Southwest Region, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
(10) Florida St. Seminoles vs. (11) Va. Commonwealth Rams (9:57 on TBS): Well, college basketball fans are guaranteed one thing from this contest. The winner will become the first double-digit seed to make the Elite 8 since 2008 when No. 10 Davidson beat No. 3 Wisconsin, 73-56 -- the Wildcats lost to the eventual national champions, No. 1 Kansas, 59-57, in the next round.
Though the seeds are similar the focus has mainly been on the Rams (26-11), who routed No. 3 Purdue, 94-76, in the third round to become the first team in NCCA men's basketball tournament history to win three games in the NCAA Tournament and only advance to the "Sweet 16" -- remember VCU beat USC, 59-46, in a first-round ("play-in") contest on March 16. VCU head coach Shaka Smart has done a spectacular job of teaching his players an up-tempo, in-your-face style of basketball that has propelled the program to its first round of 16 appearance.
"That’s good. I don’t know who said it, but any publicity is good publicity," Smart said. "It’s great for our program, it’s great for Virginia Commonwealth University, but what you don’t want is for that to take away from your focus on what you have to do to win."
The question about the Colonial Athletic Association runner-up is: Can VCU run-and-gun against the Seminoles (23-10), who have the top-ranked defense in the country?
"(FSU head coach) Leonard Hamilton's team enters its third consecutive NCAA Tournament ranked first nationally and first in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.360), ninth in blocked shots (6.0 bpg),10th in the nation in 3-point field goal defense (.301) and 24th in steals per game (8.5 spg). The Seminoles also rank in the top 50 nationally in rebound margin (34th, +4.5) and scoring defense (27th, 61.7 ppg)."
Those credentials alone are enough to make college basketball enthusiasts think that FSU can slow down a VCU squad that attempts 22.8 3-pointers per game and averaging 71.9 pointers per game. However, this is March Madness and stats don't always tell the whole story.
Prediction: It's going to be tough to pick against Smart, who has vaulted himself into a prime position to take a more prestigious head coaching job. (Of course, the people of Richmond, VA. hope he stays a few more years.) But I don't think that's going to be an issue for Rams fans Friday night as they roll, 78-68.
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