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Despite doubters, VCU still pushing through

VCU celebrates Elite Eight win. (AP Photo)

It’s always the times when you think that you have things all figured out when you’re hit with the biggest surprises.

When March Madness began, analysts seemed to form an endless line to complain to the selection committee about the fact that Virginia Commonwealth University made it into the tournament. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas went so far as to say that VCU “fails the laugh test.” Dick Vitale, maybe the most notable of the ESPN college basketball contest, said that even his wife, who knows “diddly” about basketball, would have known that VCU didn’t deserve a bid. He also compared picking VCU over the University of Colorado to picking Roseanne Barr over Scarlett Johansson in a beauty contest — “no shot.”

Now, after a monumental upset over Kansas University, VCU is headed to the Final Four to face off with the other Cinderella of the NCAA tournament, Butler University.

It’s been a remarkable run that not even the craziest of brackets could have foreseen, but the fact is that it has happened. Even more bonkers is the fact that VCU might not even have gotten in had this all happened a year ago.

VCU, a No. 11 seed, had to play the University of Southern California in what is now called the first round, essentially a glorified play-in game. The Rams made the best of what they got though and took down the Trojans.

Once they earned their way into the 64-team bracket, it was time to put all the naysayers, all the doubters and all the nonbelievers behind them and take off on the path to the Final Four.

After defeating the Trojans, the next test was Georgetown University, one of the many teams to come out of the Big East Conference. The result was an eight-point victory and another step toward proving their legitimacy. Then it was on to a 94-76 route over Purdue University.

For an encore, the Rams battled for the entirety of the regulation clock against Florida State University. The result? A 65-65 tie. Overtime should have been the time where the Rams showed their “true colors” and crumbled under pressure, but that just wasn’t in the cards.

Down 71-70 with six seconds left, senior guard Joey Rodriguez got the ball into the hands of junior guard Bradford Burgess, who took it to the hole and put the Rams ahead for good when his layup cut through the net. The Seminoles attempted a last second heave, but it fell with no success.

This was the team that should have been passed up for the likes of Colorado, Virginia Tech University or the University of Alabama? Really?

Kansas was waiting in the wings after mowing through its first three tournament opponents after going 32-2 in the regular season. Call it David versus Goliath; call it Alex Rodriguez versus Dallas Braden. Call it whatever you want. The fact is this game, on paper, was a mismatch.

Luckily for everyone, this wasn’t a written test.

The Rams took a 41-27 lead going into halftime and even after the Jayhawks made a second-half run, the Rams dealt with adversity by making a run of their own. The final score read VCU 71, Kansas 61.

Now that the Rams are one game away from reaching the championship round, should we still doubt them?

Analysts will give their take and supply reasons for and against VCU’s chances of winning, but the Rams shouldn’t listen. They have proven that no matter how much we think we know, we know nothing.

This is a team that would have been a “never was” if it was up to the analysts and this has certainly been a run to remember.

Brandon Gould can be reached at gould9@tcnj.edu.


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