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The Miracle In Landover
Greetings from The Booth!
The Booth was an interesting place last Friday night as Shenandoah played it’s “2020” football opener against Hampden-Sydney. Because of technical challenges, my 200th broadcast of Hornet Football will be memorable, as I had to fly solo and use a hand-held cell phone for the broadcast. Hey, you do what you have to do to get the game on the air.
As for the game itself, SU was shut out 26-0 by the Tigers. Clearly, this Hornet team is a work in progress, and has some things to fix. But the long-term goal is to lay a foundation for the Fall, and that has to be remembered. Still, a win would have been nice for my milestone broadcast.
For this edition of VFB, I wanted to take you back to our Bicentennial year of 1976. It was this week that the University of Virginia pulled off what is referred to as “The Miracle In Landover,” by running a gauntlet of 3 ranked teams to win the ACC Basketball Tournament. The Cavaliers entered the tournament with a record of 15-11 (4-8 in the ACC), and their only chance of making it to the NCAA tourney , then just a 32-team affair, was to run the table in Landover, Maryland. Until 1975, only the winner of the ACC tournament advanced to the big dance, but with a limited field, there was no chance for an at-large bid for UVA.
The 3-day tournament, held at The Capital Centre, was the first ACC Tournament held outside the state of North Carolina, so several teams were without their usual “home court” advantages. Lefty Driesell’s Maryland Terrapins were a favorite. Upon coming to Maryland, Lefty had called his Terps “The UCLA of the East,” and has 3 superb guards: John Lucas, Mo Howard, and Brad Davis. And, they were playing in their own backyard. UNC was the regular-season favorite, finishing 11-1 in the league.
But, the Cavaliers caught fire, behind the magical play of Wally Walker. First, was a relatively easy 75-63 win over number-17 NC State in the opening round. Surely the magic would end against the aforementioned number-9 Terps. But behind Walker’s 27 and Billy Langloh’s 20, Virginia prevailed, 73-65. On to the championship game.
The task at hand: beat a more-talented North Carolina team coached by legendary Dean Smith, and loaded with names like Walter Davis, Phil Ford, and Mitch Kupchak. The 25-2 Tar Heels were assured a spot in the NCAA tournament, win or lose. For the Cavs, it was win or go home. Again, “Wally Wonderful” propelled Virginia to a stunning 67-62 win, completing an incredible 3-day run in Landover.
As a footnote, Walker was named tournament MVP, but the ride would end for UVA the following week with an opening round NCAA loss to DePaul in, of all places, North Carolina.
As you watch this week’s ACC Tournament, which now has a gazillion teams, double-byes, and much less pressure, take a second and remember the 1976 “Miracle In Landover,” when an underdog caught lightning in a bottle.
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!