Virginia Commonwealth University may have been anonymous to many three weeks ago. Yet college basketball fans were familiar with VCU from their 2007 upset of Duke in the NCAA first round. Other than that, however, the basketball program wasn’t well known for much else on the national stage. That changed on Selection Sunday, when the Rams were universally panned as a horrible selection to this year’s NCAA tournament. But it changed in a better way yesterday, when the Rams went from the First Four to the Final Four.
VCU became the latest No. 11 seed from the CAA to reach the Final Four, and upset a No. 1 seed to finish it off. But while George Mason needed overtime to defeat Connecticut in 2006, the Rams got to hold off the Kansas Jayhawks in regulation 71-61.
Defeating USC, Georgetown and Purdue in blowouts and then beating Florida State at the last minute was one thing. But beating the only No. 1 left in the tournament, and destroying them in the first half, was supposed to be too impossible for the Rams.
Instead, Virginia Commonwealth sunk nine three-pointers in the first half, while Kansas had virtually no offense from anyone other than the Morris twins. However, the fear still remained that it would take just a little run for Kansas to come back, although they were down by as many as 18 points.
In the second half, the Jayhawks ran off a 12-0 run early, as the Rams couldn’t buy a basket and coach Shaka Smart got run up with a technical. It appeared it was only a matter of time before Kansas finished the job, and reality finally returned. After all, a Butler-VCU national semifinal was seemingly just too impossible, even for this Big Dance.
Instead, the Rams carried off another run to go back up by double digits, and ensured the Jayhawks wouldn’t go on another run. When they crept back up again, big three pointers from Joey Rodriguez – right after he shot an air ball – and Bradford Burgess gave VCU their final cushion. Instead of having to sweat out the ending, the Rams had their fourth decisive win of March Madness.
All Rams are on cloud nine, although even those in the university may not have seen this coming. Some of the players actually didn’t think they would make the Dance, as they shared how they didn’t even watch CBS on Selection Sunday.
Now VCU is two wins away from winning a record seven games in the NCAAs, and going deeper than George Mason in 2006 or Butler in 2010. But the 2011 Butler team, of all programs, can still ruin that on Saturday night.
VCU- “Virginia Commonwealth University”
Yahoo Sports- “First Four to Final Four: VCU stuns Kansas 71-61”
New York Daily News- “VCU, Butler Cinderella stories force traditional powers out of Final Four weekend”
Philadelphia Inquirer- “VCU upset No. 1 seed Kansas, 71-61”