VCU shocked the college basketball world with a historic run through the 2011 NCAA tournament, all the way to their first-ever Final 4 appearance. But was that the best team to ever wear the uniform? It’s certainly hard to argue with the result.
We decided to put together our own Final 4 of VCU’s best teams to find out who Ram fans think would win in a four-team tournament of the greatest to ever represent VCU.
Our finalists (listed in order of seed):
2011 NCAA Final 4 Team (28-12, CAA tournament runner-up)
Easily the most famous team in VCU history, the Shaka Smart lead squad entered the 2011 tournament in it’s newly extended format with a controversial at-large bid that enraged critiques, in turn providing the fire Smart needed to motivate his squad all the way to Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The team struggled down the stretch in the conference season, losing their last four CAA games, included three-straight at the Siegel Center, the only time that’s happened in the history of the building. But apparently that proved to be a smart tactic, lulling their NCAA tournament foes into a false sense of security, blowing out USC, Purdue, Georgetown and Kansas by double-digit margins, and shocking the Florida State Seminoles in a Sweet 16 overtime thriller.
Starters: Jamie Skeen (Sr-F), Joey Rodriguez (Sr-PG), Bradford Burgess (Jr-G/F), Ed Nixon (Sr-G), DJ Haley (Fr-C)
Key reserves: Brandon Rozzell (Sr-G), Juvonte Reddic (Fr-F), Darius Theus (So-PG), Rob Brandenberg (Fr-G), Toby Veal (Jr-F)
The 2011 team was just that, an incredible team. They didn’t lean on one star, but instead had a number of guys that would make you pay if left open. They did just that to the tune of 2,864 total points that season, the most ever by a VCU squad. Jamie Skeen lead the Rams in both scoring (15.7) and rebounds (7.3). The Wake Forest transfer was a matchup nightmare, as he could score inside or out and hit 42% of his three-point attempts, which is something the Kansas Jayhawks found out as the No.1-seed saw Skeen go for 26 points (4-7 from deep) and 10 rebounds against a squad that would eventually see three of it’s bigs drafted in the NBA Lottery. While this team could kill you from deep — and they certainly tried, attempting an astonishing 917 bombs on the season — their often-used small lineups struggled to rebound, finishing the year with a -4.1 rebound margin. A fan favorite, Joey Rodriguez lead the team with great efficiency, totaling 208 assists on offense and grabbing 61 steals on defense, good for third and fifth on the all-time single season record list. The 2011 Final 4 squad also saw two of VCU’s best-ever three point performances, as 6th man Brandon Rozzell and junior “Big Shot” Bradford Burgess totaled 78 and 72 three pointers made, good for third and fifth on the single season record list.
2007 Duke Killers (28-7, CAA Champs)
The Eric Maynor-lead “dagger”-droppers officially put VCU back on the map, as the sophomore point guard burst onto the national scene with an eye-opening performance including a game-winning jumpshot with 1.8 seconds left against one of the nation’s most hated teams…the Duke Blue Devils. Under new coach Anthony Grant, the Rams played a “94 feet both ways” system that saw them amass the largest amount of wins by any team through that point, and ushered in a new brand of fast-paced hoops that excited Ram fans on Broad St.
Starters: Eric Maynor (So.-PG), BA Walker (Sr.-G), Jesse Pellot-Rosa (Sr.-G), Mike Anderson (Jr.-F), Wil Fameni (Jr.-F)
Key reserves: Jamal Shuler (Jr.-G), TJ Gwynn (Fr.-F)
The 2007 tournament team featured arguably the best group of guards to ever play for the Rams, with a starting trio of Eric Maynor, BA Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa, with Jamal Shuler coming off the bench. Walker lead the Rams that season with 14.8 points/game, but Maynor came on strong, peaking with a team-leading 22 points and 8 assists against Duke. That combination of senior leadership and youthful talent helped VCU to one of it’s most dominating seasons, averaging 75 points/game and a spectacular +9.3 average margin of victory. The sharpshooting Rams may not have taken as many threes as the 2011 edition, but finished the ’07 season as the most accurate group in the history of that category, hitting 40% as a team. Unlike the 2011 Rams however, ’07 didn’t have as reliable of a scorer in the paint. Bigs Wil Fameni and Mike Anderson were a reliable duo, but combined for just 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds that season. The undersized Fameni was a welcome Arizona State transfer, but with no player over 6’7 getting significant minutes, the Rams were vulnerable in the paint.
1985 Old School Legends (26-6, Sunbelt Champs)
The 1985 season was the last of the JD Barnett era at VCU, and as far as sustained success goes, undeniably the most successful time period of VCU’s history. It was the last season of VCU’s Sunbelt dominance, and the third-straight with a win in NCAA tournament action. The 2nd-seeded Rams were the highest to ever enter an NCAA tournament, and finished 11th in the nation when the final poll was released (apparently not good enough for it’s own banner).
Starters: Calvin Duncan (Sr.-G), Rolando Lamb (Sr.-G), Mike Brown (Jr.-F), Neil Wake (Sr.-F), Mike Schleigal (Sr.-C)
Key reserves: Robert Dickerson (Sr.-F)
If guards and experience are what make a college team great, this group was one of VCU’s best. The 1985ers included four 1000-point scorers — three of which were in their final season before all be drafted to the NBA — as well as four players who all started as freshmen (Duncan, Schlegel, Lamb, Brown). Rams fans think we’re in an unprecedented time of recruiting now, but recruiting guru of THAT era, Bob Gibbons, called this graduating class the best backcourt in the nation when VCU brought the duo of Duncan and Lamb to the black-and-gold. Like the 2007 squad, Calvin Duncan and company had an ability to leave teams in the dust, outscoring their opponents by 9.6 points/game, a feat that has only been matched once since (2010, VCU’s CBI Championship team). With all that guard talent, imagine what that margin might look like had a 3-point line existed. Hard to think of many weaknesses on a team with so many legendary Rams, but they definitely had them. While JD Barnett amassed an incredible win percentage at VCU, the ’85 squad played a pretty shallow bench, which was reflected the following season as new coach Mike Pollio’s group went just 12-16 with a batch of inexperienced players.
2012 Havoc Wreakers (29-7, CAA Champs)
VCU was supposed to fall back to Earth after graduating four seniors from a Final 4 squad, but the youthful Rams (one of the 10-youngest teams in the country that season) wanted no part of any rebuilding efforts, and defended their way to the most wins by any team to wear the uniform. From positions 1-5, VCU defended better than almost anyone in the country, and Shaka Smart proved that his 2011 success was no fluke, and that his “havoc” brand of defense was here to stay. New faces stepped into larger roles, and Ram fans watched the Bradford Burgess and Darius Theus lead squad dance into the round of 32 in last season’s NCAA tournament before virtually handing Indiana a tournament win in a last-minute heart-breaker in Portland.
Starters: Bradford Burgess (Sr.-G/F), Darius Theus (Jr.-PG), Troy Daniels (Jr.-G/F), Juvonte Reddic (So.-F), DJ Haley (So.-C)
Key reserves: Rob Brandenberg (So.-G), Briante Weber (Fr.-G), Treveon Graham (Fr.-G/F)
The 2012 squad was a flip-flop of the team from the previous year. When the Final 4 group made it’s living on offense, this edition was the first serious group of defensive havoc-wreakers, and lead the NATION in turnover margin while turning teams over an astonishing 644 times on the season. Giving up just 59.8 points per game — good for 19th in the country last season — this group is the stingiest defense of our Final 4. But they had to be. The 2012 tournament team averaged 68 points, four less than the next closest team in our group, an ’85 team playing without a 3-point line. They also lacked a true go-to scorer. With career role player Bradford Burgess being forced into the role, the senior’s points actually dropped from his previous season, as did his shooting percentages, rebounds and assists. But make no mistake, this team’s defensive abilities were elite, and outside of a slow start to the season (they lost two of their first three and three of their first six games, the first two by double digits) the Rams rounded into form, losing just four of their next 30 games, and by a grand total of 11 points to teams that averaged 25.5 wins on the season.
1980-81 team lead by Stancell, Kottack and Sherod that went 24-4 before falling by two to Tennessee in OT.
2008-2009 Eric Mayor and Larry Sanders squad — VCU’s two highest drafted NBA players, Maynor in his dominating senior season. Blew out George Mason by 21 in the CAA Tournament Final before losing to UCLA by 2 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Head over to our forum to vote for who YOU think is the greatest team to ever where the uniform, discuss these games with other Ram fans, and add your own tournament snubs to our list.