VCU in the Final Four..
I don't want to take anything away from VCU. Scratch that, as our rival I want to take everything away from VCU especially their final four. However, being rational I can't, rather I shouldn't. I can but I won't.
For those of you do want to take something or everything away from VCU, here are some excuses, you can put them in your back pocket for your next chat around the office cooler (insert elitist UR joke like you are the boss and the VCU fan is the delivery boy if it makes you feel any better):
1. They did away with staggered games, ie play-in games, before they expanded to the field of 64 because they felt the teams that played in them had an advantage getting their feet wet in the tournament. They did. Higher seeded teams playing teams cold were losing too much. Those play-in winners got a bit of momentum and were rolling with it. It was deemed to be slightly unfair. Recently, this was forgotten as 16 v. 17 obviously never had enough of an advantage to defeat a 1 seed.
Last teams in... where the talent deficit isn't nearly as large, it makes sense that it is still true. Clemson also a play-in winner jumped all over their "2nd round" opponent--but didn't win. VCU to their credit did. Something I'm going to remember for future years is to take play-in "dogs" against the first half spread, especially, and probably full game spreads. BTW, I had both Clemson and VCU winning their second round games in almost all of my brackets.
2. VCU's first round opponent was USC. Maybe the worst at large bid ever per Jerry Palm. If you've ever seen this guys TV presence you know not to quibble with him on numbers. I was more upset about their inclusion than VCU or UAB's by far. While I've said I don't think VCU deserved to get in, not sure who I wanted in before them... maybe Alabama. But at that point a resume is more warts than anything else. Still, they had to chance to start rolling and they did.
3. VCU's second round opponent was Georgetown. A team without it's best player at the tail end of the season and freefalling. In fact, if not for Villanova maybe one of the worst teams "at the moment" to make the field. Like nova, gtown would have been seeded significantly worse if they still had the last 10 or 12 game consideration. Asinine they did away that. So, not only was VCU ripe for another upset so too was their opponent, who like everybody else trying to reincorporate a lost asset struggled with the process (Duke-Kyrie Irving).
4. Purdue. Lost one of their starters prior to the game. UR blew them out and knew them to be suspect. Turns out the big 10 was overrated this year, so the fact they did relatively well there didn't mean all that much.
5. FSU. Might have been one of the strongest defenses in the field, but got lucky to get a lead on Notre Dame (and as Pitino so clearly professed... the game's over because Notre Dame can't comeback, don't know how to press or run their offense quickly enough). FSU was probably the weakest team in the sweet sixteen and still took VCU to the wire.
6. KU came out after a blowout and no prep work. They were amped to play us and their guards shot the lights out and had nothing left for VCU. Unlike some (most) people I liked VCU to do damage in their bracket. I even remarked before the tournament started I'd rather their path to the final four than ours. Can you imagine how different our game would have been with Kansas if they only had one day to prepare and we already had a second weekend win under our belts.
Also, I hate it when big teams blow out an opponent in the game before. With underdogs it's great for them because it gives them confidence, Goliaths it just gives them overconfidence. OSU, Pitt, UNC, and KU all played flat after blowout wins.
--Why I don't like those excuses... VCU still had to beat USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and frickin' Kansas (if they beat Kentucky in the finals they'll singlehandedly beat the BCS). They hit big shot after big shot, and their guys Joey R., Burgess, and Skeen looked every bit as good as KU's or any other teams big three. I don't understand how they tanked at the end of the CAA season, and I don't buy that it's because their conference mates understand them. They are not a system team per se. Maybe they got all their bad shooting nights out of the way--because they have been lights out in the tournament (second time I've used that cliche and once was bad enough... my apologies).
Besides, everybody--especially this year--is there because of a bracket going their way. Butler is in the final four and almost lost in the first round (err, it was their first game but technically "second" round, can we just call the play-in games fricking play-in games). As Coach Brad Stevens said their spot could have just as easily been filled by ODU or Pittsburgh. Kentucky almost got beat by Princeton in the first round (okay... second round). We knew there were no great teams and the field was wide open. Credit to VCU for taking advantage of their path and being two wins, in two very winnable games, away from the national championship.
--I also find it typically annoying that everybody is now talking about how the process is flawed. Just because it's not four big schools going to Houston. Truth is, this year there were no great teams. Great teams don't lose to VCU to go the Final Four, great teams don't fall to young, young, four seeds in the sweet sixteen or Butler in the round of 32. When they are no great teams you can play the tournament 50 times and maybe get 30 different final four teams. And that in itself has some real value.
Just because we are left with two cheating Cals on one side of the bracket and two mid-majors on the other is no reason to scrap it. I think VCU is deserving of the final four, so too gutsy Butler, UCONN and Kentucky (talk about a team capable of hitting BIG shots). I'm curious to see how Butler handles being the favorite, a role they certainly didn't thrive in during the regular season. VCU gets to play an 8 seed in the final four... wow.
Go ahead and put that excuse in your quiver, too, but fellow UR fans in your deepest, darkest places, where you conceal truths from yourselves (like just how tight that red sweater is on your gut), you know VCU deserves to be there. And though jealously, envy, wrath, or whatever petty emotion that causes us to root against VCU may be at an all time high, as basketball fans somewhere inside of us, in that same dark place, we also have admiration for that VCU team and what they are accomplishing.