Nobody loves NCAA Championship Week more than I do. I have every intention of sitting on my couch as much as possible until Selection Sunday comes. I’ve decided that I’m going to track the teams from smaller conferences who win their conference championship and therefore earn an automatic bid. I shall then write my thoughts on these teams and determine just how far they will make it in this year’s tourney. We all remember George Mason last season. Will there be another small conference Cinderella in 2007?
George Mason was all set to be the Cinderella story of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Unfortunately for them Virginia Commonwealth made sure that midnight came much faster this year around.
VCU earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by defeating last year’s national sweethearts George Mason 65-59 in the championship game of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. While more people are knowledgeable of George Mason because of last year’s run in the tournament, VCU’s victory was hardly unexpected. The Rams won the regular season championship in the CAA, going 16-2 in regular season conference play.
Most experts believed that VCU were headed into the tournament no matter how they finished in the conference tournament. When everything was said and done the Rams finished with a 27-6 record, a very impressive overall mark considering their schedule. Out of conference VCU didn’t play many good teams in terms of RPI. Surprising to many it was the in-conference games that will help increase VCU’s seed in the tournament.
VCU was not the only team in the CAA to finish with a record worthy of making the big dance. Old Dominion went 15-3 in conference and 24-8 overall. Hofstra finished with a 22-9 overall mark and went 14-4 in conference play. Drexel is another team, going 13-5 in the conference and 23-8 overall. Obviously not all of these teams will make the NCAA Tournament. It will be interesting to see if any of the three get a bid when all is said and none. Needless to say all three teams along with George Mason (18-15, 9-9) should play in the NIT.
Three guards will be leading VCU into the tournament. Senior B.A. Walker averaged 14.8 points a game, while sophomore Eric Maynor was good for 13.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Jesse Pellot-Rosa was not far behind, scoring 13 points a game. These three can shoot the ball and run the court, making it difficult for defenses to properly adjust.
If there is one thing that will kill this team in the tournament it is VCU’s lack of experience this season playing against bigger schools. Even if a team such as VCU takes a beating from a team like a Duke or Ohio State in the regular season it is the experience of having played against a team with prestige that is important. The fact that they haven’t done so could hurt them. Then again it could be beneficial. Perhaps they won’t be shaken when facing one of these opponents. Time will tell.
I like a team like VCU as a Cinderella team for a few reasons. A three-guard team is always dangerous in the tournament because of its unorthodox style. If the triple threat of Walker, Maynor, and Pellot-Rosa bring their A-games VCU will be tough. I also like VCU because they have been ignored even during the conference tournament. When a .500 team received more recognition than you even at the end of the season it is understandable to have a chip on the shoulder. VCU has something to prove to the nation. Can they do so in the NCAA Tournament?