Shaka Smart Illinois: VCU Coach's Staying Put Makes Good Basketball Sense

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIMarch 22, 2012

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 17:  Head coach Shaka Smart of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams reacts in the first half while taking on the Indiana Hoosiers during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Rose Garden Arena on March 17, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Shaka Smart deciding to spurn Illinois was not just a good move for VCU, but a good move for Smart. In addition to evaluating VCU over Richmond, this decision was made from a pure on-court perspective as well

In his reporting of Smart spurning the Fighting Illini, Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times quoted an anonymous source saying something a little confusing. 

“Shaka wants to win a national championship,’’ the source said. And while Illinois has a big upside for the right coach, when Smart leaves VCU, he’ll do it for a program that’s better positioned to go for all the marbles.

On paper, this isn't even close to being true, at least not at first glance The fact is that if VCU doesn't win their conference tournament, they won't make the tournament. Conversely, six teams made the tournament in the Big Ten this year. 

The thing is, I believe Smart. Butler has been in the National Championship Game over the last two years. One season ago, VCU was a Final Four team. With Xavier and Ohio both still remaining, a team like that could be there again this year. 

When you look at some of the best college programs in the country, what do you see? I see teams with an awful lot of freshmen and sophomores starting and playing prominent roles. Yes, those players are immensely talented, but that isn't a good formula for winning national championships. 

Look at schools like VCU and you'll see rosters loaded with juniors and seniors. They may not be as talented, but that is more than made up for by the fact that those teams have been together for two, three or even four years. Teammates at most of the classic great schools barely get time to introduce themselves before leaving campus. 

Schools like VCU don't recruit "one and done" talent. No, they're going after some of the second and third-tier talent that aren't using the college game as a stepping stone to the NBA. The experience that those kids get from playing together for years will win out over the immensely talented underclassmen that populate the traditional powers. 

If Smart's goal is to produce great NBA players, then he needs to go to one of the power conferences and build a program there. If his goal is to win a national championship, VCU is the place to be for the foreseeable future.