The upstart VCU Rams and the Indiana Hoosiers will fight it out in primetime on Saturday night with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.
Head Coach Shaka Smart made himself known as one of the top coaches amongst the small schools in the country last year when he guided the Rams from the First Four to the Final Four. Now, he has arguably done an even better job with a significantly younger team. These Rams have very little experience, as only Bradford Burgess really remains from the key cogs in the fold last year, and this year’s squad had to survive every step of the way in the CAA Tournament and win the league just to get into the dance this year. Now, a win over the Wichita State Shockers has proven that once again, Virginia Commonwealth is for real and should not be messed with. Statistically speaking, this wasn’t the prettiest game in the world for VCU, but in the end, the team played well enough defensively down the stretch to get the job done. Burgess finished with 16 points, while Troy Daniels and Darius Theus both had 10 in the victory. If there is an issue, it is that Burgess just played 38 minutes of a very physical game against a great team, and that could wear on him with so much pressure on him in this dance.
If there was a thought that the Hoosiers were going to struggle with this situation going into Portland against a team like the New Mexico State Aggies that loved to push the tempo, those thoughts were quelled right away. IU was able to crush the Aggies 79-66 in a game that never really was all that competitive, though we admit that it was never really a total blowout either. Still for a young team that is still trying to learn to win at this type of a level, it was a great accomplishment. Four the team’s five starters had at least 14 points in that game, including the 14 that Cody Zeller put up in his first tourney game. Jordan Hulls was the man of the hour though, scoring 22 to lead the team to victory. There is a big concern defensively, though. New Mexico State shot 55.1 percent from the floor, and it is very clear that if VCU is able to do that on Saturday, the tourney could be over in the first weekend here for the Hoosiers. They are going to have to buckle down on this side of the ball especially to be able to make it to the Sweet 16.
The Final Word: Indiana needs to be very, very careful in this one. Six is a lot to be laying in a game like this one, especially against a VCU team that has proven to be a thorn in the sides of many. We aren’t so sure if one of the sweethearts of this tournament is going to get through this one, but we do think that the Rams are going to at least bring this one all the way down to the wire.
VCU Rams vs. Indiana Hoosiers Free Pick: VCU Rams +6
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.