Thirty-five years after tiny Chaminade felled then-top ranked Virginia, the Cavaliers finally returned to the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press men’s basketball poll today.
Virginia and its college player of the year, Ralph Sampson, had been No. 1 for five weeks in an 8-0 start in 1982 until losing to the Silverswords, 77-72, on Dec. 23 at the Blaisdell Center Arena.
Ten times over the intervening decades the Cavaliers climbed as a high as No. 2 but not until today, with a 23-3 record after a weekend of upsets, did Virginia regain the No. 1 spot with 30 of 65 first place votes.
“That’s amazing,” said Richard Haenisch who played on the storied Silversword squad. “Thirty-five years? It doesn’t seem that long ago.”
Virginia and the 7-foot, 4-inch Sampson finished the 1981-82 season at No. 3 in the major polls with a 30-4 record. With Sampson back for what would become a third Naismith trophy in his senior year, the Cavaliers opened the 1982-‘83 season as a consensus No. 1.
They then held it for five weeks in a run that included victories over No. 3 Georgetown and Patrick Ewing and No. 14 Houston and Hakeem Olajuwan.
But after Chaminade’s victory the Cavaliers tumbled to No. 4 and never rose higher than No. 2 in a 29-5 campaign that saw them finish at No. 4.
“It is funny, we were just talking about the Virginia game a couple days ago,” said then-Chaminade coach Merv Lopes, 85, who lives on Hawaii Island.