Critics of the at-large bid handed out to VCU last week were silenced following the Rams win over Georgetown. Those same critics have now been buried.
Led by a 25-point, 8-rebound effort from junior guard Brandon Burgess, the lone remaining team from the Colonial Athletic Association punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 with a dominating 94-76 win over three-seed Purdue. VCU shot nearly 58% from the floor and placed five players in double figures. Point guard Joey Rodriguez was fantastic, recording a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
The Rams advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history and have now defeated three straight power conference teams since earning an appearance in the First Four, a decision that drew criticism from around the country. VCU struggled down the stretch of the regular season but has won five of their last six games, the only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Old Dominion in the conference championship game.
Momentum is a dangerous thing in March and surely the winner of tonight's Florida State vs. Notre Dame contest will be fearful of the streaking Rams. Chances are at least some will start drawing comparisons to the 2006 George Mason team given the parallels regarding conference affiliation, seed and the controversy surrounding both programs as at-large selections, but VCU is likely still a game away from really creating the level of nation-wide excitement as the Patriots did that year. Regardless though, the Rams have undoubtedly become one of, if not, the feel good storyline of this year's tournament to date.