MOTIVATED BURGESS SPURS VCU TO NEW HEIGHTS

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Bradford Burgess is averaging 15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots in VCU's last six games.

RICHMOND, Va. – After seven days on the road, I finally had a chance to get home and spend some time with the wife. The Rams’ Sweet 16 run dominated the conversation. At one point, she said, “Bradford Burgess is playing out of his mind right now.” God, I love this woman.

More than just that fact that she enjoys dissecting Northeastern’s flex offense, I was pumped because she hit on something I had been thinking about for a couple of days, that Burgess is playing the best basketball of his life.

Since the start of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, Burgess has clearly been a different player. Statistically speaking, he’s averaging 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in six postseason games, improvements on his season averages of 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. Burgess has also blocked nine shots, handed out 12 assists, ripped six steals and played terrific defense in the last six games.

It’s no coincidence that Burgess’ recent outstanding play has corresponded with some of the best basketball VCU of the season. It’s rare to see a player just “turn it on” and VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart believes there’s a reason Burgess is having breakout success in the postseason.
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LONE STAR DREAMING

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John Leguizamo says, "Go Rams!"As I type this, the VCU pep rally is raging outside. I opened the window to let the sounds of the pep band waft into my office. It feels good, real good.

Too bad I won’t be in San Antonio to see this through. My brother is getting married Friday, so I’ll be in Ohio this weekend. I knew this was coming, but didn’t want to acknowledge it until we got through last week. I told my wife, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Well, we’re at the bridge.

In the end, the choice was easy, but I’d be lying if I said that not going didn’t feel a little bit like a kick to the gut. For the duration of the weekend, Mike Litos of CAAHoops.com will be taking over Around The Horns, much like when they replaced Aunt Viv with a different actor on Fresh Prince of Bel Air and didn’t say anything. Trust me, you’re in good hands. I’ll have at least one more feature on Brad Burgess before I let go of the reigns for a few days.

The last 10 days have been amazing, and I want more than anything for it to continue. If the Rams can get through this weekend, then I’ll move mountains to be in Houston, but one thing at a time.

Campus has been abuzz these last three days. Additionally, the amount of media coverage we’re getting is off the charts. I literally spent and hour and a half today walking around campus today with ESPN’s Kenny Mayne for a piece that will run on Thursday’s 6 p.m. Sportscenter. Pretty cool stuff.

We’re in uncharted territory here at VCU, so enjoy the ride. The fact that my mom knows what’s going on in the NCAA Tournament means it’s serious. My dad called me yesterday and gushed about Joey Rodriguez. My buddy, who had maybe seen us play once before last week has been texting me throughout this experience. He also texted me to ask me why John Leguizamo was running the point, but whatever. It’s progress.

It’s safe to say that we may never experience anything quite like this again. Not to say that VCU won’t return to the Sweet 16 or beyond, because I’m confident we’ll be back, but this combination of factors won’t be the same. Last week was so dizzying and defiant, so stunning.

All I want for Christmas is a trip to Houston.

RAMS SOAK IT IN NEWFOUND ATTENTION, SHARPEN FOCUS

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RICHMOND, Va. – Brandon Rozzell had to leave his biology lab a few minutes early Tuesday. After speaking with his professor, he made his way towards the door. As he did, the class gave him a standing ovation. It’s safe to say things are different here than a week ago.

The VCU campus may look the same, but it’s been changed by the men’s basketball team’s remarkable run to the Sweet 16. The Rams defeated USC, Georgetown and Purdue in convincing fashion last week to earn a Southwest Region quarterfinal matchup with Florida State on Friday in San Antonio. Seeded 11th in their region, the Rams have become the Cinderella story of March Madness, energizing VCU’s downtown campus. VCU returned from Chicago on Sunday evening and the response on campus and in the media has been unprecedented.

“It’s been great,” said senior Ed Nixon. “Ram Nation. Love them. People have been honking horns on our way to class and just congratulating us. It’s been great.”

By the time Sports Information Director Scott Day boarded the team bus following VCU’s win over Purdue, he had 30 interview requests. As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, that number had ballooned to 129. No one has been spared. Even freshmen Reco McCarter and Heath Houston, who are redshirting and have not appeared in a game this season, have been requested. Players have been bombarded by congratulatory texts and phone calls.

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