When VCU won the ESPYs award for "Best Upset", it capped an amazing season for the CAA. Three teams in the NCAA Tournament, one team in the Final Four, former CAA players making a mark in the NBA playoffs and a second round draft pick in the NBA Draft.
And the CAA didn’t disappoint their fans on Bracketbuster weekend. Four of those teams won their televised games. That Friday night, VCU won at Wichita State on two game ending free throws by Joey Rodriguez. Afterwards, Drexel dominated Kent State. Hofstra would lose their Saturday morning game at Wright State, but George Mason would rally to win at Northern Iowa later that evening. Finally on Sunday, ODU convincingly won at home vs. Cleveland State. #3BidsForCAA was now in full force.
As the second half of the season progressed, it was clear that Jenkins was receiving consideration for All American honors. Jenkins would be torrid for the entire season shooting more than 50 percent from the field, including 42 percent from three. He set the Hofstra scoring record and had his jersey retired before his last game at the Mack Center. And his game tying and game winning shots vs. William Mary at home on February 15 (on no less my birthday) became a top ESPN Sportscenter highlight and a viral sensation. Jenkins was now not only garnering national attention, but significant attention by NBA teams. Twenty-seven NBA scouts witnessed his 28 point performance vs. Georgia State.
Entering, that first weekend in March, the 2011 CAA Tournament so reminded me of the 2006 CAA Tournament. You had a significant number of teams in the top 100 of the RPI just like 2006. And just like 2006, it was assumed that two CAA teams would make the NCAA Tournament. Finally, George Mason was ranked in the Top 25 just like it had been briefly in 2006. The stage was set for a memorable tournament.
After struggling at the end of the regular season, VCU redeemed themselves in Richmond. After a rock fight win over #5 Drexel in the quarterfinals, the Rams stunned and absolutely dominated #1 George Mason in the semifinals in front of a very loud somewhat partisan Richmond Coliseum crowd. The talk of #3Bids4CAA kindled anew after the win over the Patriots.
Then the bids were announced on CBS and VCU was named one of the teams in the First Four games to be played on Tuesday. #3Bids4CAA had become a reality! But the outcries came out from the supposed experts, including one Jay Bilas who noted that VCU "failed the laugh test." It would turn out that the Rams would have the last laugh.
In the First Four, VCU came out and stymied USC's offense. The Rams forced fifteen Trojans' turnovers and USC would have 21 less FG attempts in the game. VCU would win the second ever First Four at large bid game in convincing fashion 59-46.
much to the chagrin of Defiantly Dutch. Then on Friday night, VCU flat out dominated Georgetown, using twelve three pointers to bomb the Hoyas out of Chicago 74-56.
In the second round, the Patriots stormed out to a 11-2 lead over the Buckeyes. But Ohio State went on a 50-15 run and George Mason was eliminated in Cleveland. Mason would suffer another loss a few months later when long time coach Jim Larranaga left Fairfax for the sun and the sand at the University of Miami.
In the Sweet Sixteen, VCU took on defensive minded Florida State. The game went into overtime where Brandon Burgess took an inbounds pass from Joey Rodriguez for the game winning layup as the Rams knocked off the Seminoles 72-71. The First Four team from Richmond was now in the Elite Eight against mighty #1 seed Kansas.
The Rams would face another mid major in the Bulldogs of Butler in the National Semifinals, giving Mid Major fans everywhere a guaranteed mid major team in the final for the second year in a row. As hard as they tried though, it wasn't going to be the Rams. Butler held off VCU 70-62 and the Rams' magical run ended on the court of Reliant Stadium. But VCU truly excelled in the tournament, where the Rams each beat a team from the PAC-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12. Four of those wins were by double digits.