MINNEAPOLIS – With the NCAA now providing money for travel expenses for players’ families, many players have a large amount of support at the Final Four. For Virginia’s Braxton Key, that cheering section was a little smaller on Saturday than you might expect.
“Not many – my brother had a wedding Saturday night,” Key said. “I tried to get him to move it but it was too late to make it happen.”
Key’s brother Austin tied the knot Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in Charlotte. That left a little more than two hours before the Hoos tipped off against Auburn in Minneapolis. The wedding date, Braxton Key said, was decided before his transfer waiver was cleared by the NCAA so the family wasn’t even sure if he’d be eligible for the Cavaliers this season.
Don’t worry, the game was on at the reception. Nothing crazy happened like the crowd-surfing bride on the Corner in Charlottesville last week, though. Key hadn’t heard about that celebration when the Hoos earned their spot in the Final Four.
“No, nothing crazy like that,” Key said. “Wow, that’s … I mean I’ve seen videos of Charlottesville and the Corner area. I haven’t seen that one.”
Clutch Free Throws
Virginia’s Kyle Guy cemented his status as a Wahoo legend on Saturday night when he buried three free throws in the final second to lift UVA to a 63-62 win. That pushed Virginia into its first title game in program history.
Bennett, who played at Wisconsin Green Bay and professionally,was asked about the most high pressure free throws he took in his career during media questions Sunday. Bennett shared an anecdote about a pair he took in college while playing for his father.
“There’s been a bunch of them, but I’ve got kind of a funny story,” Bennett said. “I got fouled, and we were maybe down two. This was at Green Bay when I played there. We were down one or down two. I went to the line, and for some reason, before I went to the line, I just looked back over my shoulder because I knew where my mom sat. And when I looked at my mom, she was like this. She had her hands in her face. I was like, oh, great. And I remember making them, and I gave her the business ever since from that, like, thanks, Mom, you’re supposed to believe in your son, but she wasn’t looking.”
In The Spotlight
The players still are adjusting to the spotlight that comes with the Final Four. For the two teams playing in Monday’s National Championship Game, there have now been three full media days from Thursday, Friday, and Sunday with jam-packed locker rooms, breakout sessions for the starters, and promotional work for the networks. That says nothing of the 72,711 fans who watched Saturday’s games at U.S. Bank Stadium.
For two of UVA’s international players, the focus on the Final Four has been amazing. Jack Salt was asked if it compared to the popular All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand, while Kody Stattman said Australian Football is the only thing really comparable back home.
“Those guys are big-time celebrities back home so they go through this all the time and that’s crazy,” Salt said.
“AFL, the Australian Football League, and the NRL is like that [for rugby] is like that,” Stattman said. “I think Grand Finals, they get nearly 100,000 people, but basketball wise, nothing compared to that. The finals and stuff are going to get 10,000 people so just being out there is incredible. Especially outside the hotels and streets and stuff like that, I’ve never seen anything like it.”