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Monday, December 17, 2018

VCU Proving it Deserved a Tourney Bid

When the NCAA Tournament brackets first came out, the at-large selections that drew the biggest criticism were VCU and UAB. Even Dick Vitale, who sees more positive signs in college hoops than a third grade math class, ripped the selection of VCU. Before the tourney started, I said on twitter that VCU had to be the worst at-large selection, and that was based on their losses and schedule. But after three wins and an upcoming trip to the Sweet 16, VCU is proving they belonged in the tournament.

First the Rams topped USC in the play-in game 59-46, holding the Trojans to 1-9 shooting on threes. They forced USC to commit 15 turnovers and advanced to the main draw for a clash with six-seed Georgetown. They beat Georgetown 74-56 and held the Hoyas to 19% three-point shooting including Chris Wright and Austin Freeman going a combined 0-13. They also forced 17 turnovers while committing just six. While both of those wins by VCU were impressive, the real stunner was beating Purdue in the second round.

Purdue was 26-7 entering the game and had been ranked in the Top 10 for a good part of the season. They have a pretty stacked front court and were expected to do well in the tournament, but VCU laid it on them 94-76 and kept a large margin between them most of the game. The Rams shot 56% and were so hot it wasn’t a contest the entire second half.

VCU was only fourth in its conference standings going 12-6 in the CAA and 26-11 overall. I still think the selection committee was generous in overlooking losses to South Florida, Northeastern, and Georgia State, but there’s little doubt VCU has proved the tournament committee knew the Rams would be a tough out in the field of 68. Actually, their performance so far makes me wonder how deep Colorado or Virginia Tech would have advanced.

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