Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) receives my vote as the darling of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The Rams will play their first ever Sweet Sixteen game Friday night against Florida State.
VCU has been traveling a special road this tournament. First, the Rams knock off Southern Cal in the play-in game. Second, Georgetown is the victim. Last Sunday, Purdue goes home. VCU won three games in five days. You think the Rams were tired, not a chance? They are living on momentum.
Most people don’t know much about this school, me included. VCU plays in the Colonial Athletic Association—the same conference as George Mason another NCAA favorite. The school is located in Richmond and has an enrollment of 32,000 students on two campuses. It also features a medical center.
The Rams never won more than one NCAA game in a season before this year. Coach Shaka Smart leads the 26-11 club. I imagine bigger schools will want to talk to Smart about their vacancy when VCU’s season is finished. Mid-major coaches receive much exposure when their teams make strong tournament runs.
But Smart’s focus is on the Florida State Seminoles now. This should be an entertaining contest between two teams not figured to advance this far. The Seminoles have defeated Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
VCU hopes to continue its darling status. As the Rams march forward, the love grows.