It wasn’t long ago when the Rams were the underdog, playing the disrespect card in NCAA tournaments. In 2011 VCU’s at-large selection infuriated a number of pundits, most notably ESPN’s Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale. The two were converted as VCU fans shortly after as the Rams defeated four of their five opponents — all from major conferences — by double-digits en route to their first Final 4 appearance in the programs history, becoming the only team in the history of the tournament to win five games to make it to the Final 4.
Just two seasons after, VCU found themselves as the favorite for the first time since the early 80s, playing as the No.5 seed last year against the MAC champs, Akron. VCU made sure they wouldn’t be one of the reliable 12 v 5 upsets by blasting the Zips from start to finish in the 88-42 record-setting win, becoming the first team seeded third or lower to win by such a margin.
They find themselves on the popular 12 v 5 upset line again, and have become a trendy pick to lose in their round of 64 game against this season’s chic Cinderella pick, the Stephen F Austin Lumberjacks, champions of the Southland Conference.
The Jacks come into this year’s tournament on a 28-game winning streak and boast an impressive 31-2 record.
CBS commentator, Seth Davis, has led the SFA charge, promoting the Lumberjacks at every opportunity and picking them on CBS’ selection show to beat both No.5 VCU and No.4 UCLA in San Diego. He followed that up on the Dan Patrick Show by saying, “I like the upsets which is why my No.1 bracket advice is to not use my picks.” But liked SFA because, “they put on an absolute offensive and defensive clinic”. He also fired a shot at VCU big, Juvonte Reddic, by later telling Patrick, “VCU doesn’t have the center to take advantage inside”, referring to SFA’s undersized group that generally plays 6’6 210lb junior, Jacob Parker, at the five spot.
VCU may be the Vegas favorite (-6)and higher seed — not to mention math whiz Nate Silver’s most likely No.5 seed to advance (76% chance) — but they also once against find themselves fighting for respect in an NCAA tournament, even as a favorite.
Game preview and team breakdowns (with numbers galore) coming later this week.