Monday, March 21, 2011

VCU Rams Hungry for More

Posted by CoHoops DeAnte Mitchell
Before the tournament even started, many had questioned the committee's selection of placing the Virginia Commonwealth Rams (26-11, 12-6) among the field of 68 teams in the NCAA tournament.

VCU lacked key wins, and didn't win the Colonial conference regular season title nor conference tournament. In fact, they finished just fourth in the standings.

But, this March, VCU has proved that they deserve to be in the tournament after notching three straight victories, all of which, were very impressive.

"I think the committee is sitting back smiling now," said senior Brandon Rozzell. "I'd tell them, 'Thanks for putting us in a position to make a name for ourselves.'"

The latest game was the eye-opener for the remaining 16 squads in the tournament and the 18,000 fans on-hand to see the game.

VCU pulled off an upset of the Purdue Boilermakers (26-8, 14-4), 94-76 and advanced to their first ever Sweet 16 in school history.

The Rams know exactly what's at stake Friday as they take on the tenth-seeded Florida State Seminoles (23-10, 11-5), who are coming off a blow out win of Notre Dame.

It's a chance to make what has been a breakthrough season a special season that will endure in Virginia Commonwealth history.

"This was a goal we talked about during our summer workouts," Rozzell said. "I'm just happy to have accomplished it with my best friends." He concluded by saying, "We're not done yet though."

VCU has, once again, proved that they were better than their regular season record indicated, and here's another chance to solidify that notion against a top defensive squad in Florida State.

VCU rediscovered what made it such a dominant team the last two months of the season, and as a result, the Rams are in place to make some more history.

"Our communication on the defensive end has been the difference all tournament long," VCU head coach Shaka Smart said. VCU has been stingy on defense allowing just 59 points per game to opposing teams.

This defense has size and athleticism and great on-ball skills throughout their lineup. Purdue had to try and beat VCU with someone else besides E'Twaun Moore, who was held to 10 points on 5-of-15 (33%) shooting from the field. Credit his struggles to senior Ed Nixon, who was phenomenal on defense.

As a team, VCU has scored 15 points per game off of 6.3 turnovers per game. The Rams are very active on defense and make the most of every mistake by the opposing team.

VCU's offense has shown a lot of improvement as well, averaging 75-points per game during the tournament.

VCU has done it with a balanced attack. Coach Smart said their communication on the defensive end has been the difference all tournament long, but so has the bench production.

The Rams get a great lift from their bench, averaging 25.3 points per game. That kind of production off the bench has helped the Rams utilize their depth and keep fresh legs on the court.

VCU also averages 28 points in the paint, 17 assist, and 12.6 second chance points per game.

Throughout the tournament, many didn't like the selection of VCU in the field of 68. But that didn't matter to the Rams, as they come out every game wanting it more than the other team. It's hard to beat heart.

VCU will certainly be able to advance to an Elite Eight if they continue to play they way they have this tournament.

Defense, and a high-potent offense, with friendly players and a deep bench has helped VCU advance so far in the tournament. That kind of impact will need to be felt as they continue their quest towards a possible National Championship.

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