5 Biggest NCAA Final Four Redemption Stories in History
March Madness can tell many stories. From heartbreaking losses to underdog upsets, March Madness brings a level of emotion in the best and worst ways.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing stories March Madness tells is the story of redemption.
Schools have entered tournaments undefeated, only to lose. Other schools have seen themselves on the wrong side of a historic upset.
Many schools have seen their fair share of emotionally devastating situations, only to bounce back the next year and prove doubters wrong.
Here are some of the biggest redemption stories in March Madness history.
1. 2019 Virginia Cavaliers
The 2019 Virginia Cavaliers have officially redeemed themselves from 2018.
A championship win has brought a redemption story full circle for Tony Bennett's team, as they saw a historic early exit in last year's March Madness.
Virginia's epic loss in 2018 to the Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers made the Cavaliers 1 seed to lost to a 16-seed in March Madness history.
Not only did the Cavaliers see themselves on the wrong side of history, but it almost happened again in 2019.
The Gardner-Webb Bulldogs, a 16-seed in the 2019 tournament, was actually leading Virginia at halftime. The Cavaliers bounced back to win that game, along with a National Championship.
They defeated Texas Tech in overtime, which was something they were used to seeing in the 2019 tournament. Two of their final three games went to overtime, with the other game ending with a one-point victory.
2. 1991 Duke Blue Devils
In 1990, the Duke Blue Devils lost a championship game to the Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) Runnin' Rebels. Not only did Duke lose the game, but they were ran out of the building.
The Blue Devils lost by a final score of 103-73, the most points they had given up in the 1990 Tournament.
How did Duke respond to a crushing defeat in such a big game? They won themselves back-to-back championships.
In 1991, Duke saw the ultimate redemption by not only winning the whole dance but also defeating UNLV in the Final Four game.
Duke won that game by only two points before going on to win the championship against Kansas.
The Duke dominance didn't stop there, as in 1992 they claimed another title and won the championship game by 20 points.
After allowing over 100 points in a title game, Duke held their national title opponents to no more than 65 points the next two seasons.
3. 1976 Indiana Hoosiers
The Indiana Hoosiers went undefeated in both the 1975 and 1976 regular season. During the 1975 tournament, Indiana reached the Elite Eight before falling short to Kentucky.
With the Hoosiers entering the game undefeated, expectations were high for them to win the entire dance.
Redemption came just one year later, as the Hoosiers went undefeated again. This time, however, they were ready. Indiana went all the way to the championship game and defeated the Michigan Wolverines.
Going undefeated when entering a March Madness tournament builds enormous pressure for teams to do well.
Indiana was able to ignore the doubt from 1975 and prove they can win every game the following year, making for a true redemption story.
This year's Virginia Cavalier team is somewhat similar to the Hoosiers from the mid-'70s, finding themselves in the Final Four after losing in last year's tournament after an undefeated regular season.
4. 2001 Duke Blue Devils
Duke is on the redemption list once again, this time coming in the late-'90s into 2000.
From 1999-2001, Duke always saw themselves as a 1-seed. In 1999, the Blue Devils reached the championship game.
They lost, however, as the 'Rip' Hamilton-led Connecticut Huskies won by three points. Hamilton had a game-high 21 points.
In 2000, Duke had just as high expectations but even worse results.
The Blue Devils saw an early exit from the tournament after Florida knocked them out of the Sweet 16.
In 2001, the Blue Devils were out for more than just redemption but revenge.
Duke ran through the 2001 March Madness tournament, winning a championship in overly convincing fashion.
The Blue Devils won each game by a minimum of 10 points, defeating Arizona in the title game for coach Krzyzewski's third title.
5. 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels
The North Carolina Tar Heels were on a similar path between 2007-2009. All three seasons, UNC saw themselves as a 1-seed.
In fact, in 2008 UNC was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
That year, UNC saw themselves ran out of the building in their Final Four game against Kansas. They were defeated by 18 points in that game, a year after losing to Georgetown by 12 in the Elite Eight.
The tale of Tar Heel redemption came in 2009 when UNC not only won the championship game, but did so with tons of conviction.
UNC won their 2009 tournament games by an average of 20.2 points per game. They defeated Radford by 43, LSU by 14, Gonzaga by 21, Oklahoma by 12, Villanova by 14, and Michigan State by 17.
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