Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shaka Smart and VCU Shock Kansas And The Rest Of America

VCU is trying to become the first 11th seed ever to reach the title game.

This year, the NCAA expanded it's playing field from 64 teams to 68 teams. For VCU, this was a great move by the NCAA, because now they will face off Butler next week in the Final Four.

VCU, a 11th seed in the tournament this year, was one of the eight teams who played in the "First Four" round of the tournament; now they will be playing in the "Final Four". The Rams will also be the first team that had to win five games in order to make it to the final four.

The VCU Rams finished the regular season with a 23-11 record, did not win their conference, and only defeated one top 25 team all season, yet they reached the tournament. VCU got a lot of heat for being placed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but now nobody should be complaining.

So far on their road to the final four, the Rams have beaten the USC Trojans, Georgetown Hoyas, Purdue Boilermakers, Florida State Seminoles, and most recently, the Kansas Jayhawks, who were the number one seed in the region. Also, only one game out of these five have been decided by less then ten points and that was against Florida State, the worst ranked team they played. The Rams defeated the Trojans by 13, the Hoyas by 18, the Boilermakers by 18 and the Jayhawks by ten.

Like their next opponent Butler, VCU is coached by one of the youngest coaches in the country, and the youngest in the tournament, Shaka Smart. Before becoming the head coach at VCU, Smart was an assistant coach under Oliver Purnell at Clemson and Billy Donovan at Florida. Shaka Smart is 33 years old, while Butler's coach Brad Stevens is 34, but only six months older then Smart.

Yesterday, Stevens became the youngest coach to make it to two final fours.

The VCU Rams are led by a "big three" which is made up of Seniors Jamie Skeen and Joey Rodriguez, and Junior, Bradford Burgess. Skeen averages 15 points and seven rebounds, while Burgess averages 14 points and six rebounds. Rodriguez, the point guard averages ten points and five assists.

In the regular season, some of VCU's biggest wins came against #25 George Mason, Hosftra, UCLA, Wake Forest, Old Dominion, and a double OT thriller vs Delaware. They also played #24 Tennessee, but lost by five.

Shaka Smart is known for his unique coaching strategies which has helped him win big games this year. On defense he is known for coaching a "havoc" defense which often uses a full court press to put the other team in "havoc" or chaos. On offense, he prefers a slow paced, efficient offense which uses up a lot of the clock.

Since the tournament created it's 16 seed format, VCU is just the third 11th seed to make it to the final four, the other most recent being George Mason back in 2007.

VCU vs Butler is a great final four matchup and should come down to the wire. Both teams are coached by two of the youngest coaches in the NCAA in Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. Also both teams are lead by trios. VCU has Burgess, Rodriguez, and Skeen, while Butler is lead by Howard, Mack, and Vanzant.

The winner of this final four matchup will play the winner of Kentucky and UCONN in San Antonio, Texas

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