UVA, Iowa State both remember sting of NCAA Tournament exits

march madness final four 2016UVA fans are well-versed in their Cavs’ past two NCAA Tournament losses at the hands of Michigan State.

They might not remember seeing Iowa State fall victim to an upset two Marches ago in Madison Square Garden at the hands of eventual national champ UConn.

The pain for Cyclones fans from 2014 pales in comparison to the shock and awe that accompanied their team’s 60-59 upset loss to UAB in the opening round in 2015.

So, yeah, these guys know what it feels like to hurt in March.

“I think with kids and their phones and college kids and their phones, that’s the first thing that I pick up when I wake up is check my phone. Just, it really helps me realize the pain that I went through really when we lost to UAB,” said ISU senior star Georges Niang, who has a photo from last year’s Tourney loss as the screen saver on his phone.

“The picture is of me with my hands over my head and just a depressed look on my face, and if I woke up a little bit tired, maybe I’m going to hit the snooze button, but when I see that screen saver, it makes me realize that I’ve got to get up and go get after it because nothing in this world is going to be handed to you. So I think it’s just a little extra motivation for me to get up and go chase after this dream,” Niang said.

Virginia senior Anthony Gill doesn’t quite torture himself the way Niang does, but AG conceded that the Cavs “think about it every now and then, just going into the tournament knowing that you could be out at any moment.”

“That’s really the only time we really think about it, just going back and looking at the mentality that we had coming into the tournament last year and the mentality that we have this year coming into the tournament, it’s totally different, and I think we’re in a better place this year,” Gill said.

Virginia is known for its business-like approach, but some felt that could have been the ‘Hoos undoing last year in the second-round loss to Michigan State.

Gill acknowledged the elephant in the room.

“This year we’re going after it, we’re attacking it, whereas last year we just kind of sat back and let it come to us. We didn’t really go after it like we needed to,” Gill said.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said experience is a “good teacher” in that respect.

“Last year playing Michigan State in the round of 32 and getting outplayed against a tough team, that makes you hungry to, if we’re fortunate enough to get to that spot again, to try to advance,” said Bennett, who cautions that he doesn’t want his team to dwell on the past.

“It’s here in the moment. Anybody will tell you that. It’s about locking in but using what you learned,” Bennett said.

Story by Chris Graham

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