VCU Rams Have Puncher's Chance to KO Heavyweight Kansas Jayhawks in Elite Eight

Jimmy GrapponeCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2011

Joey Rodriquez (12) and the VCU Rams face their toughest challenge yet against the Kansas Jayhawks in Sunday's Elite Eight showdown.
Joey Rodriquez (12) and the VCU Rams face their toughest challenge yet against the Kansas Jayhawks in Sunday's Elite Eight showdown.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Any given Sunday. Anything can happen. That's why they play the game.

All too often in sports, as well as in life, the big name teams, the corporations, the establishment get their way at the expense of the little guys. At our expense.

However, once a year, during a glorious five weeks of conference tournaments and March Madness, the playing field is leveled.


Teams from smaller and lesser known conferences earn a chance to compete in the Big Dance. The Davids face up against the Goliaths on relatively neutral courts.

And, as you'd expect, Goliath wins about 120% of the time. But every so often, a scrappy team from a non-BCS conference steps up and makes a name for itself and makes the nation take notice.


A few years ago, that team was George Mason, a veteran squad of men in their early twenties from the Colonial Athletic Association without much NBA firepower, but with the cohesiveness, will and just enough talent to fight and claw all the way to the Final Four.

Last year's upstart team was Butler from the Horizon League who nearly pulled off the ultimate upset of top seeded and historic heavyweight, Duke, in the NCAA championship game as star player Gordon Hayward's half court heave at the buzzer barely missed its mark.


Butler is in the Final Four once again, but this year they aren't surprising anyone.

No, this year's upstart is the CAA's Virginia Commonwealth University, a liberal arts school of about 30,000 in downtown Richmond with a rabid fan base, a young and enthusiastic coach in his second year, head man Shaka Smart, and the type of scrappy players who were ignored by regional ACC and Big East teams and, perhaps for that reason, play with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.


VCU, in fact, was so disrespected at the start of the tournament they were forced to play in one of the new play-in games and no less than esteemed college basketball commentator Jay Bilas blasted the NCAA Tournament selection committee for selecting the Rams and excluding another team from the Commonwealth, Virginia Tech, who many thought should have made the field of 68.


Virginia Tech lost last weekend to Wichita State in the N.I.T. VCU is still playing.

Not only has VCU started the tournament 4-0, they've done it against schools from the Pac-10 (USC), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue) and the ACC (Florida State).


Next up is the No. 1 seed and the second overall seed, Kansas from the Big 12.

Bill Self's Jayhawks and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, are VCU's tallest order yet, and if VCU is going to have a chance to beat the Midwest's greatest powerhouse, it may just take a miracle.

But remember, David defeated Goliath. Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson. And an old lady once successfully sued McDonald's for millions of dollars because her coffee was too hot.


So, crazier things have happened.


VCU will have to play its perfect game, hit at least 10 to 15 three-pointers, and play scrappy enough defense to frustrate Kansas' big men and disrupt its guards enough to create a lot of turnovers.


Will VCU beat Kansas? Probably not, but they have already exceeded everyone's expectations outside of Virginia's capital city, and they are the reason we love March Madness.