As a High Point fan, there are unrealistic things I dream about. I would love to see at every away game hundreds of my fellow Panther fans following the team who are commited as I am. I would love to see HPU beat a team from almost all of the major conferences en route to the Final Four. We have a few loyal fans, and a few students who act crazy, and occasionally have great moments on the court. But none of this has ever come close to leading to this dream all mid-major fans have.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, this dream is now a reality. The Rams were taken as an 11 seed and sent to Dayton, home of the First Four to earn that 11 seed. Much of the media, especially ESPN commentators, could not understand the selection of a 4th place CAA team. Many VCU fans on their message board were already debating whether they would be in the NIT or the CBI. But they were given life, and Shaka Smart and his players made VCU a household name. They beat Southern California in Dayton, and proceeded to pull off four more Red Line upsets to make the Final Four. They could only be stopped by a team from our side of the Red Line in Butler.
And so they were one of the highlighted teams in the Charleston Classic. VCU seemed to be more energized to be playing in the tournament than anybody else. VCU had the most fans of any school of the tournament, including those from five power conference schools. They were the only team as well to bring their cheerleaders and dance team (both Title R compliant) as well as their own pep band. Standing next to the pep band was Chris Pavarotti, or VCUPav, in his usual gameday outfit with Ram horns. Standing with him was Bally and his VCU team ballz. This marked the first time I have spotted the legendary Bally Basketball at a game!
VCU fans were anxious to get the game going, and openly worried about the LSU/Northwestern game before it going OT (which it didn't, Northwestern pulled out an 88-82 win in regulation.). "Let's Go Rams!" cheers were more common than any cheering for either of the major conference teams playing. Unlike most years in the Charleston Classic, the time between Games 2 and 3 was limited, and ushers only checked the tickets rather than clearing the arena as has usually been the case. The game started close to 5:30 as scheduled, as ESPNU had games later in the evening they wanted to show.
Finally the game tipped off. Points were hard to come by as both teams played physical. Twice Seton Hall players flung their elbows at VCU defenders, with the second time resulting in a technical (nothing was called on the first). Like Western Kentucky, the Rams faded and fell short of the Red Line Upset as Seton Hall won 69-54.
The lesson from both the VCU and WKU games is that while dreams can be achieved as a mid-major, reality comes back at you more quickly below the Red Line as well. While Gonzaga and Xavier have been able to maintain success and receive exemptions, players will come and go while the resources stay the same. George Mason and Southern Illinois have also achieved success that did not last. While VCU fans can still enjoy the fruits of their success from last year, the dream may not last much longer, as it always ends in a loss.
SETON HALL 69, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 54 11/17/2011
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 1-1 (0-0) -- B. Burgess 4-10 3-4 11; D. Theus 3-8 0-1 7; T. Daniels 3-11 0-0 8; R. Brandenberg 3-10 0-0 8; B. Weber 3-7 2-2 9; D. Haley 3-3 0-0 6; J. Reddic 0-3 3-4 3; H. Houston 1-2 0-0 2; T. Graham 0-3 0-0 0; T. Okereafor 0-1 0-0 0; J. Guest 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-60 8-11 54. SETON HALL 2-0 (0-0) -- J. Theodore 4-11 12-12 20; A. Cosby 1-4 2-2 4; F. Edwin 6-8 2-2 18; H. Pope 8-17 4-8 20; H. Karlis 0-3 0-0 0; P. Auda 3-4 1-1 7; A. Geramipoor 0-0 0-0 0; F. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-47 21-25 69.
Three-point goals: VCU 6-21 (B. Burgess 0-1; T. Daniels 2-8; D. Theus 1-2; R. Brandenberg 2-5; B. Weber 1-4; T. Graham 0-1), SHU 4-17 (H. Pope 0-4; J. Theodore 0-2; F. Edwin 4-5; P. Auda 0-1; A. Cosby 0-2; H. Karlis 0-3); Rebounds: VCU 28 (T. Daniels 5), SHU 35 (H. Pope 13); Assists: VCU 8 (D. Theus 5), SHU 9 (J. Theodore 4); Total Fouls -- VCU 24, SHU 13; Fouled Out: VCU-J. Reddic; SHU-None.