Unprobable VCU has makeup of Cinderella team

Raul Magana

CINDERELLA MAN: VCU's Jamie Skeen (left) gets off a shot against Kansas in Sunday's Southwest Regional Final. No. 11 VCU defeated the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks, 71-61, to advance to its first Final Four in school history. Skeen was named the regional's Most Outstanding Performer. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MCT.

Virtually every year right around tournament season, college basketball analysts will go through each regional bracket in search of a team with a double digit seed from a mid-major conference that may have what it takes to pull up an upset or two and make a deep run at the tournament.

The team that is able to accomplish this feat is referred to as a Cinderella team. The life of a Cinderella team usually starts out the same.

The team will get a victory over a big name school, but one that may have played inconsistently and underachieved throughout the season. They open the eyes for some and shock few.

Then the team will get a victory over a team with a prestigious history, which may have been a tournament favorite. Now the Cinderella team is formally introduced to the nation.

What differs about the life of a Cinderella team is how the story ends. However, whether the story ends in the Sweet 16 or the Final Four, the story is subject to change. One thing has remained constant: the outcome is never a national championship.

This year the Cinderella team goes by the name of Virginia Commonwealth University and this could be the year that a Cinderella team wins the whole thing.

When the tournament brackets were announced, VCU (28-11) was immediately criticized by many for not having a resume worthy of being one of the final at-large bids selected to participate in the big dance.

Dick Vitale, one of the most prominent voices in college basketball, denounced the selections of both UAB and VCU as at-large bids.

“My wife knows didily about basketball, but if you put her here and said look at Colorado’s resume look at UAB and look at VCU it would be an M&Mer, a mismatch man,” Vitale said. “It would be like a beauty contest, Roseanne Barr versus Scarlett Johansson, no shot none whatsoever.”

VCU was a team that had lost its last four conference games during the regular season and was favored by most to not even make it past the first round against a USC team which garnered big wins throughout the regular season against Texas, Washington and Arizona.

Nevertheless a vindicating 59-46 victory over USC would prove to be the beginning of a magical run.

The Rams would go on to defeat a well coached Georgetown team in a convincing 74-56 win. The Rams would lay down the blueprint for their continued tournament success, shooting 12-25 from behind the arc while forcing the Hoyas to commit 17 turnovers.

The Rams would go on to dominate a very good half court team in Purdue 94-76 and had five people in double figures including point guard Joey Rodriguez, who recorded a triple-double.

They proved they could win the close game as well with an overtime win, 72-71, against what many would call the best defensive team in the tournament in Florida State and proved they have what it takes defensively by holding Kansas to 61 points.

The Rams held Kansas to just 36 percent from the field while shooting a terrible 2-21 from behind the 3-point line.

Now a team with aspirations of a tournament birth that were so demoralized that head coach Shaka Smart decided not to gather the team for selection Sunday are now headed to the Final Four.

The Rams will face a team that has made the transition from Cinderella team to national powerhouse in recent years in No. 8 Butler.

With the coaching prowess of Smart, who has made all the right coaching decisions in the tournament thus far while pushing all the right buttons, VCU is also in the middle of making a transition from Cinderella team to national championship contenders.

With the speed and craft of Rodriguez at the point and potent scorers throughout the lineup, VCU has shown it can win in more than one way.
Perhaps this year more than ever, a national championship is well within reach for this team that didn’t belong.