The VCU Rams are playing ridiculously good basketball right now. Not only are they taking down BCS teams but they are thoroughly handling them on their route to this year’s Final Four. Even if you don’t like VCU you can’t help but be amazed by what they are doing right now. George Mason in 2006 certainly blazed the trail for teams like Butler and VCU and mid-major conferences are continuing to show there isn’t really anything “mid” about what they can accomplish in March. It certainly is a boost for the CAA to get another team in the Final Four five years after George Mason’s historic ride but that’s not the only thing VCU and George Mason’s tournament runs have in common.
Weak Finishes. Both teams didn’t end the regular season or CAA tournament on the best note. George Mason lost twice to Hofstra down the stretch and was eliminated from the CAA tournament in the semifinals. VCU this season lost their last four conference games and was then beaten by ODU in the CAA championship.
Win over Wichita State in the Bracketbuster game. Both VCU and George Mason played at Wichita State in ESPN’s Bracketbuster Weekend and both times it was their best out of conference win on their resume heading into Selection Sunday. You can make an argument that both times it was basically a play-in game for each team to make the big dance.
At-large #11 seeds. Neither team won the CAA auto-bid and they are two of the three #11 seeds to ever make the Final Four.
Criticism from the media on Selection Sunday. Who could forget Jim Nantz and Billy Packer grilling the selection committee for the selection of George Mason back in 2006. This year it was ESPN’s Jay Bilas who openly criticized VCU and UAB in the field of 68. Both times they said that the two teams didn’t have any “good wins”. Here is a compilation of ESPN guys dissin’ VCU from Selection Sunday.
BCS schools taken down. It seems like VCU has beaten almost every BCS conference already: PAC10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC, and Big 12. In 2006 the Patriots took down the Big Ten, ACC, and Big East on their path. If they had the First Four back in ’06 and Mason was in that it they probably would have been matched up against another BCS team as well.
Pregame Elite Eight trash talk from future NBAer that motivated them. Some people might not remember this but Rudy Gay said something to the Mason players before the UConn-George Mason Elite Eight game. Towards the end of the game Tony Skinn reminded Gay of his pregame comments as he walked up to the free-throw line. Yesterday during the pregame hand shakes one of the Morris twins from Kansas said “You guys had a nice run, but it’s time for y’all to go home.”
Beat #1 seed to advance to Final Four. #1 UConn in ’06 and #1 Kansas this year were both heavy favorites despite how good George Mason and VCU were playing in the tourney.
Defense is the backbone. George Mason and VCU would not have gotten to the Final Four without their exceptional defense throughout the tournament. VCU’s is playing so good lately that we could see them in the national championship game. The 2006 George Mason team probably relied on it a little more as they were not as athletic as these 2011 VCU rams are on offense. But still coaches Jim Larranaga and Shaka Smart both used effective defensive schemes that really frustrated these BCS teams.
NBA talent? I just thought it was interesting that the 2006 George Mason team had no guys do go to the NBA and most likely this year’s VCU’s team won’t either. Last year’s Butler squad that went to the national championship did have one in Gordon Haywood. I just found it funny that VCU has had two 1st round NBA draft picks recently and yet the season they don’t they make the Final Four.