The Virginia Cavaliers have made history for the second straight year. But this time, it was unforgettable in a great way.
After becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose a first-round game to a No. 16 in the men's NCAA tournament last season, the ACC powerhouse secured its first-ever national championship.
Tony Bennett's club earned an 85-77 overtime victory against the Texas Tech Red Raiders to hoist the hardware―and finish the season as the top-ranked team in the nation.
Bleacher Report's panel of experts―David Gardner, David Kenyon, Kerry Miller and Elliott Pohnl―submitted a ballot for B/R's season-ending ranking. A first-place vote counted for 25 points, followed by 24 for second, 23 for third, etc.
B/R's Final Top 25
2. Texas Tech
3. Michigan State
7. North Carolina
13. Florida State
15. Virginia Tech
17. Iowa State
18. Kansas State
T-23. Murray State
Others receiving votes: Marquette, Nevada, Iowa
Biggest Surprise: Texas Tech Red Raiders
Although Texas Tech reached the Elite Eight for the first time ever last season, it hardly registered on the preseason radar. In the AP and Coaches Polls, the Red Raiders garnered a combined six votes.
That preseason skepticism was logical. The Red Raiders lost third-team AP All-America guard Keenan Evans, a surprise one-and-done in Zhaire Smith and four pivotal seniors. They returned only Jarrett Culver and a few reserves who averaged no more than 5.1 points in 2017-18.
But that didn't matter.
Culver turned in an All-American year, while grad transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens steadied the starting lineup. Davide Moretti developed into a full-time starter and three-point weapon, and the defense was an absolute force.
Yes, the Red Raiders fell short in the national championship. The loss can and will sting. It should not, however, overshadow a spectacular, legendary season for the program.
Biggest Disappointment: Kansas Jayhawks
The preseason No. 1 team had a frustrating year end with a second-round exit in the NCAA tournament. However, Kansas didn't have full control over most of the setbacks.
Star center Udoka Azubuike played only nine games because of a wrist injury, and key guard Lagerald Vick left the program in early February for personal reasons. Meanwhile, Silvio De Sousa missed the entire season while the NCAA slowly determined whether he'd be eligible.
Although the Jayhawks won 26 games, the program's 14-year streak of regular-season Big 12 titles came to an end.
In the NCAA tourney, Kansas walloped Northeastern before Auburn sent Bill Self's squad packing. The eventual Final Four qualifier cruised to an 89-75 win after building a 26-point halftime lead.
The Jayhawks will attempt to rebound in 2019-20, but they'll be leaning on a young roster now that leading scorer Dedric Lawson has declared for the NBA draft.
Latest Surge: Oregon Ducks
This season, the Pac-12 was a power-conference league in name only. Fortunately, Oregon put together a tremendous March to prevent an embarrassing season for the Pac-12.
While the program had relatively high preseason hopes, NBA prospect Bol Bol never returned from a foot injury he suffered in mid-December. The Ducks were an afterthought through February.
Beginning with a Feb. 28 triumph over Arizona State, the Ducks rattled off 10 straight victories. They entered the Pac-12 tournament as the No. 6 seed but earned four straight wins to secure the league's automatic bid to March Madness.
Oregon toppled fifth-seeded Wisconsin and No. 13 UC Irvine to reach the second weekend, but they lost a hard-fought game to eventual national champion Virginia in the Sweet 16.
Instead of remembering 2018-19 as a major disappointment, Oregon made its third Sweet 16 in four years.