YOU’RE THE BEST AROUND (OF THE LAST 17 YEARS…)

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With VCU’s decision to bolt the Colonial Athletic Association still fresh in our minds, maybe now is a good time to take stock of the 17 years the Rams spent in the league. It was a good run and frankly, the CAA’s Virginia-centric appeal was one of the things that made it fun for VCU fans. I can honestly say it’s one of the things I’ll miss, times change.

VCU has won 42 CAA championships since joining the league for the 1994-95 season. The Rams’ 36 titles in men’s sports are the most in league history. The VCU Baseball team will have a chance to add to that mark later this month. The Rams have won 13 championships in men’s tennis, eight in golf and five each in men’s basketball and baseball. Other sports were not as fortunate, but still enjoyed a great deal of success. Here, I’m going to look at the best team from each VCU program of the CAA era.

BASEBALL: 2003 (46-13, 17-3 CAA, CAA Champions, 1-2 NCAAs)
This was a legitimately hard decision. You could make compelling arguments for the 1998 and 2001 teams. This is one of the few picks that required some back-and-forth debate.

But for me, the 2003 squad was a shade better. Not only did they dominate the CAA regular season and sweep the conference tournament, but the Rams also led the country in ERA that season (2.54). Four pitchers, Cla Meredth (6th), Justin Orenduff (1st), Sean Marshall 6th) and Brian Marshall (5th), were selected in the first six rounds of the MLB Draft.  Four other players were also eventually drafted. Sean Marshall and Cla Meredith played in the majors.

MEN’S BASKETBALL: 2010-11 (28-12, 12-6 CAA, NCAA Final Four)
While I’m picking a non-CAA champion here, I doubt I’ll get few arguments. VCU’s run to the Final Four in 2011 pretty much trumps everything. During the regular season the Rams were equally magnificent and maddening, but flipped a switch in March. VCU reached the CAA Championship Game, upsetting ranked and heavily-favored George Mason in the process. Despite losing to Old Dominion in the title bout, VCU received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where the Rams toppled USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Kansas on the way to history.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: 2008-09 (26-7, 15-3 CAA, NCAA First Round)
The Rams didn’t win the CAA crown this season (Drexel did), but behind eventual WNBA first round pick Quanitra Hollingsworth, the Rams earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time via an at-large berth. The Rams met Rutgers in the first round and gave the Scarlet Knights a run for their money. In addition to Hollingsworth, future All-American and WNBA Draftee Courtney Hurt was a freshman on this squad.

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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.

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