March 27, 2011

VCU Rocks, Shocks Jayhawks: A few weeks ago, the VCU basketball team watched the Cartoon Network and went out for fast food instead of watching the NCAA selection show. Now they're on their way to the Final Four from the 11th seed, while all number 1 seeds are heading home.

posted by dyams to basketball at 05:43 PM - 23 comments

Hard to believe that either Butler or Virginia Commonwealth will be playing for the national championship.

Should Butler be considered one of the elite basketball programs in the country now?

posted by dyams at 05:45 PM on March 27

Let's see, VCU has beaten a team from the PAC 10, the Big East, the Big 10, the ACC, and now the Big 12. People can argue that they didn't deserve to be in the tournament but Michigan State got in with 18 wins purely because they are from a power conference. VCU, like Butler, have made the most of their opportunity and proven that the mid-majors deserve respect.

posted by insomnyuk at 05:48 PM on March 27

Great Game, I Have To Wonder If Butler or VCU Is The Favorite In That Game

posted by Folkways at 06:05 PM on March 27

Good on VCU. These stories help make the tournament fun every year.

That said, I hope that the fact that they would not have been in the tournament if it was still 65 teams like last year (and there were arguments that they still shouldn't have been in) is not used as ammunition to expand the tournament further.

posted by bender at 06:06 PM on March 27

An extraordinary moment to behold for both schools. The two of them on one side of the bracket, with one of them guaranteed to be playing a high profile blueblood program in the title game. No pre-game show needed. Everyone gets the story line already.

VCU has shocked the world, and Butler's return visit is truly remarkable. With this, Coach Stevens should really be able to attract top regional talent on the recruiting trail. It could make Tom Crean's rebuilding job at IU a lot harder.

Not only are lower profile programs pushing their way into the party with increasing frequency in both hoops and football, but even better, coaches at those schools are staying put. Gary Patterson, Chris Petersen, Brad Stevens.

At this point, a good coach can create his own legacy right where he is (if he's happy there) and not have to worry about leaping upstream to a fancier or more storied program.

posted by beaverboard at 06:19 PM on March 27

Rock, chalk...heh, not so much.

Great game for VCU, and it is definitely what makes March Madness so great.

I'm not a big fan of the play-in games, but the Rams made the most of it. I'd love to see them go all the way.

posted by dviking at 06:35 PM on March 27

Great Game, I Have To Wonder If Butler or VCU Is The Favorite In That Game

Butler -2.5 -110
V.C.U. +2.5 -110
Total 132 -110

As an aside, V.C.U. paid about 6.5 to 1 to beat Kansas straight up (they were 11.5 pt underdogs).

posted by tommytrump at 07:16 PM on March 27

Even though he's 1-9 in picking against Butler in the past two years, I fully expect Dick Vitale to pick against the Dawgs again.

"Ahhh, you gotta love the job Brad Stevens has done at Butler. Back-to-back Final Fours baby. But since I never pick Butler to win a tournament game, I gotta go with the mighty Rams of VCU! It's a magnificent story, like the job the General, Robert Montgomery Knight, did at Indiana! As my beloved dead Mom and Dad used to say, "Ram-a-dam-a-ding-dong baaaaaby!"

posted by afl-aba at 07:18 PM on March 27

I can't stand Vitale. He's a horse's ass.

posted by insomnyuk at 07:19 PM on March 27

Now the highest combined seed total to reach the Final Four at 26 (3;4;8;11), beating the 22 total in 2000 (Michigan State (1), Florida (5), North Carolina (8), and Wisconsin (8)).

I can't stand Vitale. He's a horse's ass.

Vitale's picks had Louisville going to the Final Four.

posted by dyams at 07:20 PM on March 27

Vitale is colorful but can't seem to dislodge his head from his ass. He picked Louisville? Guess there wasn't an ACC team playing in that region.

Looks like the 9th place team from the "big least" is the current money favorite, although I'd say all 4 teams have a good shot and wouldn't expect a big spread on any of the remaining games.

posted by cixelsyd at 07:37 PM on March 27

He picked Louisville?

His other picks were Ohio State, Duke, and Pittsburgh. He faired about as well as the rest of us, but Louisville getting beat in round 1 by Morehead State was a real kick in Dickie V's teeth.

posted by dyams at 07:44 PM on March 27

People can argue that they didn't deserve to be in the tournament but Michigan State got in with 18 wins purely because they are from a power conference.

MSU did not get into the field of 64 purely because they are from a power conference. Part of it is reputation generally for the program under Izzo, independent of conference. (The same way Gonzaga would probably get at large consideration with a subpar record -- although somewhere north of 18 wins for sure -- and no conference title.) The biggest factor, however, leading to an 18-win MSU team getting into the tournament was the fact that there schedule was at least among the 10 most difficult in the nation and possibly top 5, and that factors into RPI and into how the tournament selectors like to "reward" teams that face difficult opposition (whether by design or inadvertently).

posted by holden at 07:52 PM on March 27

Did... did UConn just become the top seeded team in the Final Four? Because that would be all right by me, but wow, I don't think any of us UConn fans thought that would happen, even with their Big East tournament success.

That all said, go VCU. Amazing win and hoping to see you face UConn in the finals. Assuming UConn can get there, which of course is always in question.

posted by Joey Michaels at 08:40 PM on March 27

Is this also the first time that there have been no 1's or 2's in the Final Four? I know there were two other occasions where no top seeds advanced, but I'm too lazy to look and see if those years had any 2 seeds advance.

posted by TheQatarian at 08:56 PM on March 27

TheQatarian: Sports Illustrated is reporting that this is, in fact, the first time that has ever happened.

posted by Joey Michaels at 09:53 PM on March 27

Did... did UConn just become the top seeded team in the Final Four?

Seed wise, yes. But ... there was a 1 seed that got thrashed by 20 this spring and duplicated that effort in the tourmanent, proving again that on court performance and seeding are 2 entirely different animals.

Opening line:

Kentucky by 2
Butler by 2.5

Kentucky is favored to win it all with VCU delivering the biggest payday.

The gambling community has their shit together much better than the seeding committee.

posted by cixelsyd at 10:15 PM on March 27

I've been thinking about VCU a lot (especially since they beat FSU). I can't figure it out. Are they just a better basketball team than Kansas? If so, does it matter about how good each player is on a team or just how well they play together? Are there that many good college basketball players that the talent differential between Kansas and VCU isn't that great?

posted by bperk at 09:21 AM on March 28

Are they just a better basketball team than Kansas?

I don't know if you can say they're a better basketball team, overall, than Kansas. If VCU would have been in the same conference with Kansas, it would have been interesting to see how they did over the entire season. I do think, however, that NCAA Division 1 mens basketball is the one sport where much lower-ranked teams, and smaller schools, can compete, and many times win, against the big-time programs. I attribute a lot of that to the 3 point shot. VCU was on fire during the first half yesterday, built up a big lead, and after letting Kansas come back in the second, managed to play solid enough to hold on.

Also, the NCAA tournament allows teams like VCU to come in and play a open style, mainly based on the idea they have nothing, at all, to lose. A number 11 seed, who really expects them to knock of the number 1? Yesterday, and for all the tournament games so far, they have been playing really well, creating matchup problems for opponents, and to this point have been the better team. Butler will have to play another great game to beat them.

posted by dyams at 10:23 AM on March 28

Oh, how I wish I could've been in The Fan last night! #Richmondspeak

posted by The_Black_Hand at 10:47 AM on March 28

Absolutely, TBH.

posted by NoMich at 11:05 AM on March 28

A couple of thoughts on VCU I've read or heard today:

It'll be VCU vs Butler for the mid-major national championship and UConn vs Kentucky for the big school championship.

With so many underclassmen leaving school after one or two years, major program coaches might be having "chemistry" problems. The mid-majors tend not to have this problem, since most of their players stick around for the full 4 years.

The first comment could be interpreted as a put down of Butler and VCU, but if so, I'd be very careful of saying it. I have seen no data to back up the second comment, but it could well be true. The longer you have guys playing together under the same system, the more likely you are to have success. The players understand each other better, and more importantly, the coach is able to adapt what he wants to do to because he gets to understand his players better.

posted by Howard_T at 04:01 PM on March 28

With so many underclassmen leaving school after one or two years, major program coaches might be having "chemistry" problems

This certainly has held true. The only team to win a National Championship in the last decade with more than 1 freshman playing major minutes is Syracuse (Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara).

The recipie for success appears to be identifying and recruiting players who require development into at least their junior year - Duke(2x), North Carolina(2x), Florida(2x), UConn(2x), Maryland, Michigan State, and Kansas all used this formula.

This year both UConn and Kentucky depend heavily on freshman, while Butler and VCU are experienced squads. Will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:49 PM on March 28

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