ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS DANCE…

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VCU Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams spent Thursday prepping for their NCAA Tournament First Round game against Stephen F. Austin.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams spent Thursday prepping for their NCAA Tournament First Round game against Stephen F. Austin.

By Mike Litos

SAN DIEGO – Today was the beauty pageant portion of the NCAA tournament. Players and coaches from each team in San Diego went to the podium for high level, softball questions from the media. Each team also has a 40-minute practice that is really nothing more than basic drills, shooting, and some running to get used to the floor. It’s all open to the public, so it isn’t like a coach is going to run his offensive sets.

I actually like it, because it gets the smell of basketball into your system.

After sleeping in and a meal, VCU had it’s actual practice in an undisclosed location, then took it’s turn. Basketball is the talent competiton, and forutnately there is no swimsuit competition.

The best quote came froma random guy from another school who was on-hand to take in the VCU practice. I love fans who attend these shootarounds–if you’re doing this you are my kind of fan. Anyway, the guy looked to the floor, then looked at me, and remarked:

“My God you guys are loose. Do you always have this much fun?”

Yes my friend, we do.

That said, instead of creating some faraway storyline, here is a dump of the better quotes from VCU today:

Juvonte Reddic, on being without Melvin Johnson tomorrow: “…we’ve been without players in the past and some of the guys have stepped up and did a good job so I think, you know, we’re going to be all right.”

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MORE VIDEO: PEPPAS IN SAN DIEGO

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This band does not sleep. By the end of the season, people will be (hopefully) humming the “War” song all the way from Brooklyn, to Omaha to Salt Lake and San Diego.

VIDEO: VCU PRESSERS & OPEN PRACTICE

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OPEN PRACTICE

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SHAKA SMART

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VCU PLAYERS

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN COACH BRAD UNDERWOOD

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

THE HEART OF THE MATTER…

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MFF_2014_LogoBy Mike Litos

SAN DIEGO – The plane leaving Richmond for San Diego last night was delayed. Considering it was originally a 7:30pm departure that was due to land more than five hours later, that could’ve been a painful wait. You know how it goes, the feeling of it’s going to be a long night, and this makes it longer.

It turns out not so much.

Without that delay, I would not have seen Juvonte Reddic gleefully playing with assistant coach Jeremy Ballard’s son. Reddic’s wide smile matched that of the toddler’s as he flew higher and higher into the air and then settled into the 6-9 Reddic’s arms again and again.

I would not have seen a 5’2″ security agent wanding Mo Alie-Cox. Picture that for a moment. Ditto Doug Brooks, who instead of spreading his arms wide for the scan flexed his biceps. Jarred Guest was wearing a throwback VCU baseball hat, and by throwback I mean to the 1980s. Melvin Johnson was there, too, and he still has both legs intact.

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VCU BASKETBALL: GOIN’ BACK TO CALI

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Good chat with THE Stuart C. Siegel in here as the Rams prep to head to San Diego. Plus Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose as his happy-go-lucky alter ego. Just a heads up, Roose. I’m not buying it.

THE BLAMMO EFFECT…

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Is Briante Weber the leader of the "Blammo" movement?

Is Briante Weber the leader of the “Blammo” movement?

By Mike Litos

VCU has a distinct advantage this weekend that is not being discussed, at least not enough for my taste. I call it The Blammo Effect.

You see, teams who have little knowledge of VCU or have not actually played against the Rams are prone to being horse-whipped at a certain point during games. We’ve seen it in both halves, but primarily in the second half. It’s the big run that is havoc at its finest, deflections and steals and layups and threes, an open court basketball bacchanalia.

It’s worth noting that in 14 of VCUs 26 wins, the Rams either trailed at the half or were leading by four or fewer points.

Here’s the thing: you can practice with six or seven guys. You can practice with five guys and perfect reads. You can watch tape from sunup to sunup. You can rent Inspector Gadget and his gogoarms to try to replicate the Turbocharged Octopus and his nation’s leading steals total.

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GAME CHANGERS: ’84-85 RAMS FORGED NATIONAL PRESENCE FOR VCU

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Two of the stars of VCU's 1984-85 Sun Belt Championship team Mike Schlegel (left) and Calvin Duncan (right) enjoy a light moment.

Two of the stars of VCU’s 1984-85 Sun Belt Championship team Mike Schlegel (left) and Calvin Duncan (right) enjoy a light moment.

The following is an excerpt from the winter edition of “The Ram Report”, available online now. For the full issue, click here.

J.D. Barnett technically wasn’t running VCU Basketball like a fly by night operation in 1984. Actually, it was more much literal than that.

“You’ve got to remember what VCU was like back in those days…[we] had a campus that didn’t have much to sell. Sometimes you’d want to bring a player in at night so he wouldn’t see the campus during the day,” Barnett said in a 2008 interview.

The VCU of today, the 32,000-student behemoth, complete with new dorms along Broad Street, sparkling new business and engineering schools, and the beloved utilitarian Stuart C. Siegel Center, is a far cry from the one Barnett used to try to hide on recruiting visits.

Barnett wasn’t around to see the Eugene Trani-led transformation of the school in the 1990s and early 2000s, a metamorphosis that continues today under Dr. Michael Rao, who took over as university president in 2009.

In 2011, after VCU upset Kansas to reach the Final Four, students poured out of the dorms that buttress Broad Street to celebrate. Hours later, the electric mob packed the Siegel Center in the early morning hours to greet the team in its return from San Antonio. That scene would have been unimaginable for Barnett back then.

“Broad Street was a lot of dilapidated buildings, it was kind of just there,” says Calvin Duncan, who starred for VCU from 1981-85. “It was like an eyesore. Something you ride by. That’s basically what it was.”

While Barnett couldn’t sell recruits on amenities, he managed to entice them with a dream and an opportunity. What he eventually assembled, along with one of the more impressive coaching staffs in the country, was a colorful cast of characters that would redefine the program.

VCU had already achieved at an unprecedented level under Barnett by the time the 1984-85 season tipped off. In his first five seasons, VCU averaged 21 wins, captured the Sun Belt Championship in 1980 and 1981 and made four trips to the NCAA Tournament. In 1983-84, VCU earned its first national ranking when the Rams were 20th in the Associated Press Top 25 for a week. Later that year, Rolando Lamb hit a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Rams a win over Northeastern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

As successful as VCU had been, the 1984-85 campaign would eventually serve as the benchmark of the program for nearly 30 years, and it wasn’t until the Rams’ Final Four run that fans could again embrace a VCU as a national power.

By the time it was over, the Rams would win a school-record 26 games, a Sun Belt Championship and the No. 11 spot in the Final AP Poll – a ranking VCU would not eclipse for a generation. It’s a team many still consider the greatest in school history.

Click here to read the full story.

VCU MEDIA MINUTES (MARCH 17)

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On Monday, Shaka Smart, Rob Brandenberg and Treveon Graham met with members of the Richmond media to discuss the Rams’ NCAA Tournament match-up with Stephen F. Austin, the Atlantic 10 Tournament and other topics.

SHAKA SMART

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ROB BRANDENBERG

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TREVEON GRAHAM

TITLE GAME LOSS NOT THE ARBITER OF VCU SEASON’S WORTHINESS

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VCU fell to Saint Joseph's Sunday in the A-10 Championship Game, but the Rams are dancing anyway.

VCU fell to Saint Joseph’s Sunday in the A-10 Championship Game, but the Rams are dancing anyway.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Two years ago, this column would have been a eulogy. Today, it’s merely a reminder of how far the VCU program has come and where it’s headed.

VCU suffered a cruel blow Sunday at Barclays Center with a 65-61 loss to Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 Championship Game. It was a near repeat of 12 months ago, when Saint Louis dealt the Rams a similarly close championship game loss on the same floor.

Emotion caught up to the weight of those two losses Sunday. At the final horn, which cut short VCU’s furious attempt at a comeback, senior Juvonte Reddic crouched down near the VCU basket and buried his head in his shirt. It wasn’t until teammate Jarred Guest and Assistant Coach Mike Rhoades came over to comfort Reddic that he finally left the floor.

It’s understandable that Reddic would be crestfallen. For a second straight year, VCU came within a couple of bounces of a championship. That’s hard to handle, for sure.

But the tonic for what ails Reddic and VCU fans right now should be this: In the two years since the Rams last won a conference championship, the 2012 CAA title, the program has blossomed into a consistent national force. That doesn’t blunt the pain of a championship loss on Sunday, but it does make for a better Monday. That’s because by then, VCU will be making travel arrangements for a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament trip.

In 2011, VCU had to sweat out the NCAA Selection Show after losing to Old Dominion in the CAA Championship Game. Actually, many of the players didn’t bother to watch the show at all. Today, all they had to worry about was whether or not they needed to pack shorts or fleece. The answer is shorts, by the way, as VCU drew a 5-seed and will play Stephen F. Austin in San Diego Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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VIDEO: VCU DEFEATS GEORGE WASHINGTON IN A-10 SEMIFINALS

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