Many felt Shaka Smart's VCU squad shouldn't have even been in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they went on a run to the Final Four that captivated its neighbors two hours north.
Virginia Commonwealth University is in Richmond, which makes it just barely on the periphery of the D.C. sports scene. Nevertheless, with Maryland not playing in the postseason, Georgetown doing its customary early NCAA Tournament exit and George Mason getting walloped by Ohio State, the city needed some team to get behind.
Luckily, Shaka Smart's Rams stepped to the plate, going on a March Madness run to the Final Four that reminded many in this city of what their fellow CAA members from Fairfax did in 2006. Most observers felt VCU didn't even belong as an at-large team, with ESPN's Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas among the most vocal critics. But the Rams soon forced a lot of those people to eat their words (happily, I might add).
They were a Cinderella story, sure. But whereas Jim Larranaga's bunch in 2006 truly defined Cinderella with several late-game escapes, Smart's crew in 2011 flipped the Cinderella concept on its head, dominating teams that were the higher seed. The Rams' run to the Final Four included a 13-point win over USC, an 18-point win over No. 6 Georgetown, an 18-point win over No. 3 Purdue and a 10-point win over No. 1 Kansas in the regional final. VCU didn't escape; they simply outplayed some very highly-regarded teams.
The run came to an end against Butler in the Final Four, but suddenly, Smart was a hot name and VCU was at the center of the college basketball world. Maybe the Rams weren't D.C.'s team, but everyone needs someone to support in March, and they were close enough.
- VIDEO: Dick Vitale Rants Against Inclusion Of VCU In NCAA Tournament Field (Half Smokes)
- Why Virginia Commonwealth Deserved To Make The 2011 NCAA Tournament (by T.J. Doyle)
- 2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Defeats USC, Advances To Play Georgetown (StoryStream)
- NCAA Tournament: Georgetown Blown Out In First Round Again, Falls To VCU, 74-56 (StoryStream)
- NCAA Tournament: No. 11 VCU Downs No. 3 Purdue 94-76 To Advance To Sweet Sixteen (StoryStream)
- VCU Shocks Kansas, Advances To 2011 Final Four (StoryStream)
- Chain Reactions: George Mason Falls, VCU Becomes New Cinderella In NCAA Sweet 16 (by Scott Jackson)
- VCU Is A Cinderella Sweet 16 Team, But Is Not This Year's George Mason (by T.J. Doyle)
- VCU Reaches 2011 Final Four, Becomes Newest George Mason (by Scott Jackson)
- VCU Reaches 2011 Final Four Thanks To Dominance, Not Luck (by T.J. Doyle)
Final Four 2011: VCU Silences The Skeptics, Stuns Kansas, And Steals The Spotlight, by Andrew Sharp
- Shaka Smart Correct To Stay As VCU's Head Coach After Final Four Run (by T.J. Doyle)
For the complete D.C. Top 10 of 2011 countdown, visit this StoryStream. For more coverage of Washington D.C. sports, visit our D.C. blogs:
- Hogs Haven (Redskins)
- Japers' Rink (Capitals)
- Bullets Forever (Wizards)
- Federal Baseball (Nationals)
- Black and Red United (D.C. United)
- Testudo Times (Maryland)
- Casual Hoya (Georgetown)