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80’s Chaminade: Louisville and Virginia

Louisville barely survives Chaminade in another exhibition last night, after losing to Lenior Rhyne in an exhibition, Louisville trailed much of the 2nd half and were only ahead by 3 points with 14 seconds left. They have a 5 alarm fire going off, but that’s not what interested me here. Why I am writing about this is that I learned through this game Louisville is only 2-2 all-time in REAL games vs Chaminade. They lost both in 1983 and 1984 shortly after Virginia lost to them.

If you are a college basketball fan you have undoubtly heard of Chaminade. It’s essentially shorthand for David vs Goliath upsets. I remember my father referencing it several times in my formative years as the biggest upset of all time. What is never talked about is that Louisville also lost to them in Hawaii in the subsequent years. While there is no doubt having homecourt certainly helped Chaminade, although the arena was only half full with 3,383 people there, these are still impressive wins. Beating Virginia is the biggest upset of all time.

Virginia was number 1 in the nation but not only that it was a team with a Senior who had been the 2 time National Player of the year and would win his 3rd that season. He led a team that went to the Final Four in his sophomore year and had been a #1 seed the previous two years as well and would be a number one seed even after the loss. They would lose in the Sweet 16 to eventual National Champs NC State It was one of the most dominant teams there has been with one of the greatest college players ever as a senior.

Chaminade was a school of 900 students that shared space with a high school, and only in their 8th season at that point. They had lost to Wayland Baptist a few days before for context but were coming off a season they were 28-4 in NAIA and were ranked 4th in that poll. UVA had played them twice before in previous seasons beating them easily with Sampson having 30 and 16 in the most recent. It was a match up where the teams knew each other and this probably gave Chaminade confidence and less nerves. A 6-6 player guarded 7-4 Sampson, but he had played him in high school and college and had awareness of him.

Chris Berman was the first to report on the late ESPN sportscenter after the score came over the wire.. “We can’t tell you what happened, but the No. 1 team in college basketball has lost to—we don’t even know who they are.”

Chaminade would finish the year 34-5 and reach the NAIA Final 4.

Taking out a Sweet 16 Louisville the next year deserves to be known about as well especially when they were known as giant killers by that point. Louisville should and wouldn’t have been sleeping on them. It wasn’t a surprise. Even beating the NIT Final Four Louisville team after upsetting the Sweet 16 Louisville team is impressive because you know they would be looking for revenge from the season before. They were ranked 12th at the time in the nation. Louisville in 1985 with Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson as Juniors. They would be the two leading scorers on the National Title team the following year. Not only that but 3 days after beating the 1985 Louisville team they would beat 3rd ranked SMU.

Chaminade Upsets
Rank @ TimeNCAA SeedFinish
1985Louisville12thNITFinal Four
1984Louisville14th5thSweet 16
1983Virginia1st1stSweet 16

It’s been 40 years in 2022 since Chaminade beat Virginia and has went on to beat 7 D1 teams now, including Texas(2012) and California(2017) most recently.

Merv Lopes was the coach of Chaminade from 1977-89 going  236-120 record and a .663 winning percentage. It’s pretty amazing D1 didn’t come for him in 1985. I guess the money wasn’t as big or life-changing back then.

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