Shaka Smart won’t say it, so I will: VCU’s sweep over the top programs in the state this season is a big damn deal.
No trophy was handed out yesterday after the Rams knocked off the final piece to the puzzle, defeating 2011 Sweet 16 participant, the University of Richmond, to give VCU wins over UVA, Virginia Tech, Richmond, ODU and George Mason in one season — the entire list of major players in state college hoops over the past decade — but a major message was sent to fans of state college hoops: the Rams are the real deal when it comes to Virginia collegiate hoops.
VCU has accounted for six NCAA tournament appearances over the past decade, including three consecutive trips the past three seasons (with at least one win in each) that was launched with a 2011 Final 4 birth, the first from a state team since George Mason shocked the world in 2006. The two CAA teams had ended a state Final 4 drought that dated back to UVA’s 1984 appearance.
VCU has gone 44-20 against those five teams over the past decade, doing the majority of damage against former CAA foes George Mason (16-7) and ODU (17-10) as well as new A-10 rival, Richmond (9-3), but are now a perfect 2-0 against instate ACC teams over that span. And let’s not forget, it’s been those three teams that have carried the state with VCU in college basketball the past decade, not the other way around. VCU, Richmond, George Mason and ODU have combined for 16 NCAA tournament appearances over the past decade to just three from the two ACC teams, and boast 16 tournament wins to just a one combined from UV A and Virginia Tech.
The Rams have made NCAA tournament appearances under the leadership of three different head coaches over that span, dating back to Jeff Capel’s 2004 appearance that ended in a one-point loss at the hands of a Chris Paul led Wake Forest team in the heart of Tobacco Row (Chris Paul, ya’ll).
VCU is the winningest team in the state of Virginia over the past decade at 266 wins that includes a state-best eight NCAA tournament wins. The Rams have sold out 46 consecutive home games that predates their Final 4 run and have recently landed the No.14 recruiting class in the country.
Moral(s) of the story? VCU is having one hell of a season, and it appears as if the Rams are here to stay — as if the past decade didn’t give that away already.