A quick comment on the VCU run through to the final four.
It seems to me that the rise of the mid-major schools and the lack of respect given by coaches and national media is coming to a head. Perhaps George Mason’s run in 2006 was considered truly “cinderella” but Butler’s national championship appearance last year from a one-bid conference (not to mention their fantastic performance against Duke in the final) coupled with their return this year should be enough to give the national media pause. When are these great teams from mid-major conferences going to get their due?
Lets talk about VCU. 4th place in the CAA, usually a one-bid conference. This year though they earned 3 bids and probably would have fared better had ODU not been matched up with Butler to start the tourney. VCU did not receive ONE vote in the final AP poll. They were #49 in the final RPI rankings. Yet here’s what they have done in the tourney:
- Beat USC by 13
- Beat Georgetown by 18 (ranked in the 22-25 range towards the end of the season)
- Beat Purdue by 18 (ranked 10-12 range towards the end of the year)
- Eke by Florida State in OT 72-71 (3rd place in ACC, probably better than a #10 seed)
- Beat Kansas soundly by 10.
I’m sorry, but when you beat two teams as soundly as they beat Georgetown and Purdue, on neutral courts and on the biggest stage possible, it tells me you are a team that belongs in the discussion of the best basketball teams out there. Georgetown apologists (and there are many in this town) will tell you Wright was just coming back from injury. I don’t buy it; that was a senior-heavy lineup that flat out got beat. Wright played, by the way, and VCU controlled the game from the start.
I watched the Kansas game all the way through and it was no fluke. They lead 41-27 at the half, weathered a massive run by Kansas to start the 2nd half, made key shots to get their lead back, and never allowed Kansas to really be “in the game” for the entirety of the last 4 minutes. This may be a “massive upset” per the same national media members who couldn’t comprehend VCU being this good, but to me it was another dominating performance by a team that clearly merited mention prior to this run.
So the question is; why did no one know about VCU if they were capable of beating top-ranked teams so soundly?
It makes you wonder; if VCU was so soundly beating teams from these major conferences, imagine where we’d be if GMU didn’t have to play Ohio State so early, or if ODU-Butler was a first-round game instead of a regional final? ODU and GMU were clearly better teams than VCU all year but suffered from being slightly “too good” and earning 8 and 9 seeds instead of the coveted 11 seed (which has an amazingly easy path to the elite 8 if their cards fall correctly).
In my opinion, college basketball is undergoing a fundamental change. Sure you’re going to have your blue blood teams (Duke, UNC, Kansas, Kentucky) that are always good and always have players. But sooner or later people need to realize that the best team in a mid-major is clearly better than the 4th place team in the SEC. Because we’re seeing it proven, again and again, on the floor. Perhaps we can get to a point where there are more Gonzagas and Butlers in the rankings instead of Georgetowns and Louisvilles.