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Finally, VCU basketball got their slipper smashed. It was bound to happen. In what was billed as the undercard to a heavyweight fight, VCU fell to Butler 70-62 in the Final Four in Houston, Texas.
VCU leaned on inside and outside threat Jamie Skeen with 25 points, six rebounds and three assists. Trailing by seven under 3 minutes to play, Skeen nailed a corner shot from 3 point range and was fouled to cut the lead to only foul points. The Rams would get no closer and committed a critical turnover with less than 50 seconds remaining to end their chances.
Butler was led by Shelvin Mack who scored 23 points on a highly efficient 8-11 shooting and draining five huge 3 point baskets. Matt Howard struggled with second half foul trouble and tough FG shooting but was able to score 17 points and 8 rebounds. The Bulldogs struggled from the field shooting 36 percent from the field but were able to convert FTs late to seal the win.
Butler faces the winner of the UCONN vs. Kentucky matchup on Monday night for the NCAA Men’s Basketball title.
The VCU Rams dictated their tempo to start their Final Four matchup with Butler, but as teams do on this stage, they quickly adapt. The Rams trail the Bulldogs 34-28 at Halftime at the Final Four in Houston.
The Rams are led by Jamie Skeen with 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists. VCU has hit 4-10 from 3 point range, sticking to their tournament average. They tried to push their tempo and were initially successful until Butler broke their press midway through the first frame. While applying heavy pressure, the Rams have turned the ball over seven times and will need to cut that number down to stay in this ball game. Frantic PG Joey Rodriguez has been held in check to this point missing all four of his FG attempts and has only two assists.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four's battle of the underdogs! No. 11 VCU and No. 8 Butler weren't supposed to be here -- well, Butler kind of was, because they are every year. VCU hopes to take a scalp from the mighty Horizon League to add to its power conference collection, setting up a shot at either another Big East team or a SEC squad.
Game time, TV schedule, location: April 2 at 6 pm ET, CBS, Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Winner gets the winner of the 8:30 pm ET Kentucky-UConn game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament final on April 4, also at Reliant.
Odds, spread, and over/under: Odds have been tight throughout the week, with the Rams rising to +115. VCU also opened the week 2.5-point underdogs, which has grown to 3 as of Saturday morning. Money expects a low-scoring game, with the over/under bouncing between 131 and 134 depending on where and when you look.
Predictions: Butler to cover. And the under, too. The question of this game is which VCU team will show up -- the one that lost to Georgia State, Northeastern, and UAB, or the one that can't stop hitting three-pointers. VCU has worked its way up to 57th in the country in three-point percentage from deep -- but at points this season they've fallen below 120th. Shaka Smart's team is capable of going cold, believe it or not, and for no specific reason I think Butler can make it happen.
"We have inspired an entire city, we have inspired our university community."
Every year in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, a team in anointed as Cinderella. Every year they knock off a favored team and the public, for the most part, views it as a cute story and then it’s time for the power conferences to take over. In Houston this weekend, No. 11 seed VCU meets No. 8 seed Butler for a berth in the title game. It’s the highest-seeded Final Four combination ever.
VCU plays in the Colonial Athletic Association. Butler competes in the Horizon League. It is very likely that no one outside of those conferences knew much about either entering March. VCU has won five consecutive games, including the first ever First Four round. Butler lost their best player to the NBA after last year’s title game run and has a student body of about 5,000 students.
For as much as these two teams have come out of nowhere, there are tremendous similarities. Both Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens are very young, vibrant coaches at 33 and 34, respectively. Both teams play very strong team defense and each score around 72 points per game. Both teams shoot very well from 3 point range and both hit their FTs well.
If you are looking for some advantages, VCU may again be the underdog but they may have more individual scoring punch than the Bulldogs do. The three headed Ram monster of Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell gave Kansas fits on Sunday and Butler will have to find a way to force the dribble drive rather than giving VCU open shots from deep. VCU looks like the almost enjoy being undersized as they create tremendous quickness mismatches on the outside. Look for VCU to again utilize their quickness to force Butler’s Shelvin Mack to overextend himself on the defensive end.
While members of the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East sit at home shaking their heads watching Cinderella prepare for a Final Four dance, VCU is again ready to show it doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Shaka Smart had a message for those who still insist on doubting the Rams, "We ain’t done yet."
VCU came, saw and dominated one of the top programs in college basketball, and now are headed to the Final Four. The Rams led nearly the entire game and knocked off the last remaining No. 1 seed beating Kansas 71-61 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament in San Antonio on Sunday.
The Rams used 26 points and nine rebounds from Jamie Skeen and drained 12 baskets from 3 point range to advance. Using suffocating perimeter defense and the unshakeable ability to survive run after run have been commonplace during this run to this point. For the second time in as many nights, they overcame a huge size disadvantage and were outrebounded 40-31.
Kansas was led Marcus Morris with 20 points and 16 rebounds. The Jayhawks looked flustered in the first half and could not hit shots from the free throw line all game, going 15-28. They also couldn’t solve the VCU backcourt pressure turning the ball over 14 times in the ballgame.
VCU moves on to face Butler in next week’s Final Four in Houston.
Virginia Commonwealth University is in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Few writers, even in Richmond, Va, would have ever imagine stringing those words together in an Fantasy Bracket, much less real life.
The Rams have relied on tremendous defensive pressure and strong offensive outputs to push past Southern Cal, Georgetown, Purdue and Florida State in a row.
Now comes possibly the biggest behemoth yet, the fightin’ Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas has steamrolled through the tournament thus far winning by an average of nearly 18 points per game. They rebound, the play strong defense and strong well from field. The Jayhawks are led by the Marcus Morris and his brother, Markieff Morris who have combined for 30 points and 16.3 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament. No way the Rams have a shot right?
VCU just continues to find a way to expose their opponent weakness and pound and pound. Led by frantic PG Joey Rodriguez, 3 point assassin Bradford Burgess and big man Jamie Skeen, the Rams refuse to back down on Friday night facing the best FG percentage defense in the country. The task will not be easier with Kansas who has offensive weapons from nearly every position. They can't hang with Rock Chalk can they?
The numbers are lopsided: Kansas averages nearly 10 points more per game, shoots a better percentage from the field and from 3 point range and grabs more rebounds. VCU shoots slightly better from the FT line and has a minor advantage in steals. If VCU can keep the game in the 70s, like they did on Friday night, anything can happen.
Anyone still doubting VCU? I’m not. You shouldn’t either.
Another Power Conference Team Up and another Power Conference Team Down for the Ram engine that could. VCU survived a late second half barrage and missed FTs in OT to slip by Florida State 72-71 in the NCAA Basketball Tournament in San Antonio on Friday night.
Bradford Burgess played the hero again for the Rams as his layup with 6 seconds culminated a tremendous night with 26 points on 9/15 from the field and 6/7 from 3 point range. VCU heard all week about the Florida State size and length and how difficult it was going to be. The Rams again nodded and shot better than 46 percent from the field and drained 11 shots from deep.
Florida State’s Senior guard Derwin Kitchen was the story for the ‘Noles as he finished his career with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. The Seminoles were aided by 20 offensive rebounds and 16 VCU turnovers. FSU did not shoot particularly well in either half or Overtime and only managed to shoot 36 percent as a team from the field on the night.
VCU moves on to the Elite Eight to face Kansas, who crushed Richmond earlier on Friday, on Sunday afternoon at 1:20pm EST.
These are not exactly unchartered waters for a team from the Colonial Athletic Association. George Mason, who was also an at-large double digit seed in 2006, shocked the basketball world by dropping a power conference team (Michigan State) by double digits and then shocking another power conference team (North Carolina) to advance to the Sweet 16.
Something is quite different with VCU though. Participating in the First Four round and drilling Southern Cal, sliding past Villanova in the 2nd round and finally dismantling Purdue to reach the school’s first Sweet 16. All the while hearing every step of the way that they don’t belong. VCU has an NCAA program record of 9-9. That’s more wins than any other CAA school and more wins than the conference has total in this last 20 years.
So what’s so special about this bunch? Shaka Smart believes he knows, they respond to challenges:
"We had a game earlier this year where an assistant coach came out in the newspaper and said that we couldn’t defend, and we went on that game and we held that team to under 50 points. So I learned very early in the year about our team that they like a challenge, especially if it’s posed by somebody that they can perceive as the enemy, or the opposition."
Florida State and VCU may look at each other and see many similiarities Both teams score nearly the same amount per game in the low 70s and shoot nearly identical percentages from the field at 43.7 and 43.6, respectively. The key in this matchup will be the rebounding margin as the ’Noles have a decided size advantage.
Chris Singleton for Florida State is back but battled foul trouble and obvious timing issues in the opening rounds as he only scored 7 points on 2-7 shooting from the field and 1-4 from deep. While the ‘Noles may not benefit on the scoreboard, they definitely benefit emotionally from their Senior leader.
"You just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong. You feel like it’s just us against the world, and that’s just the mentality we’ve been having since we came in the tournament, because last Sunday everybody was criticizing us for even being in the tournament. We just wanted to come and play with a chip on our shoulder and prove that we belong. Now we just want to keep it rolling."
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams began the NCAA Basketball Tournament with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulders as they were trashed by the talking heads on Selection Sunday. On Sunday, the No. 11 seed more than proved they belong after destroying the No. 3 seed Purdue 94-76 and now head into the school’s first Sweet 16.
The Rams hit the gas in the first 20 minutes and didn’t let up. Bradford Burgess scored 25 points and 4 other VCU players scored in double digits surprising the Boilermakers and shooting the lights out. Draining eight 3 pointers and shooting 57 percent from the field, Purdue never saw what hit them.
Purdue was led by JaJuan Johnson with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. The defense just could not contain VCU and it looked confused on ball screens and dribble penetration leading to wide open layups.
VCU advances to its first ever Sweet 16 and the CAA’s first since George Mason reached the Final Four in 2006. The Rams will face the winner of the Notre Dame-Florida State matchup.
The No. 1 Overall seed Ohio State received a punch to the face when No. 8 seed George Mason sprinted out to an early 11-2 lead to start the game. From that point forward, the Buckeyes landed haymaker after haymaker and the CAA’s best team was absolutely routed in the Third Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
David Lighty was fantastic for the Buckeyes and was nearly perfect hitting 9-10 shots from the field and 7-7 from 3 point range for a game high 25 points. Freshman sensation Jared Sullinger had a super efficient 18 points on 7 shots and added 9 rebounds. OSU shooters drained a total of 16 treys for the day.
George Mason was led by Cam Long who capped his career 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and a probably the most forgettable stat of the day: seven turnovers.
Ohio State rolls into the Sweet Sixteen vs. Kentucky on Friday in Newark, NJ.
VCU likely shut the mouths of many who said that the No. 11 seed didn’t belong in the NCAA Basketball Tournament after a decisive rout of No. 6 seed Georgetown 74-56 in Chicago on Friday night.
The Rams’ Brandon Rozzell chose a great time to tie his career high in points with 26 including six 3 point buckets. Joey Rodriguez dropped 17 points and dished out seven assists shaking off a personal two game slump. In his previous two games versus UAB in the First Four and ODU in the CAA Tournament, he was a combined 6-22 from the field for 16 points.
Rozzell explained it's not just the guys in black and gold he's playing for:
"I think we're playing for all the mid-majors across the country, not just our conference (Colonial Athletic Association) but everywhere," Rozzell said. "I think we're doing a good job for our conference, specifically."Georgetown continued an awful 24 hours for the Big East who loses it’s 3rd team. The Hoyas were absolutely dragged up and down the court losing their 3rd straight opening round game. Hollis Thompson was the lone bright spot off the bench scoring 26 points on 8-10 shooting including four shots from 3 point range. G’town leading scorer Austin Freeman ends his career with an outing he’ll have a hard time shaking off as he throws a 3-14 from the field and 0-7 from deep.
VCU moves on to face No. 3 seeded Purdue on Sunday at 7:10pm EST for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
No. 8 seed Georgia Mason rode gritty defense and opportunistic late offense to defeat No. 9 seed Villanova in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday.
The Patriots were led by Luke Hancock who finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Hancock dropped the dagger, a 3 point basket with 20 seconds to go after Isaiah Tate did the unthinkable: fouling a 3 point shooter in the act. The Patriots did not shoot well overall and struggled mightily from deep only connecting on 4-14 from 3 point range. As has been the case all season, Mason found a way.
For Villanova, it was the Corey and Corey show. The Wildcat backcourt of Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher proved to be too much as they combined for 34 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. The pair also drained 6 three point baskets. The rest of the team combined for a total of 8 made baskets.
George Mason moves on face Ohio State on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Wisconsin likely heard the whispers: Another Atlantic Sun team who piled up a ton of regular season wins and they should be on Upset Alert. On Thursday, the Badgers absolutely dismantled Belmont 72-58 in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Tucson, Arizona.
Riding the scoring combo of Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer, who combined from 43 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, Wisconsin used tough defense, tremendous outside shooting and patience on offense to move on. The Badgers used a slower tempo and drained 12 shots from 3 point range and essentially dictated the style of play in both halves.
Belmont was led offensively by Mick Hedgepath with 17 points and 3 rebounds. The Bruins starting back court had a miserable night as starting guards Drew Hanlan, Jon House and Ian Clark teamed up for an awful 3-18 shooting from the field.
Wisconsin moves on to face the winner of the Kansas State – Utah State winner on Saturday.
All week Wofford heard about Jimmer Fredette and his scoring ability. On Thursday, they became witnesses as Jimmer led No. 3 seed BYU pushed past No. 14 Wofford 74-66 in the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Denver, Colorado.
Fredette scored a game high 32 points and played the role of maestro at times and finished with 8 assists. Four other Cougars scored in double figures and shot 20-24 from the FT line.
The Terriers were led by prolific scorer Noah Dahlman with 22 points on a super efficient 10 shots. Wofford struggled mightily from 3 point range only connecting on 3-18 on the night. It was clear that the BYU 2-3 zone bothered the Terrier shooters in the 2nd half as they went more than four minutes without a field goal down the stretch.
BYU moves on to face the winner of the St. John’s – Gonzaga winner on Saturday.
In a contest taking place just 144 miles from campus, the No. 9 seed Old Dominion Monarchs saw their virtual home game end in a crushing 60-58 defeat at the hands of the No. 8 seed Butler Bulldogs in First Round Action at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Matt Howard slipped free and hit a layup with 1 second remaining to give Butler the victory. Howard’s heroics put the finishing touches on a rock solid game as he finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. Butler also had a good game from Shelvin Mack as he connected on three first half 3s and finished with 15 points.
ODU big man Frank Hassell lead the way for the Monarchs with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals after shaking off a sluggish start. The Monarchs shot well from the field in the first half, at nearly 47%, but 10 first half turnovers allowed Butler to stick around. Coach Blaine Taylor’s group did protect the ball better in the second half but the shooting percentage took a huge nose dive as ODU continued to fire away from 3 point range even with Butler seeing three of their starting five in foul trouble.
Butler likely faces No. 1 seed Pittsburgh, who is expected to dismantle UNC-Asheville this afternoon, on Saturday with a trip to the Sweet 16 at stake.