They say no press is bad press but that doesn’t mean some of the stuff I read about VCU doesn’t annoy the hell out of me. This morning I read a Campus Insiders piece that did just that: Smart Move: Shaka Smart Right to Stay at VCU For Now.
In many ways I’m sure its author, Ken Bikoff, who tweeted the article at us (@VCURamNation) meant a good portion of it’s contents in a flattering way. But mixed in with that flattery were a number of what I considered condescending shots that compelled me to respond with an article of my own.
Shot No.1: The title. “Shaka Smart Right to Stay at VCU, For Now”
For Now? Bikoff got his first strike seven words in to the headline.
Shot No.2: This whole paragraph: “VCU isn’t a high-profile program, one with a rich basketball tradition that includes piles of national championships. The Rams play in a good conference, but the A-10 doesn’t pack the national punch from top to bottom of the Big Tens or the ACCs or the SECs or the Pac-12s of the world.”
One part of that is true, VCU doesn’t have piles of national championships, or one for that matter. But who is high profile according to that metric? Syracuse, Arizona, Michigan, Georgetown and a number of other schools have but one NCAA tournament championship (does one make a pile?), yet are arguably “high profile”. The fact is only eight programs in college hoops have more than two NCAA titles, and only 14 have at least two including the Dons of San Francisco who can boast one more than the teams I just mentioned. Teams like La Salle, CCNY, Holy Cross and Loyola Chicago have won as many NCAA titles as Cuse, Zona, etc. But that’s not what makes VCU a high-profile program these days. What makes them a high profile program is that Ken Bikoff is writing offseason articles about VCU because the Shaka Smart led Rams have become an automatic NCAA tournament team, punching a ticket to the Dance the last four seasons and seven times over the past decade and playing an exciting brand of basketball while doing it. The A-10 conference the Rams now call home have sent an average of 5.5 teams to the tournament since VCU has been in the conference, which is more than two of the conferences Bikoff mentions: The ACC and SEC. Are there some weak teams at the bottom of the A-10? Sure. But at least one of last season’s A-10 bottom feeders, George Mason, can boast a Final 4 appearance over the past decade. VCU shredded two bottom-feeing ACC programs this year, Virginia Tech and Boston College, by an average of 24.5 points, both games being played on neutral courts. To suggest that those schools or the likes of South Carolina, Washington State, Oregon State and Auburn are setting the world on fire from the bottom of BCS leagues is laughable. They are major by association, not by actual results.
Shot No.3: This stuff again: “Second, he’s recruiting VCU like he’s at a major program… VCU will welcome the best recruiting class in the A-10 next fall, and the Rams’ Class of 2014 ranks in the top 30 in the country.”
Once again, what makes a program “major”? Results or conference affiliation? Bikoff seems to think the later. VCU’s class has been ranked No.14 nationally by ESPN, a class that includes three ESPN top-100s headlined by the No.43 player overall: Terry Larrier.
Shot No.4: This line: “…he can overcome a lack of expectations”
For anyone who thinks there is a lack of expectations at VCU, I suggest you browse our message board after a loss.
Shot No.5: They’ve already come calling before “When the truly blue-chip jobs open up eventually — we’re talking Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, those kinds of places — Smart’s name is going to be in the mix.” …”That’s how the story will eventually end. It won’t be with Smart rolling the dice on a project or trying to build a program the same way he has at VCU. A lateral move won’t be in the offing. If Smart moves on, it will be to a destination job, a place coaches dream of and never, ever leave without either retiring or being dragged out the door by angry fans.”
What is UCLA, chopped liver? I realize the Bruins 11 national championships are only the most in NCAA history by three over Kentucky, but that’s still an impressive number. Coach Smart said thanks but no thanks to the Bruins just a bit over a year ago. Feel free to read about it here: VCU’s Shaka Smart turns down UCLA, signs contract extension
Moral of the story? SSDD. Bikoff isn’t just a Campus Insider reporter, he’s the INDIANA Campus Insider reporter (not to mention an Indiana grad); as in the same Indiana program that’s home to the hot seat of current head coach, Tom Crean, after an underwhelming 17-15 season that saw fans boo him. Bikoff is like that guy you once met briefly at a party who insulted you the whole time he was trying to be nice to you. “Oh you drive a Cherokee? I hear the new ones are really nice…my son has one of those. They get much better gas mileage than my Porsche Cayenne”.
The fact is folks from Indiana, UCLA, Minnesota, Marquette, NC State and all the other programs who have already come calling or WILL come calling for Shaka Smart don’t get it and don’t get Shaka…literally. Like many of his under-the-radar recruits over the years (Troy Daniels, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber), Smart not only sees VCU for what it is… but WHAT IT CAN BE. Sadly, after four seasons of “you don’t mess with happy”, some folks still don’t seem to get it and they probably never will.
Go Rams. Only 69 days until college basketball season officially begins…