VCU 71, No. 2 Kansas 61
Virginia Commonwealth players, jubilant after an astonishing
Final Four berth, paraded the trophy into the stands.
Their few fans serenaded guard Brandon Rozzell with an impromptu
”Happy Birthday.” Coach Shaka Smart was so candid he stopped
short of cursing. Twice.
That’s how the 11th-seeded Rams, a team that was so dubious of
getting an NCAA tournament invite that they didn’t bother watching
the selection show two weeks ago, celebrated the biggest March
upset in years.
The Final Four rarely has teams such as this.
”It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” VCU guard Rob Brandenberg
said. ”Coach didn’t tell me we were going to go to the Final Four
when he was recruiting me.”
Like anyone could’ve seen this coming.
VCU is heading to Houston after stunning top-seeded Kansas 71-61
on Sunday, becoming just the third 11th seed to make the Final
Four. The Rams will head to Houston next while the Jayhawks, ranked
No. 1 during the season, are heading home after just their third
loss all season.
Eighth-seeded Butler, you’re promoted to a favorite next
VCU is the trendy underdog pick now.
”Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win
going into this game,” said Smart, the budding star of the
tournament. ”Our guys have done a phenomenal job of putting all
the doubters aside, all the people that didn’t believe in us, and
going out to do their job.”
VCU guard Joey Rodriguez counted one of Kansas’ vaunted Morris
twins – Marcus or Markieff – as one of those many doubters.
During a pregame captains meeting with officials, Rodriguez said
one of the brothers offered him some parting words: ”The run ends
”We’ll see,” Rodriguez said he shot back.
The Jayhawks saw all right.
VCU players, hoisting their Southwest Regional championship
trophy, poured into the temporary bleachers where VCU’s widely
outnumbered fans sat in an Alamodome that was otherwise colored in
Kansas blue and white.
VCU sold out its allotment of 1,000 tickets in San Antonio after
advancing further than any Rams team in school history. The weekend
before in Chicago, VCU had so many leftovers that Purdue fans
scooped them up.
Jamie Skeen led VCU with 26 points, and as the final seconds
ticked down, heaved the ball from the free throw line into the
stands behind the opposite backboard. His teammates on the bench,
who spent the final minutes with locked arms to hold each other
back, finally spilled out onto the court, grinning ear to ear.
Kansas players trudged slowly off the court, many pulling their
jerseys to their faces.
”Probably the best game they played ever. Probably the best
game ever as a school tonight,” Kansas forward Markieff Morris
said. ”We let them. We let them beat us.”
VCU’s celebration even carried over to New Jersey, home of
Sunday’s other regional final. The crowd watching Kentucky’s win
over North Carolina erupted during the game when the score from San
Antonio was announced.
”Anything is possible,” the public address announcer told the
It’s George Mason all over again. But VCU had an even tougher
Final Four path than its tiny conference brethren in 2006.
The Rams needed five wins to go from First Four to Final Four.
Along the way, they toppled the Pac-10’s Southern California, the
Big East’s Georgetown, the Big Ten’s Purdue, the ACC’s Florida
State and now the Big 12’s Kansas.
They’ll pick on someone their own size next: Butler.
The Jayhawks? All they did was bully smaller teams to get this
far. Kansas never apologized for coasting through a favorable
bracket that served up schools seeded 16th (Boston University),
ninth (Illinois) and 12th (Richmond). Eighth-seeded Butler was even
waiting in the national semifinals.
The Jayhawks (35-3) were the last No. 1 seed to fall. Had they
advanced, they were on a path that would’ve been the easiest to the
championship game in tournament history, at least on paper.
”It’s wild. It’s wild and a lot of people have said that we
caught breaks,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. ”I don’t know if we
caught any breaks or not. I don’t feel like we caught any breaks.
Because seeds are so overrated, it’s about matchups.”
Kansas hadn’t trailed by more than two points the entire
tournament. Yet with five minutes left in the first half, the
Jayhawks already trailed by 17.
Marcus Morris had 20 points and 16 rebounds, and his brother had
13 and 12. They played in disbelief as VCU, which ousted Florida
State on 3-pointers on Friday night, used the long ball to bury the
Jayhawks early this time.
The Rams hit 9 of 12 3-pointers in the first half. Kansas
trailed 41-27 at halftime and closed the lead to 46-44 with 13:11
left, but a 10-2 VCU run put the Jayhawks right back where they
Smart, the 33-year-old whose personality has made him a breakout
star, was so animated shuffling in front of his bench that
officials shooed him back. Another official later served Smart his
first technical all season.
Smart said he used that moment as a motivator – though he had to
clean up his language first.
”It was basically forget the refs, forget Kansas, this is all
about us,” Smart said. ”We got to do what we got to do.”
VCU (28-11) is the third 11th seed to crack the Final Four. The
previous time was George Mason in 2006, when that Colonial Athletic
Association school stunned Connecticut in its regional final. LSU
made it in 1986.
The Rams’ upset guaranteed a Final Four without a No. 1
Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Duke didn’t even last to the regional
finals. Two traditional basketball powers, Arizona and Kentucky,
and defending runner-up Butler took care of that.
On Saturday, Smart quoted a line from ”Dumb and Dumber” to
explain how he felt about his team: ”So you’re saying we’ve got a
chance?” A day later, he leaned on another old comedy to sum up
the Rams’ unlikely run.
”Ever seen the movie ‘Major League?”’ Skeen told reporters,
wearing the cut-down net around his neck. ”I can’t say exactly
what the guy says. But they get in some situations, and there’s
only one thing left to do.
”Win the whole blank thing.”
AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron contributed to this report.