennett on the UVA bench for each of Bennett's 11 seasons. He says that players and coaches certainly understand and support the decision to cancel the tournament, and while Virginia will defend its title next year as well, the Cavs were definitely eager to do so in 2020.
"That's the competitor in all of us," he said. "Obviously we understand the circumstances surrounding that, but we wanted to go out and defend our title, and quite honestly I thought we were playing pretty good ball down the stretch."
The absence of basketball means no practice and no recruits on campus, so Bennett, Williford and the coaching staff have moved into more of a support role for players who need guidance or who may be looking for comfort during an unprecedented time.
"That's important for us. We're big brother, uncle, dads to a lot of these guys, so whenever they need to talk, we're there. We've done a good job, I think, collectively as a staff of staying in touch with the guys."
The current situation also means that coaches and players, including the former Justices' star, have been spending more time at home with family. Williford certainly sees that as a silver lining among the chaos.
"I've kinda stopped and reflected and spent time with family and that's been huge. I'm teaching my boys, I'm trying to home-school and spend a little more time with them and we're able to sit down and have dinner each night. I think there's been a good reset for a lot of us. Times have been crazy and I think across the world we all needed a little bit of a reset and it allows you to put certain things into perspective."
Like many things, college basketball will return, and it goes without saying that Williford is looking forward to that, but he's also anxious to get back to simply being able to socialize with friends, neighbors and extended family.
“I think our lives will forever be changed in how we function and do things, but it will be nice to get back on the floor when the time’s right.”
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