Following six months of build-up, a crowd of 7,617 came to 1200 West Broad Street to celebrate Friday night. It was a coronation of sorts. VCU, March’s superstar underdog, unfurled its Final Four banner from the rafters. For all-time, fans will view that as the moment the Rams arrived on the national scene and took on all comers. The roar of the crowd was jubilant, deafening. It was unforgettable.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Verizon Wireless Arena, Shaka Smart missed every pulse-pounding second.
“I didn’t even see it,” the VCU Coach admitted following the Rams’ 63-57 season-opening victory over Saint Francis (Pa.) Friday night.
Some called the unveiling of the banner one of, if not the biggest, moment in program history. No big deal. Smart saw the banner earlier in the week. He had already turned his attention to getting his young team prepared for the game.
In the weeks prior, Smart maintained that the Final Four season, while great, was over. This was a different team, a youthful group that featured six freshmen and a lone senior. VCU was ready to turn the page, he said.
If turning the page was their stated goal, the Rams succeeded Friday night. VCU bore scant resemblance to the shot-making juggernaut that stormed through five big-name schools on the way to Houston in March. Instead, the Rams looked like a team with plenty of questions to answer. They were a team that fully expects a tug-of-war between its youth and its inherent ability.