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Shaka Smart has now become the hottest coach in the small world of NCAA basketball, but he was all business in the post-game press conference following the Va. Commonwealth Rams' victory over the Kansas Jayhawks Sunday afternoon.
Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win going into the game. But these guys believed we could win. They knew we could win ... Today they did their job to the tune of a 10-point victory over, I think, the team that was on paper, the best team left in the NCAA tournament. And I thought we were dominant in the first half.
Kansas didn't shoot very well in this game, but it wasn't just that the Jayhawks were off or that they chose their shots poorly, according to VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez.
I take all the credit for that, to tell you the truth. I think we wore them out. We came right at them in offensive end. If you go back and watch the game I think every time they shot the ball mostly somebody had a hand in their face. Our wings did a great job of contesting shots and running their shooters off of things.
Smart also emphasized this point.
That's why we play the way we play. That's part of our havoc style is getting people winded, getting people fatigued. And because of that they missed some shots. But I think it's also because we did a terrific job dedicating ourselves on the defensive end on getting a hand up, contesting outside shots.
But can that style work for another two games? Can VCU go all the way? Smart seems to think so.
We made history here, winning five games, going to the Final Four, and as I said out there on the floor, we're not done yet.
Fresh off of their stunning 71-61 victory over Kansas, the VCU Rams got another treat, with Rams forward Jamie Skeen wins the regionals most outstanding player award.
In today's game, Skeen came up huge for the Rams, as he posted up 26 points against the Jayhawks to go along with 9 rebounds. So far during this tournament run, Skeen has finished each game with double digit point totals, as he has averaged 15 points per game during that stretch.
Today's game was such a back and forth affair between these two teams (especially in the second half) that an effort such as Skeen's was needed. Every time it looked like the Jayhawks were going to come back and tie the game, Skeen was usually the player who came up big with either a clutch basket, a big rebound, or drawing a huge foul call.
Skeen went to Wake Forest early in his college career, but things didn't work out there and he transferred to VCU. Looks like that was a good decision.
Cinderella lives. VCU has shocked the college basketball world by defeating Kansas 71-61 to move on to the programs first ever Final Four appearance.
But it wasn't without difficulty. When Shaka Smart went into halftime, he told the CBS sideline reporter that he knew Kansas was going to make a run in the second half.
He was absolutely right. Kansas had a 12-0 run int he second half to get right back into the game. That run included coach Shaka Smart committing a technical foul after one of his players committed an offensive foul. It looked like it all was gong to unravel for the Rams, as they seemed to have no answer for a Jayhawk comeback.
But they responded with a run to extend their lead back to nine points. After a back and forth middle of the half, it was clear that this game was going to go down to the final minutes. It was a very defensive last ten minutes of the game, as each team had the ball, the opposing defense kept cranking up the pressure.
Then it got ridiculous. Joey Rodriguez made two ridiculous plays that led to scores to put VCU up by two possessions with less than two minutes to go.
From there, VCU was able to shut Kansas down defensively, and then it became a free throw shooting contest to cap it.
Back in 2006, George Mason made a remarkable run to the Final Four when they defeated UConn in overtime. However, this may be a bigger upset than that was, making this one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.
No matter what happens from now on, Shaka Smart and company will now be remembered for a run perhaps even more remarkable than George Mason's.
The VCU Rams will now take on the Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four in a match up no one thought could ever happen.
After letting the Jayhawks cut a 14 point halftime lead to two early in the scond half, the VCU Rams have righted the ship and lead by nine points with 3:39 left to play in the second half.
Once again, VCU has been fueled by Joey Rodriguez and excellent three point shooting. The Rams are 12 of 23 from downtown, with Brandon Rozzell, G and Jamie Skeen leading the way (four triples a piece).
Marcus Morris has 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead Kansas, who for much of the second half looked like an entirely different team than their first half imposters. Tyshawn Taylor has helped Marcus in the second half, but ultimately, the inablity to hit open shots and finsh looks might bite Bill Self's squad.
VCU might be gassed, but they will have to withstand at least one more Kansas run to make it to the Final Four.
The Kansas Jayhawks, after facing their largest halftime deficit ever in a NCAA tournament game (h/t Marv Albert), have whittled the lead to nine points 55-46, though the Jayhawks have been as close as two in this hotly contested second half.
Bill Self's team has played a much more energetic game in the second half, pounding the ball inside, hitting key jumpers when available and generating turnovers off of a much better defensive effort than was exhibited prior to halftime.
Kansas exploded with a 12-0 run early in the half, culminated by Shaka Smart's first technical foul of the season at the 15:43 mark as Kansas cut the lead to four. His Rams looked discombobulated on the floor, but, as they have done all season, the Rams have shaken off the rattled and ragged play to extend the lead to nine points again with tenacious defense and long range marksmanship.
A Kansas run was inevitable. Now let's see if VCU withstood the body blow and can become just the third double digit seed to make the Final Four (2006 George Mason and 19986 LSU).
We may have just witnessed one of the most stunning first halfs of this year's tournament. VCU has taken a 41-27 halftime lead in this elite eight matchup.
Looking over at VCU's offensive numbers is nothing short of stunning as well. The Rams are 9-17 from three point land in the first half, with Brandon Rozzell having four and Jamie Skeen having three. The leading scorer at the half is Skeen, who has 15 points, with Rozzel right behind him with 12.
After Kansas took an early 6-0 lead, the Rams simply played their game and Kansas was looking shell shocked for most of the first half. However, in the waning moments of the half, it looks like Kansas has settled in and looks poised to make a run in the second half.
Shaka Smart has to know that the second half will likely see Kansas making a run to get back into this game. VCU has shown a great deal of toughness throughout this tournament run, but they will need as much as they ever needed in this coming half. They will need to respond to a Kansas run that is likely to happen. If they can do that, then perhaps VCU's run to a potential Final Four will be considered even better than George Mason's run back in 2006.
The VCU Rams have taken absoute control of this game, and as a result lead Kanas 39-21 with less than four minutes to play before the half. VCU has shot an absurd nine of 15 from downtown, outscoring Kansas by 24 points from behind the arc.
For Kansas, if your last name is not Morris (or Selby), you have not scored this afternoon. This is not what Bill Self drew up on the old whiteboard before the game, I assure you. To make matters worse, Markieff Morris has six turnovers to negate his nine points. Borther Marcus has 10 points and eight rebounds, but the contribution has gone virtually unnoticed.
Kansas appears to have no answer for the VCU pressure, and in fact appears shellshocked. Coach Bill Self needs to find a way to calm down both his players and the pace of this game, or Kansas is in real fear of being run out of the gym by the Colonial Athletic Association's fourth place team.
The last No. 1 seed remaining, the Kansas Jayhawks, trail the Cinderella No. 11 seed VCU Rams, 17-10 with 10:58 left in the first half. The Jayhawks came out as should be expected, attacking the post on consecutive possessions, with each Morris twin getting a touch, on their way to an early 6-0 lead. But short of Marcus Morris (eight points, three rebounds) the story once again is VCU.
After not looking themselves early (steady-handed point guard Joey Rodriguez committed two turnovers and the team combined to miss their first five field goals of the game) VCU has stormed back, on a 17-4 run fueled by what they do best: floor spacing, tenacious defense and dead eye three point shooting.
The Rams are three of eight from downtown, and have yet to allow a made three from Kansas. They have now outscored their opponents by 69 points from three-point land in this magical NCAA tournament run.
Shaka Smart, the head coach of the VCU Rams, has certainly faced challenge after challenge head on in this NCAA tournament. At each instance, he has been able to get his team to prevail against all odds.
Now Smart and his Rams will face their toughest competition yet. They will be going against the Kansas Jayhawks, the last number one seed left in the NCAA tournament, for the right to go to the Final Four. That sentence alone didn't seem logical just a few weeks ago, but now, cinderella has a chance to keep dancing.
They will be going up against a Jayhawks squad that overwhelmed the competition so far, as the average margin victory in their three wins so far has been by 18 points. Yikes.
It's going to take everything VCU has and then some to takCane down Bill Self's squad, who has gone 35-2 on the season so far.
If they are able to do it, it could be the biggest upset in a tournament since George Mason defeated Connecticut in 2006.
I don't think Shaka Smart and his Va. Commonwealth Rams would have it any other way. Bradford Burgess scored a basket with seven seconds left off another nicely designed inbounds play, and VCU defeated Florida State 72-71 to advance to the Elite Eight. The Kansas Jayhawks await Sunday, and VCU is now just one win away from an improbable (but completely deserved) 2011 Final Four berth.
Big Shot Brad Burgess (as Craig Sager just called him) not only scored the winning bucket but had 26 points on six of seven shooting from downtown. Joey Rodriguez, the man who found Burgess cutting to the basket on the game-winning play, finished with five points, 10 assists and three steals.
Florida State got a herculean effort from Derwin Kitchen - his 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists led the Seminoles in defeat. Chris Singleton added 16 points and eight rebounds, and the game tying shot that got the two teams to the extra period.
VCU now advances to face Kansas on Sunday. Shaka's Rams are quite obviously a team on a mission, and I'm pretty sure losing to Kansas isn't the end goal. Sunday's going to be fun.
Shaka Smart's little engine that could, the Colonial Athletic Association's Virginia Commonwealth Rams, are going to overtime in their Sweet 16 Southwest regional semifinal matchup with Florida State, with a chance to face Kansas and make the 2011 Final Four on the line.
VCU is 11 of 24 from behind the three point line, with Bradford Burgess scoring 21 points on five of six from beyond the arc. VCU's defense has nine steals, and the Seminoles have 8 steals, in a game that has been gritty and entertaining if not perhaps always easy on the eyes. Brandon Rozzell has added 14 points on three of six shooting from three and Jamie Skeen has scored 11 points with eight rebounds.
Derwin Kitchen has had a monster game for Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles, scoring 21 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists. Chris Singleton had 14 points and eight rebounds and the shot of the game so far, the three pointer that tied the game at 65.
Both teams have expended a lot of energy in regulation, so it will be interesting to see how the shots fall (or perhaps clang) in overtime.
Florida State came out of the gates firing, beginning the second stanza on a 7-0 run before VCU righted the ship behind three huge three point field goals from Brandon Rozzell (11 total points). Bradford Burgess has continued to lead the Rams with 18 points (six of nine shooting) and has received help from the usual band of suspects: Joey Rodriguez has contributed five points and seven assists and Jamie Skeen has chipped in with eight points and six rebounds.
VCU, as it has done all tournament long, has excelled from behind the three point line, currently making 50 percent of their threes (nine from 18 behind the arc). Shaka Smart's club does have an uncharacteristic 12 turnovers to go with just 13 assists, and have surrendered 16 offensive rebounds to the Seminoles.
Florida State has been led by Derwin Kitchen's 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists. A seemingly healthy Chris Singleton has added 11 points and five rebounds.
Shaka Smart's VCU Rams are one half of basketball away from an Elite Eight matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks. In the game no one is watching (Ohio State/Kentucky just happens to be going on too), VCU leads Florida State 36-31 at the half.
Bardford Burgess has 15 points (on five of seven shooting) but Darius Theus (don't ask him about Reggie) has been the surprise contributor with six points and four rebounds. Joey Roodriguez has five points and four assists, but three fouls, something to look forward to early in the second half. The always reliable Jamie Skeen has added eight points and six rebounds for the Rams.
The Florida State Seminoles on the other hand are putting on an excellent rock-throwing exhibition. Leonard Hamilton's bunch has made just 13 of 43 field goal attempts, a pitiful 30 percent. VCU, on the flipside, is shooting an efficient 12 of 23 from the floor (five of 11 from three point land) and has nine assists on those twelve made buckets.
Star Chris Singleton has scored six points and grabbed four rebounds for the Seminoles, but FSU has been led by the play of Derwin "Hells" Kitchens, who has scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds.
In what many expected to be a defensive slugfest, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams have eeked out a 16-15 lead over the Florida State Seminoles in this Sweet 16 matchup midway through the first.
Bradford Burgess has seven points on two deep three pointers for the Rams, and Jamie Skeen has added four points and two boards, and of course Joey Rodriguez has chipped in for Shaka Smart, making a three and dishing out three dimes.
Florida State has been led by what appears to be a healthy Chris Singleton, who has six early points on three of six from the floor and two rebounds. Michael Snaer, Derwin Kitchen and Deividas Dulkys all have three points for the Seminoles (plus their names are fun to say if not type).
Both teams have been stingy with the ball, a trend I fully expect to continue throughout the game. Florida State does already have six team fouls, so perhaps the Rams can steal some points on the line before halftime.
There were a lot of people that were upset when VCU was first included in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but you don't hear a lot from them these days now that the Rams have made the Sweet 16. They got a pretty good tournament draw and will have to face No. 10 seed Florida St., after facing two single seeded teams in the last two rounds. The game starts at 9:57 and can be seen on TBS.
In terms of their style of play, the Seminoles will actually be a pretty tough matchup for the Rams. VCU has made it this far by being surprisingly athletic, willing to defend for 40 minutes, and out-hustling their opponents. That is the exact type of gameplan that makes Florida St. so good. It is possible that VCU will just have to play a version of themselves with ACC level talent, and that could be a problem for them. But if they come into the game with the same tenacity and effort that they have so far this tournament, there is no reason why they can't advance even further.
We'll be covering this game tonight, so check back in this stream for the latest news and notes about it.
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