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Bittersweet Hoops


If you're a Richmonder uttering "we told you so" while Virginia Commonwealth University bulldozes its way through the NCAA tournament, please stop. The team now captivating the country sputtered most of the season, at times shooting so poorly it was difficult to watch.

Unlike the University of Richmond Spiders, who entered the season nationally ranked, the Rams were on the verge of losing much of the recruiting and national buzz attained during the last five or six seasons. The team's diminutive head coach was easy to dismiss. Sure, he coached at the University of Florida, but it's much easier to root against a guy with a name like Shaka Smart.

At home games, the school band often played a little rendition that ended with "You suck!" — directed at opposing teams, of course. During introductions, the Rams came onto the court accompanied by a video of the players in the locker room dancing and getting pumped, ending with point guard Joey Rodriguez screaming into the camera (mimicking Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics). So, yes, this team could grate.

But damn, they sure are difficult not to love right now.

The Spiders are probably better overall, but the Rams are faster, quicker, play harder and their coach is, well, better than pretty much everyone he faces. And the Rams also get to face a 10th seed on Friday in San Antonio, the Florida State Seminoles, who play a similarly aggressive style and are bigger and, maybe, just as fast. For the sake of motivation, I'm picking FSU by 30. The Spiders, well, they get the University of Kansas, so good luck with that. VCU and UR meeting in the Elite 8? Go ahead, book three nights in San Antonio if you want.

If you don't, will you jinx it? — S.B.

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