WAIT, THIS IS XAVIER’S MASCOT?

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I was totally on board with this move to the Atlantic 10 before today. But while browsing through this A-10 guide, I found out that this is Xavier’s mascot? What is the Blue Blob? He looks like the redheaded stepchild of Grimace. It’s as if Cookie Monster and the Philly Phanatic had a love child. He looks like a bean bag chair with hair. I’m not sure we can go through with this move now. I just can’t deal with this. My mind has been blown.

Xavier’s Blue Blob

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Geez, Xavier. You’re the Musketeers, the least you could do is dress a guy up to look like Charlie Sheen in The Three Musketeers.

#Musketeering

IMPORTANT THINGS

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1-VCU senior runner Tyler Simmons and his crew are entering the final fundraising stages of “Ride for Ricky”. If you’re late to this party, know that Simmons and two others are putting together a cross country bike ride to raise money for a friend who was paralyzed during a bike accident a few years ago. For more info, check here.

2-Nice Q&A with Maya Smart courtesy of Richmond.com.

Meanwhile, abundant VCU alumni news over the weekend:

3-VCU alum Brandon Inge seems to be adjusting to Oakland well. He hit his first home run as a member of the A’s yesterday:

4-Don’t know if you missed it, but VCU alum Cody Eppley was recalled by the New York Yankees over the weekend. Eppley takes the roster spot made available by Mariano Rivera’s injury. It’s too bad it happened that way, but such is sports.

5-Former VCU golfer John Rollins earned his fourth top 10 finish of the season and topped $1 million in prize money for the year with his seventh place showing at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Here’s Rollins chipping in from the fringe during the tournament’s opening round, also known as “a golf pipe dream” for me.

6-The VCU Baseball Team scored a couple of come-from-behind victories to take two of three from Georgia State this weekend. The wins vaulted the Rams from fifth to eighth in the CAA standings. The top six earn CAA Tournament bids. Meatloaf would approve of the Rams’ work this weekend.

7-The VCU Women’s Track & Field team narrowly missed out on its first CAA Championship over the weekend. The turnaround in that program the last 3-4 years has been incredible.

A BRAND NEW DAY

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Norwood Teague's tenure at VCU was marked by the success in basketball and the growth of the Ram Athletic Fund.

It’s my first day in the office since February. Did I miss anything?

Okay, so I wasn’t roaming the Sahara for the last nine weeks. I’ve been keeping up on the goings on Broad and Harrison, but it’s a different place than the one I left, figuratively speaking.

Athletic Director Norwood Teague is headed to Minnesota. Shaka Smart is still here, but Women’s Basketball Coach Beth Cunningham, who made the Rams relevant for the first time under her watch, has left to become the Associate Head Coach at her alma mater, Notre Dame. And then there are those pesky conference rumors. You guys have been busy.

In an attempt to get this blog back on the rails, I’ll take a moment to touch on the personnel moves. I can’t and won’t discuss conference rumors. I don’t know anything anyway. As far as I’m concerned, those are just rumors until proven otherwise.

Norwood Teague to Minnesota: It’s tough to see Norwood leave. Much has been accomplished since his arrival in 2006, especially in men’s and women’s basketball. His hire of under-the-radar assistant Shaka Smart has been a home run, the Siegel Center suite and club seat addition was a big hit and a $10 million practice facility is in the works.

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DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK

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After nine weeks away, I’m back to ruin productivity. I’ve got the writing engines fired up again, so look for some fresh blog updates here shortly, as well as a near daily dose of awesome.

More on #Winning

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We’re  channeling our inner Charlie Sheen (circa 2011) and talking more about winning. Over on the mothership site (VCUathletics.com), we posted a bunch of facts & figures from the 2011-12 season. If you missed it, here ya go.

Since people like to crunch numbers and let’s be honest, there’s a lot of stat geeks out there. I figured you all might be interested in checking out the wins chart we have here in our office. Below is the breakdown for the top-50 in total wins over the past three, five and 10 seasons. Like we all know, Ram Nation is right up there with some of the best programs in the country.

 

ALL HE DOES IS WIN

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RICHMOND, Va. – You’d think by the title of this blog post, we’re talking about Tim Tebow. Well you’re wrong, in fact the only reason I mention Tebow is to drive all the people to this blog that have google alerts on him. ESPN may actually do a feature on this blog just because we mentioned him.

Back to the task at hand. All week we’ve heard the mainstream media debate about John Calipari and the “one-and-done”. He’s been lauded because of his ability to turnover his roster and still be one of the best programs in the country. That same statement holds true for the longest-tenured coach at VCU, Paul Kostin, who has been running the tennis programs for 22 years. (Interesting note: Shaka Smart was 12 when Coach Kostin took over)

Kostin has been losing First Team All-CAA players for years now and yet he ALWAYS has the Rams in the mix for not only a CAA Championship, but NCAA Tournament bids and most of the years in the mix for top-25 rankings. This year is no different with the men’s squad sitting at 17-4 (winners of five straight) and the women’s squad sitting at 13-4 (winners of four straight).

The men’s squad has had the CAA Player of the Year in three of the past six seasons and each time VCU has had to replace them during the following season, each time the Rams advanced to the NCAA Tournament (which they’ve done 15 of the past 16 years).

In 21-plus seasons with Ram Nation, Kostin has compiled 945 wins. Think about that, 9-4-5. The amazing part may be the fact that there are only 304 loses on the other side of that, a winning percentage of over. 760. That goes along with a million NCAA Tournament appearances as well as being the only VCU program to play for a national championship when the men’s squad played in the 2000 NCAA Finals.

Tebow can have his time in the NY Spotlight, Kostin will just be sitting at Thalhimer Tennis Center on Cary Street racking up more and more wins and more NCAA Tournament appearances.

CATCH THE FEVER, ITS CONTAGIOUS

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The old saying in baseball  is “Hitting is Contagious.” At least that’s was one of the excuses my dad tried to tell to make me feel better after I gave up six runs in an inning.

That theory as certainly true for the VCU Baseball team this past week who went 4-0 last week and have now won five of six entering a five-game homestand with Liberty, George Mason and VMI coming to the Diamond.

VCU pounded out 37 hits this past weekend up at Northeastern. The Huskies are usually pitching dominant and entered the three-game set against the Rams with a 4.28 team ERA, which ranked fourth in the conference at the time. That’s when the Rams arrived in Beantown and seemingly everyone on the bus got a hit in the three-game set. Even Andrew Phillips, the internet voice of the Black & Gold, may have gotten a hit and you’re talking about a guy who had two hits total in his 13 years of little league baseball. Just don’t ask Phillips to catch a pop-up, that leads to disaster. We actually found highlights of Phillips’ little league career in the video below, he’s at the :05 and :30 mark.

Back to the Diamond Rams, who are led by the sophomore tandem of Joey Cujas and Bill Cullen. After hitting .588 last week, Cujas has pushed his yearly total to .455, which will be close to the top-10 nationally when the NCAA stats report comes out today. Cullen is at .363, while leading the country in triples (7) and ranking in the top-three nationally in doubles (14). This past week, redshirt juniors Taylor Buran and Brent Mikionis got hot and at the perfect time for VCU with the duo combining for 13 hits in 28 at-bats with three  longballs and six RBIs.

However, this is what usually happens in baseball, the team has an offensive explosion, but nobody really notices dominant pitching and that’s exactly what the Rams had this past week with a team ERA this past week of just 1.95 to go along with 30 strikeouts and just nine walks. On the year, VCU has 206 strikeouts and just 75 walks (2.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Freshman Heath Dwyer has been a huge lift for the Black & Gold with  a 3-1 record and 2.86 ERA in 28.1 innings of work.

I believe coming into this year that the Rams had a real shot in a wide-open CAA race and this is the team that I thought could win the thing. It takes time to get in the rhythm, Buran and Mikionis are prime examples of that. They both battled injuries last year and had a tough start to this spring, but turned it on last week and if they stay at that level, VCU will be tough to beat and yet again will be battling for a CAA Championship and another trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Get out to the Diamond and support your Rams!

WE’VE GOT CONTROVERSY!

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RICHMOND, Va. – If you haven’t heard, the original Around the Horns, Chris Kowalczyk is on a hiatus in the lovely city of Baltimore, so we’re going to try and sub in for the time being. Don’t worry though, we all watched this video to make sure we did the best job possible.

Back to the task at hand, last night our beloved “Big Shot Brad” Burgess took to the stage on ESPN one last time wearing a VCU jersey, this time in the ESPN College Three-Point Championships. You might not have known that since Brad Nessler insisted on calling him “Brandon” all night. It’s ok, we’ll let you slide Bob, it’s not like you shared the same name with him or anything.

If you didn’t tune in on time, you missed Brad as he was one of the first two shooters to take to the arc. I was a little worried as he’s not really a “competition” type shooter, but I did know he played in Tulane’s Fogelman Arena before, so was hoping that was to his advantage. I did not expect a scandal to rock Ram Nation and that’s exactly what happened…. Let’s watch the tape:

Now you might think it would be easy to count buckets, but apparently the guy keeping track last night had a few too many Hurricanes on Bourbon Street because if you watch it again, Brad should have 13 points, which would have tied him with Missouri’s Marcus Denmon, who made the semifinal round. It would have been nice for Brad to keep going, but he’s got the Reese’s NABC All-Star game today, so his weekend in New Orleans was just getting started.

As frustrating as it is, it was all in good fun and it was great to see an all-time great like Brad (or Brandon if your Brad Nessler) get some national TV love once again.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON…

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Rebecca Morrissette (left) had to give up her athletic dreams, but now blends music and basketball as a member of the VCU Pep Band.

By Michael Schuster

Below the surface of Rebecca Morrissette’s charming, albeit reserved, persona, there’s sincerity and courage. Her modesty and desire to succeed is enviable, but it’s her strength that has guided her inspirational tale through adversity.

When she was getting ready for high school, Morrissette, a junior forensics major at VCU, began noticing a sharp pain in her knees that forced her to seek orthopedic assistance. On the verge of trying out for her high school basketball team in Chester, Va., she and her family sought the medical attention of one of the best orthopedic doctors in Virginia.

Morrissette was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, which causes inflammation, pain, and swelling of the bone and cartilage of the shin. X-rays also revealed a patellar dislocation of her knee, a condition in which the patella is unable to support ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee, and causes extreme discomfort. Although these injuries are not uncommon for female athletes, the orthopedic surgeon recommended an invasive surgical procedure to repair the knees with screws and other mechanical incisions. However, the surgery would also effectively end her athletics career, a harsh reality.

“Sports were my life,” Morrissette said. “I tried to focus and take my mind off of this terrible news, but athletics is all I really knew at that point. I tried to focus my time on school, but it was really difficult. I felt disappointed, I cried, and felt a lot of loneliness for a long period after the diagnosis.”

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HAPPY GROUNDHOG’S DAY

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