Arriving back on its Richmond campus early Monday morning to the crowd of nearly 4,000, VCU President Michael Rao introduced the team, saying:
"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."
For more on VCU, visit SB Nation DC and Mid Major Madness.