GHOSTS OF HOUSTON WATCH, BUT WON’T DICTATE NEXT CHAPTER OF BUTLER SERIES

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Rob Brandenberg played seven minutes as a freshman against Butler in the 2011 National Semifinal

Rob Brandenberg played seven minutes as a freshman against Butler in the 2011 National Semifinal

RICHMOND, Va. – Monday night, after a long day of recruiting, Shaka Smart did it. He finally watched the game tape of VCU’s 70-62 loss to Butler on April 2, 2011 at the Final Four. First, he watched clips of VCU’s press versus the Bulldogs, then he watched the game in its entirety. He told himself he wouldn’t get upset.

In today’s world of college basketball there are staffers, usually a graduate assistant, assigned with procuring a DVD of a game literally moments after the final horn sounds. From there, the footage is cut, spliced, splintered, scrunched, scrinched and repackaged in a Wonka-like process that has an easily consumable copy in the hands of the coaching staff by dawn. The raw game tape, meanwhile, is usually devoured by coaches before you can get from the arena to your pillow.

But not this game. Too painful.

However, with Saturday’s rematch with Butler at the Siegel Center looming, Smart knew the time had come. In the name of assembling a tactical plan for the Rams’ biggest game of the season, after nearly 700 days of avoidance, Smart cued up video of the biggest game of his life. He didn’t get upset, but he didn’t like what he saw, either.

“It’s amazing when you set your mind on something what you can do. I just told myself I wasn’t going to get upset. I knew that we lost the game, so, just watch it objectively,” he said Wednesday.

“They were the better team that day.”

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EXACTLY HOW MANY NBA GUYS WAS THAT?

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VCU’s Jamie Skeen often got the better of Kansas’ Marcus Morris (pictured in white), scoring 26 points in the Rams’ Southwest Regional Championship victory in 2011.

I know we go to the well with the Final Four thing quite a bit, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I had another one of those “holy-crap-what-did-we-actually-do” moments last night while watching the Kentucky Wildcat Disbursement NBA Draft.

I couldn’t help but notice the staggering number of players drafted from the teams VCU beat during that run:

Southern Cal
2011: Nikola Vucevic, first round (16th overall) Philadelphia 76ers

Georgetown
None (surprising, right?)

Purdue
2011: JaJuan Johnson, first round (27th overall) New Jersey Nets
2011: E’Twaun Moore, second round (55th overall) Boston Celtics
*2012: Robbie Hummel, second round (58th overall) Minnesota Timberwolves
–Hummel was hurt and did not play during 2011 NCAA Tournament

Florida State

Chris Singleton had 16 points and nine rebounds against VCU in 2011, but he couldn’t prevent the Rams from walking away with a 72-71 overtime victory.

2011: Chris Singleton, first round (18th overall) Washington Wizards
2012: Bernard James, second round (33rd overall) Cleveland Cavaliers (traded to Dallas)

Kansas
2011: Markieff Morris, first round (13th overall) Phoenix Suns
2011: Marcus Morris, first round (14th overall) Houston Rockets
2011: Josh Selby, second round (49th overall) Memphis Grizzlies
2012: Thomas Robinson, first round (fifth overall) Sacramento Kings
2012: Tyshawn Taylor, second round (41st overall) Portland Trail Blazers

Butler
2011: Shelvin Mack, second round (34th overall) Washington Wizards

Not counting Robbie Hummel, who was injured when the Rams played Purdue, VCU played against 11 future NBA draft picks during its Final Four run (beating 10). Kansas has had five NBA draftees on its own! And there could be more (I’m talking to you, Jeff Withey).

Meanwhile, the Rams’ roster (up to this point) hasn’t had a single player drafted from that 2011 team. VCU essentially beat an NBA team to get to the Final Four. I mean, those five Kansas guys couldn’t possibly be any worse than the Charlotte Bobcats last year, could they? But I digress.

The important thing to know is that VCU faced – and defeated – an incredible amount of talent in 2011. Sometimes it’s just worth the time to stop and appreciate it.

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