Teams always plan to win. I mean, who plans to lose? Therefore, television stations always plan that the team they're covering is going to win. If you don't, you will be kicking yourself later. Well a funny thing happened today before the game. Bruce, Brian Gordon (photographer extraordinaire) and I were setting up our workspace when Bruce looked up at me and said, "You know, not once this entire weekend have we considered the possibility that Kansas could lose." We always plan that the team we're covering will win and I think it's safe to say we counted out VCU. Man were we wrong.
It was amazing just how dominant VCU was in the first half. They hit 9 threes, NINE! This team averaged 8 three-pointers a game and they hit their average and then some in the first half alone. Jamie Skeen played all but 2 minutes of this game and finished with an NBA-level double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. He was 4 of 7 from long range and 10 of 12 from the charity stripe. That's amazing.
It helped the Rams that KU looked flustered and discombobulated, turning the ball over a whopping 8 times in the first half. Markieff owned 6 of those turnovers. They weren't forced turnovers either. There were charges, stepping out of bounds, three seconds in the lane. Unforced errors resulting in forced shots that turned into a 41-27 Rams lead at the half.
After VCU scored the first bucket of the second half Kansas went on a 12-0 run and put themselves right back in the game. When Tyshawn hit that and-1 to put Kansas within two you felt like the tides had finally turned. But VCU didn't falter. They didn't blink. They just kept shooting, and hitting, and winning.
I am a Shaka Smart fan now. I'll admit it. I dig the guy. The other day he pulled out a Dumb and Dumber reference and today he threw out a Major League line. The guy is candid, funny and he can coach. Man can he coach.
After the game the Jayhawk players said it was just one of those days. It sucks for them, I hate it for them. I walk into that locker room and my team mom instincts take over and I immediately want to run over and give them all a big hug while handing them Capri Suns and orange slices. Ok fine I'll throw in some Rice Krispies treats too.
They only have themselves to blame and trust me they'll be blaming themselves for a long time after this game. They put together a game plan that they thought would get them to the Final Four since that magical 2008 season. But you know what they say about the best laid plans.
Ok a quick add-on to my earlier blog because Shaka Smart just brought up a great point. This world gets increasingly smaller every day and the world of sports and television is just odd. Shaka Smart just proved that point. Ok so Wichita State lost to VCU in the Bracket Buster game this year and now the Rams are the Cinderella of 2011. Smart just reminded us that back in 2006, George Mason beat Wichita State in the Bracket Buster game and they made it to the Final Four and played Florida. Smart was an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan before he came to VCU. The coach at VCU before Smart was Anthony Grant, another former Billy D assistant that was with the Gators when they beat George Mason in 2006 and eventually beat UCLA in the championship. Did I just blow your mind? It's cool, I think I just went cross-eyed.
With everyone's bracket completely blown to smithereens at this point Kansas is the lone stronghold of the top seeds. Duke got punked by Arizona, Pitt apparently forgot to take the floor in their loss and last night Ohio State lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky. Man the Wildcats looked good, 'Zona and Kentucky. But essentially that leaves Kansas to carry the torch as the only number 1 seed into the Final Four. Unfortunately they're gonna have to beat down a Cinderella in the process.
I relate most things to Florida because well, I know the team and the history extremely well and there are a lot of similarities to be drawn to most situations. That and I bring up the Gators as much as possible. Well, in 2006, when Florida won its first basketball national title, they had to go through a lovely little Cinderella we like to call George Mason. Everyone loved George Mason. They pined for George Mason. Fathers wanted their daughters to marry a man from George Mason. Except my dad, he would have none of that. But you get my point. Somehow, someway the Gators had become the Big Bad Wolves of the tournament simply because they were a good team. You better believe that's what's gonna be the case here on Sunday.
As much as VCU and Richmond hate each other, they root for each other vehemently. And that entire fan base will most likely show up on Sunday and cheer against the Jayhawks. It's absolutely impossible for the VCU fanbase to outnumber that of the 'Hawks, but they'll be loud, they'll be energized and they'll be rooting like hell for KU to be the last Titan to fall.
That being said, I don't think VCU can hang with KU at all. I think every team still in the tournament cringed a little bit last night when Josh Selby finally found a little confidence and had some shots fall. Of course, I don't think they cringed as much as Bill Self did when Selby tried that hot dog move at the end of the game. That didn't exactly go over well. Neither did Brady's trash talking, but you know, he got caught up in the heat of the moment, we all do, his is just a little more obvious.
I dig the way Kansas plays. I like their swagger, their energy their cockiness. Because through all of that lies a different look in the guy's eyes from last season. After the team beat Lehigh in Oklahoma City their attitude wasn't just for show, it was in their blood. It was dangerously apparent how much they liked themselves and that was their downfall.
This team, this team is different. Marcus and Markieff are thumping their chests on the court but in the locker room they are calm and scarily focused. Intimidatingly focused. I think I just made up two words. There is just a different feeling in that locker room. Not tense just determined. They may be Big Bad Kansas right now but it's hard not to love a team that just gets on the court and gets it done. I apologize Rams fans but the Jayhawks are about to show the city of Richmond the door.
It's so interesting to get to know another team's fan base. Get to know what makes them tick, what their cheers are and what teams they hate. One of the more visceral hatreds I've encountered lately (besides me booing the Florida State band as they played by the Riverwalk today) is between VCU and Richmond. Two colleges, in the same city and they absolutely hate each other. One VCU fan I spoke to called the Spiders 'old, decrepit and trust fund babies.' So of course I asked if he was rooting for Kansas to beat Richmond, and he said 'No, I'm definitely rooting for Richmond.' They absolutely despise each other but man are they loyal to their city! Either that or they just want another shot at each other where neither school has been before: the elite eight.
If you're a Kansas fan do you think this is one of the most important rounds for Bill Self and the Jayhawks? I mean, a KU guy said it the best today when I asked if he was nervous. He is nervous because he said 'we've been through too many of these.' Kansas will never be the underdog, it's just how it is. Every team will be giving the 'Hawks their best shot and Kansas needs to respond tonight in order to avoid a lot of talk about how they can't beat the little guys when it matters most.
That being said, I think KU will win. Maybe not easily, but they'll win it. Speaking of winning teams, how 'bout them Gators? I'm really rooting for KU and UF to play in the Final Four, mainly because I'm a tv nerd and my photographer and I already have a hilarious story planned out. Plus I'd get to see all my Gator boys and get to hear the Gator band play for once. No joke, I started booing the FSU band today. I wanted my photographer to follow me around and get shots of me harassing the band but he decided he didn't want to get in trouble and possibly get our credentials revoked. Kill joy.
Ok, we're about done editing our early stuff (and by we I mean Brian and Bruce) so I'm gonna go grab some media food which is most likely carbohydrate central and then grab my seat on the court. I can't tell you how much I love this month!
I am a proud graduate of the University of Florida, that's no secret. I thump my chest in support of UF, I display my Gator paraphernalia all over my desk and I tell everyone who wants to know (or most of the time, doesn't) that I am a UF grad. That's why it's going to be hard for this weekend to control my vomit reflex. Florida State is playing in this regional and in this eerily similar run to 2008 there's a good chance that KU could play the Seminoles on Sunday.
Remember 2008? You're a Kansas fan, of course you do. Well, do you remember that in that year KU lost to Kstate at Bramlage and eventually won the title in San Antonio? Do you recall that KU faced two double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16 in Detroit? First was 12 seed Villanova and next was 10 seed Davidson. Just F.Y.I, Richmond is a 12 seed, Florida State is a 10. Creepy, right?
That's really what's on my mind today but so far the thing on the media's mind in general is how amazing the hotel gym is. Seriously, it's impressive. I got my workout in around 6:15 am and I have to say I was stoked to see at least a dozen treadmills facing floor to ceiling windows overlooking San Antonio with about 7 ellipticals, a few stationary bikes and a full weight room. The icing on the cake? A yoga room. Heaven!
You see, these are the things that are important to us media folk. Kind IT staff? Check. Good set-up for our editing purposes? Check check. Access to snacks and cookies at all times? Gluttony a definite check.
Today should be an easy one, with a huge emphasis on should Richmond is just about to finish up its team practice and VCU is up next with KU shortly after. I'd say 75% of the media is all KU, with just a small faction from Tallahassee. But just that small percentage of garnet and gold is enough to make me, uhh, oh man, excuse me, I need to find a trash can. My veggie wrap may be making an encore.