March 20, 2013
2013 NCAA Tournament, Akron Zips, Darius Theus, Shaka Smart
Once a popular NCAA Tournament pick as an underdog, VCU will enter its Round of 64 game as a favorite.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – What happens to the hunted when it becomes the hunter? Does it lose its killer instinct, its razor’s edge, the sharpness of which has been the difference between survival and irrelevance? Does it watch too much reality TV instead of going to the gym?
When VCU takes the court in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64 Thursday against Akron at the Palace of Auburn Hills, it will do so in a world that has shifted its perspective of the Rams. VCU, once America’s Sweetheart, the loveable underdog, is a legitimate brand name. This year, the Rams (26-8) earned a No. 5 seed, the school’s highest in 28 years.
Some of the most memorable moments in VCU history have come with the Rams as a double-digit seed. When Eric Maynor and the Rams toppled Duke in Buffalo in 2007, they were seeded 11th. VCU was also an 11-seed in 2011, when it stormed all the way through the Southwest Regional to the Final Four. Last year, as a 12-seed, VCU upset Wichita State in the Round of 64 in Portland, Ore.
VCU, especially under Shaka Smart, has adopted the underdog philosophy better than anyone. In 2011, half the anchors employed by ESPN, including Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale, dogged the NCAA committee’s selection of VCU. The Rams used it as bulletin board material on the way to five straight upset wins. So prominent was the chip on the Rams’ shoulder, that when VCU beat USC in the First Four in Dayton that year, Smart’s first words at his postgame press conference that night were: “You think Jay Bilas watched that game?”
March 17, 2013
2013 NCAA Tournament, A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Darius Theus, Saint Louis Billikens, Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart said Sunday he’s proud of VCU’s performance in the A-10 this season.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – As Shaka Smart spoke, his voice betrayed him. After three emotional Atlantic 10 Tournament games, it cracked and wheezed. Much like his team, Smart left everything, including his voice, on the Barclays Center floor.
The Rams stellar inaugural A-10 season came to a close Sunday in an emotional 62-56 loss to Saint Louis in the league’s championship game. VCU, which had been overrun by a poised Billikens team in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, battled until the final horn. The Rams refused to let Saint Louis walk to a title with a repeat performance.
But an A-10 title was not in the cards for the Rams this year. That honor goes to a tough Saint Louis team that overcame the death of its coach, Rick Majerus, earlier this year and banded together. The Billikens came into the game ranked 16th nationally, and they’re at least that good, if not better. The Rams can keep the chins high.
“We came at them, they took a punch from us. They responded, and that’s why they’re the champions,” said Smart afterwards.
March 15, 2013
A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Briante Weber, Darius Theus, Justin Tuoyo, Melvin Johnson, Rolando Lamb, Saint Joseph's Hawks, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels.
Freshman Melvin Johnson (12 points) was one of several of VCU’s young reserves who were key Thursday.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – There was freshman Justin Tuoyo, all alone on the right wing. He’d barely played the last month and had missed 12 of his previous 14 three-pointers this season. From behind my position, a Saint Joseph’s fan, who had apparently done some advance scouting, shouted, “He can’t shoot a three, let him shoot it.”
Tuoyo promptly sized up the three and canned it.
Instead of hesitating or letting nerves overcome him on a big stage, the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals, Tuoyo stuck to the aggressive, attacking principles that Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart preaches.
At the time the bucket didn’t seem terribly significant. It gave the Rams a 64-47 lead with 8:11 remaining. But Saint Joseph’s, namely Carl Jones (29 points) and Langston Galloway (25 points), wouldn’t quit and managed to whittle the final margin to 82-79.
After the game, Smart was quick to remind Tuoyo of that bucket.
“I told him in the locker room after the game, I know it’s just one shot, but I don’t know if you noticed, but we won by three, and you hit a three,” Smart said. “So we needed every basket, and I think overall, just the contribution that he made in 14 minutes says a lot about his future.”
March 15, 2013
2013 NCAA Tournament, A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Darius Theus, Melvin Johnson, Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart says an NCAA bid is “nice”, but the Rams are in Brooklyn to win a championship.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For VCU, the conference tournament has long functioned as a de facto play-in round for the NCAA Tournament as much as it was a chase for a championship. Not since 1985 have Rams fans been able to truly compartmentalize the two experiences.
Although there’s no such thing as an “automatic” at-large berth, not officially anyway, the Rams will be dancing this year. Every “bracketologist” under the sun – from Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm, to Joe Schmoe crunching brackets in his mom’s basement – has VCU safely seeded anywhere from a No. 6 to a No. 9. While the Rams’ results this weekend will greatly impact where VCU will be seeded, who it’ll play and where it will go, it won’t be a do-or-die scenario. This NCAA Tournament is one thing. That’s next week. This weekend in Brooklyn is all about chasing a title.
VCU’s move to the Atlantic 10 is actually one of the main reasons the Rams don’t have to grit their teeth through CBS’ tournament selection show this year. The A-10 has the seventh-highest RPI in the country and will likely receive anywhere from three to six bids. The Rams racked up six top-100 wins in league play. In all, VCU has built a NCAA resume on 10 top-100 wins, including three top 50 triumphs, and no “bad” losses.
March 13, 2013
A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Barclays Center, Darius Theus, Melvin Johnson
The new Barclays Center in Brooklyn will serve as host to the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time. The building has given the tournament a previously unseen buzz.
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s about a mile-and-a-half from the door of Shaka Smart’s office to the floor of the Richmond Coliseum. An absurdly fit man, it’s not silly to think he can run there in about 10 minutes (probably less). But Barclays Center in Brooklyn? It would take a Forrest Gump-like effort and a couple pairs of Nikes to make that jog.
But that’s what Smart would be facing if he wanted to leg it to the conference tournament this year, VCU’s first in the Atlantic 10. While the Rams traded the Colonial Athletic Association for the more highly regarded A-10 this year, they also traded the familiar confines of the nearby Richmond Coliseum for Barclays Center, some six hours away, depending on traffic, of course.
Although the Rams have parted company with the convenience, VCU-friendly crowds and homespun appeal of the Coliseum in March, Smart isn’t losing any sleep over it.
“A lot has been made of the fact that we’re not playing here in home at Richmond,” he said Tuesday. “But I’ve coached at a lot of schools. This is the only school I’ve coached where we’ve played a conference tournament in our home city. That’s more the exception than the norm. We’re like everyone else. We have to travel to New York to play.”
For the first time since it joined the CAA in 1995-96, VCU will play in a conference tournament outside the city of Richmond. The Rams joined the A-10 this summer, in part because the league will host its championship at Barclays. The arena, located in America’s hoops haven, New York, provides the A-10 Tournament with a curb appeal the CAA just couldn’t match.
March 7, 2013
Darius Theus, Havoc, Richmond Spiders, Shaka Smart, VCU Havoc
If you can’t have fun watching Havoc, check your pulse.
RICHMOND, Va. – College basketball is broken? Scoring is down? The game is boring? Soft bubble? Too many upsets? I think some of these stodgy columnists need some Havoc therapy.
This year, more than any in recent memory, college basketball has faced parroted calls for a fix.
“Make this game more fun! Entertain us! Too many upsets. Too many guys leaving college early.”
Maybe I’m not qualified to assess the state of Division I basketball. I drive a Pontiac – a car brand which no longer exists – and own a total of two suit jackets, so, probably not. Maybe hoops is “broken”, maybe it’s not. I’m just wondering if these guys are watching what I’m watching. Have you seen VCU? Have you sampled the fruit of the breakneck, devil-may-care style of play that is only churning out turnovers and entertainment value at a faster rate than it is producing victories?
From where I’m sitting, college hoops looks better than ever.
March 6, 2013
Darius Theus, David Hinton, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels., VCU Senior Night
RICHMOND, Va. – The final act of VCU’s 2013 senior class of Darius Theus, Troy Daniels and David Hinton hasn’t been written, but what they’ve accomplished so far has already been unforgettable.
Theus and Daniels were Coach Shaka Smart’s first VCU recruits, and they’ve both turned out to be home runs. While Hinton was a redshirt freshman on the roster the year before Smart’s arrival, he’s blossomed into a steady contributor the last four seasons. All three have been party to a slew of memory makers.
This group of veterans has helped to usher in a new “Golden Age” of VCU hoops in Richmond. Under their watch, the Rams have won more than 75 percent of their games. While the magnificent run to the Final Four in 2011 will stand tallest on this group’s list of accomplishments, fans can reflect on a countless number of heart-stopping moments from this trio’s careers.
For Theus, I’ll remember stellar bench performance in the Rams’ upset of Florida State in the 2011 Sweet 16, not to mention his MVP performance in the 2012 CAA Championship Game. Meanwhile, none of us will soon forget Daniels’ three-game stretch this year when he hit 27 three-pointers, including 11 (11!!) at East Tennessee State. In addition, do the Rams squeak out a three-point win over Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament last March without Hinton’s two charges? Doubtful.
Let’s take this opportunity to appreciate VCU’s seniors by the numbers:
1,577 combined points by the 2013 senior class
.759 winning percentage in four seasons
432 career assists for Darius Theus, sixth in school history
227 career steals for Theus, third-most all-time
107 Wins, second-most all-time for a VCU senior class
103 three-pointers for Troy Daniels this year, a school record
11 three-pointers hit by Daniels vs. ETSU on Jan. 2, a school record
10 career-high in assists for Theus in a win over Saint Joseph’s
8 NCAA Tournament games, second-most in VCU history
7 Wins versus teams ranked in the AP Top 25
6 NCAA Tournament wins, most all-time
4 seasons with 20 or more wins
2 charges taken by David Hinton vs. Wichita State in NCAA Tournament
1 Final Four appearance
March 4, 2013
Darius Theus, Darius Theus' father, Mike Voyack, Ralph Theus, Scott Wyant
Great piece here from intrepid cub reporter Scott Wyant and Mike Voyack. If you’ve been to a game at the Siegel Center the last four years, you’ve seen Ralph Theus letting everybody know exactly who No. 10 on the floor is. Hint: It’s his son.