The 2010-11 seasons ushered in a new era of VCU basketball. Sure, the Rams danced as a No.11 seed, losing by just one point to a Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison led UCLA squad two seasons prior under the guidance of the NBA bound duo of Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders, but it was the Final 4 “swag” team Rams that exploded VCU basketball from tough Cinderella into burgeoning power. The black and gold have made four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances these last four seasons, a VCU record that looks to only be the beginning as the Rams have risen in both conference affiliation and recruiting profile. While their may be no “i” in team, VCU or Rams, that streak couldn’t have been possible without some amazing individual performances over the years. Here are our top ten of those over the last four seasons.
1. Jamie Skeen v Kansas (March 2011) – Talk about having your best game at the best time, Skeen dropped an impressive 26-point 10-rebound double-double in the Elite 8 against a KU team that would send three of their bigs off that squad to the NBA lottery. The versatile Skeen hit an impressive 4-7 from deep while getting to the line to hit 10 of his 12 free throws. He later added to his legend by dropping one of the all-time funniest quotes about KU’s dominating Morris twins who would both go on to the NBA lottery: “I came into the game thinking they were buttholes on the court… but they’re actually really cool.”
2. Bradford Burgess v Florida State (March 2011) – Ram fans watched nervously as VCU surrendered a second half lead before stumbling into overtime against Florida State in the Rams’ first-ever Sweet 16 appearance. Money all game, it made perfect since that the Midlothian native would find a way to secure VCU’s ticket to the Elite 8, catching an inbound from Joey Rodriguez off a slip screen and putting in his final two points of a 26-point performance, a bucket that will go down as one of the best plays, if not THE best play in VCU history. Burgess went 6-7 from long range in that game as well.
3. Joey Rodriguez v UNC Greensboro (Nov 2010) – Rodriguez put up an all-time fantasy stats type of performance in VCU’s 2010 season opener, dropping 22 points to go with a VCU record 17 assists. The senior guard shot 53% from the field that evening and added four steals in VCU’s 101-86 win that evening.
4. Troy Daniels @ ETSU (Jan 2013) – This was a rough night for former VCU AD, Richard Sander, and his ETSU Pirates as the Rams hit on every cylinder, throttling ETSU 109-58. Troy Daniels was the biggest winner in that stat-padding affair, hitting a VCU record 11 three-pointers for a 33-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 24 minutes of play.
5. Melvin Johnson v Virginia Tech (Dec 2013) – “The Melvin” flexed his range in VCU’s 82-52 dismantling of Virginia Tech at the Richmond Coliseum this past December, giving a gift-wrapped 27 points in just 19 minutes off the bench to ecstatic VCU fans. Johnson hit eight three-pointers as Ram fans wondered if he’d break Troy Daniels’ recently earned VCU record.
6. Treveon Graham @ La Salle (Jan 2014) – The Freight Train helped pull VCU to a tough overtime road win, dumping a career-high 34 points and adding 12 rebounds against the Explorers this past season. Overtime wouldn’t have happened had Graham not scored VCU’s final six points of regulation. His 34 was the most scored by any player during Shaka Smart’s tenure.
7. Darius Theus v Saint Joseph’s (Jan 2013) – VCU seemed to be staring their first-ever Atlantic 10 loss in the face, down 4 with Saint Joe’s inbounding the ball with just 14 seconds to play. After a Theus steal turned into a Troy Daniels three-pointer followed by a 1-of-2 free throw performance turned coast-to-coast layup, Theus sent the game into overtime where the Rams ran away with it in the 92-86 win. Theus finished the night with 22 points, 10 assists, 4 steals and zero turnovers.
8. Brandon Rozzell v Georgetown (Mar 2011) – After a minor upset, taking down USC in the first-ever “First 4” in NCAA history, VCU gave their first true glimpse of what was to come in a 74-56 dismantling of Georgetown. Rozzell led the charge with a swagger-filled 26 points off the bench in just 28 minutes of play, hitting six of his 10 threes on the night.
9. Briante Weber v Florida Gulf Coast (Nov 2012) – Before Florida Gulf Coast became “Dunk City” the eventual Sweet 16 team took a beating by VCU that season. Weber put together the ultimate “havoc” game that evening, grabbing a VCU record 10 steals to go along with 13 points (6-7 shooting) and three assists in just 18 minutes off the bench. Too high? Think about it…10 steals. How many people can you name who have scored 30+ points in their career? Ok, now how many can you name that had 10 steals in at least one game, not to mention double-digit scoring on the night against an eventual Sweet 16 team.
10. Bradford Burgess v. George Mason (Feb 2012) – The infamous senior night game against the Patriots, VCU’s lone senior that season watch GMU take the court during his senior night recognition with his family. He punished them for that act, dropping 31 points in 35 minutes in the 12-point W that avenged a crushing road loss 11 days prior when the Patriots stole one via miracle three at the buzzer.
11. Joey Rodriguez @ Wichita State (Feb 2011) – Down one with 4.9 seconds to play, Joey Rodriguez drove the length of the court in front of an intimidating Koch Arena and drew the foul with 0.8 to play. With ice water running through his veins he sunk two consecutive free throws to win the game for VCU, a part of his 15-point, 11-assist performance. This was a monster road win for VCU against a very good WSU team and no doubt helped the Rams punch their NCAA at-large bid that season, the first in program history.
12. Jamie Skeen v Butler (Mar 2011) – Skeen almost single-handedly kept VCU’s national championship hopes alive in this Final 4 battle against Butler. The senior fought to extend his college career by one more game but came up short despite a 27-point performance in 32 minutes of the national semifinal. Skeen was 3-4 from range and earned himself an NCAA All-Tournament team selection with the effort, the first and only time any Ram has ever earned the honor.
13. Jamie Skeen v Drexel (March 2011) – After scoring 16 of his 22 points up to the final Rams possession of that game, there was no question who was getting the ball with the game tied at 60 of the CAA tournament quarterfinals against a damn good Drexel Dragons team. Skeen had fought foul trouble all game but was in when it mattered, scoring an unstoppable game winner at the buzzer.
14. Joey Rodriguez @ Towson (Jan 2011) – If VCU drops this tricky road game there is no Final 4 season. Joey posted a career high 28 points including a 6-of-9 night from deep. Rodriguez’s layup with :35 left on the clock extended the Rams lead to three and Ed Nixon was able to keep Towson at bay by hitting three of his final four free throws to ice the game.
15. Joey Rodriguez v Purdue (Mar 2011) – The Rams had a tall task in their round of 32 matchup against one of the nation’s best offensive teams, Purdue. Luckily for the Rams they were led but a locked in point guard named Joey Rodriguez. Joey’s 11 assists and 12 points helped set the tone for a team that would dump 94 points on the Boilermakers that night, a Purdue team that ranked 20th nationally that season in adjusted defensive efficiency.