• 48°

NCAA: VCU 71, Kansas 61

By Paul J. Weber
Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — Move over, Butler. Virginia Commonwealth is crashing the Final Four.
Two weeks ago, the 11th-seeded Rams so doubted they would get a NCAA tournament invite that they watched Cartoon Network and went out for burgers instead of watching the selection show. Now, all of America will be watching them in the Final Four.
The 11th-seeded Rams are heading to Houston, and final No. 1 seed Kansas is heading home after the biggest March upset in years.
VCU stunned the Jayhawks 71-61 on Sunday, becoming just the third 11th seed to make the Final Four. The Jayhawks had been the last top seed standing, but what looked like an easy path to the final weekend ended in a stunning collapse.
Eighth-seeded Butler, you’re promoted to a favorite next week. VCU is the trendy underdog pick this year.
“Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win going into this game,” said VCU coach Shaka 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 here.”
“We’ll see,” Rodriguez shot back.
The Jayhawks saw all right.
VCU players, hoisting their Southwest regional champion 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 had sold out its allotment of 1,000 tickets in San Antonio after advancing farther 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 walked slowly off the court. Several, including Markieff Morris, cried.
“Probably the best game they played ever,” Markieff said. “Probably the best game ever as a school tonight. We let them. We let them beat us.”
Smart was guided from one interview to another wearing the cut-down net around his neck. The cheers for VCU were only interrupted for guard Brandon Rozzell, who stood at midcourt as the crown serenaded him with an impromptu “Happy Birthday.”
The celebration even carried to other arenas. In Newark, N.J., where Kentucky was playing North Carolina, the crowd erupted when the public address announcer broadcast the final score from Texas.
“Anything is possible,” he told the arena.
It’s George Mason all over again, and VCU had an even tougher Final Four path than their 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 10’s Purdue, the ACC’s Florida State and now the Big 12’s Kansas.

Comments

Comments closed.

Coronavirus

Fluctuating COVID-19 death number back to 302 in Rowan County

Crime

Habitual felon sentenced to at least 8 years in prison

Kannapolis

City of Kannapolis to have bike rodeo Saturday

Crime

Two more charged for operating illegal gambling businesses

Education

A.L. Brown celebrates seniors with signing day

Business

Rebounding, but not recovered: Rowan County tourism begins challenging path toward normalcy

High School

High school baseball: Padgett leads Mustangs; 100th win for West coach Graham

Coronavirus

RSS superintendent, Board of Health discuss strategies for increasing student vaccination rates

Education

East Spencer charter school files petition to contest charter revocation

Nation/World

Gas stations report shortages as pipeline shutdown drags on

News

Lawyers: Black man didn’t drive into deputies who shot him

Nation/World

Liz Cheney says Trump and GOP backers threaten democracy

Coronavirus

Rowan Health Department clarifies county’s COVID-19 death total is 301

Landis

Landis approves new land development ordinance, zoning map

Landis

Landis approves body camera, stun gun purchase for public safety officers

Crime

One charged, another dead on sheriff’s most wanted list

Crime

No injuries after car shot eight times on Old Concord Road

Education

RSS talks first steps for new federal relief totaling $66 million

China Grove

Gary’s Barbecue staff, customers look back at 50 years

News

Salisbury Lions Club names Person of the Year, Lion of the Year at 78th annual banquet

Education

Student COVID-19 numbers show first decline since plan A

High School

High school golf: Fowler competes in state tournament

News

Amazon announces new distribution center for North Carolina

News

House passes bill to bar Cooper from mandating COVID shot