DAYTON, OH - MARCH 16: Bradford Burgess #20 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams reacts at the end of the game after defeating the USC Trojans during the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 16, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Defeats USC, Advances To Play Georgetown

VCU was a surprise last-minute entry into the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but they defeated USC, 59-46, and advances to play Georgetown on Friday.

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2011 NCAA Tournament: Win Over USC Vindicates VCU

We all heard the pundits talk about VCU inclusion in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They all felt like they were the worst team in the field (or second worse to UAB) and that there were other teams out there that were much more qualified than them to take their spot. There was nothing the Rams could do to fight back against the belief until they stepped on the court with USC, a team that everyone was comfortable with including in the field, last night.

When the two teams hit the court, only one of them looked like a definite tournament team, and it wasn't the Trojans of Souther Cal. After the Rams walked away with a 59-46 win, it was finally time for the VCU players and coaches finally got the chance to do a little talking. According to Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Rams coach Shaka Smart didn't wast any time going right at those who doubted him.

“You guys think Jay Bilas watched that game?” Smart said.

Forward Jamie Skeen echoed the sentiment.

“It feels really good because a lot of people were doubting us, and we were able to come out and prove some people wrong,” said forward Jamie Skeen, who had 16 points and nine rebounds. “Instead of just talking about it . . . we just came out here and played.”

A win by the Rams in their next game against Georgetown would make this Tournament run even sweeter.

If you haven't filled out your bracket yet, it's not too late! We have a printable bracket that's been updated to reflect the results of the first-four wins.


VCU Vs. USC, 2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Defeats Southern California 59-46

The VCU Rams of the Colonial Athletic Association are moving on in the the 2011 NCAA Tournament. A team that most pundits dismissed as white noise in the bracket "upset" the Trojans of Southern California, 59-46, and will face the No. 6 seed Georgetown Hoyas Friday at 9:50pm.

Shaka Smart's Rams dominated the second half after a slow and sloppy first half of play. Jamie Skeen (16 points, nine rebounds), Bradford Burgess (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Joey Rodriguez (eight points, five assists) led VCU in a balanced attack that saw a 22-22 halftime lead slowly extend to an insurmountable edge for the Rams.

Despite 11 points and 14 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic the Trojans were unable to muster any momentum in the second half. As Len Elmore and Gus Johnson noted during the broadcast, the VCU zone seemed to baffle the Trojans and Kevin O'Neill's team made little adjustments in the second half of play.

VCU has a tough road ahead facing the Hoyas, but their balanced offensive and defensive attacks today proved they are up to any task come tournament time. It's why all the ranting and raving of Sunday evening means nothing tonight.


VCU Vs. USC, 2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU and USC Tied 22-22 At Halftime

In what I can only nicely call a "good" half of basketball, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Southern California Trojans are tied 22-22 at halftime of the final "First Four" game of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Four ties and eight lead changes can't stop the "this game is setting basketball back 100 years" and "James Naismith is rolling over in his grave" jokes, and if you've been subjected to this first half, we can all agree we just want  the Rams and Trojans to make a shot, any shot, please.

The team I am quite obviously biased towards is shooting 28%, BUT their opponent has shot 40% and somehow still matched their point futility total. But enough with the negatives...

VCU has held down USC's WWF Superstar, Nikola Vucevic. VCU's "star" Jamie Skeen has not only shown up but appears ready to shine under the bright lights (if i may type such cliched terms).

Frankly, I'm just happy we have a good "play-in" game and that we get to see excellent collegiate athletes at their peak, against the best, at least "the best" as defined by the world wide leader. See you all at the final buzzer.


2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Coach Shaka Smart Compares USC To Drexel

VCU and USC will play tonight in one of the 2011 NCAA Tournament's first four games tonight. It's going to be hard for the two teams to get a real feel for each other because they play on opposite sides of the Country and in two vastly different conferences in terms of level of play.

But VCU coach Shaka Smart thinks that he has a pretty good idea about what to expect from USC, because they resemble a conference team they are pretty familiar with, according to ESPN.

"Actually, we've played a lot of teams that have some similarities with USC," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "We really have a lot of respect for USC's physical front court and their ability to rebound on the offensive end. And then their guards are extremely good at getting in the lane, making plays, and they can get hot from outside.

"So, from our league, Drexel is similar to that. Old Dominion has some similarities to their physicality inside. Wichita State is a team we played in the bracket-buster who has a very imposing front line and guards that can play."

I'm sure that USC has a little bit more talent than Drexel, but if they have a good idea of what USC will be trying to do, then they might have a pretty good chance of stopping it.


2011 NCAA Tournament: Can A Win Over USC Justify VCU's Inclusion In The Field?

When VCU was chosen as an at large team in the 2011 NCAA Tournament over the likes of Virginia Tech and Colorado, everybody proceeded to freak out. A few days ago we tried to explain their selection, but I don't think that will change the minds of the people who were originally upset. But is there anything that VCU can do on the court to change that perception?

In the first round, no. The "first four" games aren't really considered part of the tournament, and their results aren't really that important. UAB, the other controversial inclusion in the tournament, got blown out last night, but nobody is using that to help build the case against them. So win or lose, the play-in game isn't going to be held against the Rams.

If they win their second round game against Georgetown, that will help. But again, that win would probably be viewed as more of a let-down by the Hoyas than it would be an enormous victory for the Rams. It's almost a no-win situation for them. Win or lose, the story of the game will be Georgetown. Unless they make a run to the Sweet Sixteen, I don't think the Rams can do anything to make the public feel better about their inclusion.

Even if they win a few games, the public still might believe that Colorado or Virginia Tech would have gone just as far given the same opportunity. They only way to make people feel better about the Rams making the tournament would be if they played either of those teams and beat them head to head, and since that isn't happening, The Rams will always be remembered as one of this year's most controversial at-large team.


2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Vs. USC Odds And Prediction

VCU will play USC tonight in what is being called the first round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, even though it is really just the first four play-in games. The winner of this game will earn the 11th seed in the Southwest Region and a shot at sixth seeded Georgetown.If you look at the odds over at SB Nation (provided by Bodog) it looks like USC is the favorite.

03/16/2011 Virginia Commonwealth 129½o-108 127½o-105 127o-115
8:00 PM USC -4-110 -4-105 -4½-110


USC is from a power conference, and for the most part, those teams get the nod when facing a team from a smaller conference. For a prediction, we turn to Matt Martz at Cappers Picks, because he is the kind of guy who does this sort of thing for a living.

Matt’s Free Prediction: The Rams have shown more consistency throughout the season and their solid defense should disrupt Vucevic, which limits the Trojans options offensively and should give the VCU the win.

He isn't just calling for VCU to cover, he's calling for them to win outright. I think that would surprise a lot of people, considering how controversial their inclusion in the field was. I'm not sure it would help justify that, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.


2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Plays USC Tonight In One Of Tournaments First Four

The NCAA Tournament has undergone somewhat of a facelift this year. In lieu of the traditional 64 or even 65 team field, the NCAA is welcoming 68 teams into the fold, giving the last eight and opportunity to play four play-in games for the last four spots in the tournament. They're calling it the "first four" and it features our VCU Rams.

The game will be played at 9 tonight and can be found on truTV. Here is a quick scouting report, adittedly from the torjan perspective, from the Los Angeles Times.

SCOUTING REPORT: The Rams, known for their "havoc" brand of basketball, play man-to-man defense about 70% of the time, along with a 1-2-2 zone and a full-court trapping press to force turnovers. USC Coach Kevin O'Neill expects them to double-team Nikola Vucevic down low. Offensively, VCU attempts nearly 30 three-point shots per game, which will spread USC's man-to-man defense and may result in some long rebounds.

We'll have plenty more on this game throughout the day.


2011 NCAA Tournament Schedule And Announcers: VCU Will Play USC Wednesday At 9:10 P.M.

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams were a surprise addition to the 2011 NCAA Tournament field, and now we know when they will play their opening-round game. The NCAA Tournament schedule is now out, and VCU will play USC in a play-in game on Wednesday at 9:10 p.m. on TruTV. The winner will face No. 6 seed Georgetown on Friday at 9:50 p.m. on TNT. Gus Johnson and Len Elmore will be the announcers on Wednesday.

The Rams made the NCAA field after reaching the finals of the CAA Tournament title game, losing to Old Dominion. Many felt they did not deserve to make the field, but the Rams are a tough out. Their opponent, USC, is also a somewhat surprising at-large choice. The Trojans finished fourth in a mediocre Pac-10 and had their coach suspended in the Pac-10 Tournament.

Nevertheless, the two teams are in, and they will do battle in the final of four play-in games.


2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Plays USC In Opening Round, Who Relies On A Montenegran

The Va. Commonwealth Rams have been named to the 68-team field for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but they'll have to win one more game to make the top 64. In the opening round on Wednesday night, VCU will face the USC Trojans, who enter the Big Dance with a 19-14 record after finishing fourth in the PAC-10.

The Trojans finished the year strong, winning six of their final eight games to claim one of the last spots in the NCAA Tournament. They advanced past the first round of the PAC-10 Tournament last week with a win over the California Golden Bears, but they lost to the Arizona Wildcats in the second round.

Nikola Vucevic is likely to pose the largest problem for VCU. Literally. The 6'-10" junior forward from Montenegro averages 17.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He's earned double-doubles in nine of his last 10 games. He's like the Montenegran Jordan Williams.

If the Rams do manage to defeat the Trojans, they'll move on to face another local team, the Georgetown Hoyas. You can read all about the Hoyas' NCAA Tournament chances in our dedicated StoryStream.


2011 NCAA Tournament: VCU Makes Field, Will Play USC In Play-In Game To Be 11th Seed

The Va. Commonwealth Rams earned a share of the 11th seed in the Southwest region of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, where they will meet the USC Trojans in a play-in game. The winner of that game will move on to the first round to take on the Georgetown Hoyas. The play-in game will be held Wednesday night at 9:00 PM in Dayton, OH. TV coverage for the game will be held on TruTV.

The Rams finished 4th in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 23-11 overall record, earning their way to the Big Dance thanks in large part to a surprisingly lopsided 79-63 victory over the George Mason Patriots in the Semifinals of the CAA Tournament. They would go on to lose to the Old Dominion Monarchs in the CAA Final. This is the first year in history that the CAA will earn three bids to the NCAA Tournament.

With this announcement, VCU is continuing their tradition of reaching the NCAA Tournament every two years. They lost to the UCLA Bruins in the first round in 2009, but defeated the Duke Blue Devils in the first round in 2007. They were an 11 seed that year. Can they do it again? We'll find out soon enough.

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