SWEET 16 SLIPS AWAY, BUT PLENTY LEFT FOR VCU TO HOLD ON TO

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Sophomore Rob Brandenberg helped VCU win a school-record 29 games in 2011-12. He scored 13 points Saturday.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Shaka Smart, one of the more well-read, media darlings in all of college basketball, seemed at a loss for words. When you’re a guy who can effortlessly quote Sun Tzu and Shakespeare, as Smart did this week, that’s hard to imagine.

But prior to his opening statement following VCU’s 63-61 loss to Indiana Saturday in the third round of the NCAA Tournament at the Rose Garden, Smart paused, contemplated, let out a big sigh and shook his head. The moment lasted 10, maybe 15 seconds, but it perfectly conveyed his state of mind better than anything he could have said.

This one hurt.

The Rams held a nine-point lead with 12:20 to play and a 61-56 advantage with less than two minutes remaining. But VCU, nearing another stunning NCAA Tournament victory, watched it slip away in a hail of missed jumpers and an unrelenting Hoosier squad. Indiana scored the final seven points of the game, while the Rams were 2-of-15 from the field, including 0-of-8 from three, in the final 12:20. After Rob Brandenberg’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short, Smart was there to comfort, putting his arm around his sophomore guard as they walked back to the locker room.

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WHEN NCAA PREP TIME HAS BEEN SHORT, VCU HAS THRIVED

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PORTLAND, Ore. – You think VCU’s Havoc defense looks like a handful? Try preparing for it with less than two days notice. That’s the challenge for Indiana Coach Tom Crean and his staff.

VCU’s high-intensity full court press is hardly the norm in college basketball. A few notable teams run something similar, Missouri and Arkansas come to mind, but certainly no team in the Big Ten, where the Hoosiers reside, does. Other than its game against top-ranked Kentucky – a game IU won, it should be pointed out – did the Hoosiers face an up-tempo press like the Rams’. It’s that unfamiliarity that VCU hopes will keep the opposition guessing.

“There are a lot of reasons we play the way we play,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “But one of the reasons we play that way is because it’s different from what teams are used to practicing in their own practices and playing against. In theory, our style is something that will be new for them tomorrow.”

VCU players agree that when the Rams have to face teams after a short turnaround, as in many NCAA Tournament games, Havoc comes in handy.

“I definitely think it’s an advantage,” sophomore Rob Brandenberg said. “It’s one thing to watch film, but it’s another to get on the floor and have game experience playing through the press and things like that.”

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FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE

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