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Charlottesville ready, excited for NCAA championship game

The city of Charlottesville is reveling in the excitement leading up to Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game between University of Virginia and Texas Tech.

“Wow! The mood ahead of tonight’s game is ecstatic,” said Hawes Spencer, longtime Charlottesville reporter and resident. “People are walking around, talking to anyone who will listen about how excited they are.”

Virginia got to its first-even final game with a last split-second 63-62 victory over Auburn on Saturday night, prompting exuberant celebrations all over Charlottesville.

“My youngest child was down at the University of Virginia Corner area, and pronounced it the greatest night of her life,” Spencer said. “The streets were clogged with thousands of townies and students.”

Monday night’s game with Texas Tech, which got to the finals with a convincing win over Michigan State, begins at 9:20 p.m. It is being played in Minneapolis.

“Everybody’s stopping what they’re doing,” to watch the game, Spencer said. “It’s bigger than the Super Bowl.”

The University of Virginia will host a viewing party at the John Paul Jones Arena. Doors will open at 8 p.m. Admission and parking are free. University officials say the clear bag policy and entry procedures used during games will be enforced.

On Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, the game will be broadcast at The Paramount Theater. Admission is free, but tickets are required for entry. Doors for the event will open at 7:30 p.m.

University of Virginia fans celebrated in The Corner area of Charlottesville after Saturday night’s victory. (WTOP/Joslyn Chesson)

Charlottesville police expect to announce road closures and detours in the vicinity of The Corner.During Saturday’s excitement, Albemarle County and Charlottesville police said they did not make any game-related arrests.

“There couldn’t be a better time for this to happen to Charlottesville,” Spencer said. “Last year, at this same tournament, Virginia had the dubious distinction of being the first top seed blown out by a 16 seed.”

“And, of course, going back in history — not to get too dark here — but this is Charlottesville, where we had some really bad stuff happen a couple years ago,” referring to the Aug. 2017 Unite the Right white nationalist rally. Spencer’s book, “Summer of Hate: Charlottesville USA” focused on what led to the violent protest and counterprotest.

Spencer said the city is benefiting from uniting “behind something that is exciting.”

“All of Charlottesville is just on the edge of its seat, watching this thing play out,” he said.

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