SAN ANTONIO - Move over, Butler. Virginia Commonwealth is crashing the party.
Two weeks ago, the 11th-seeded Rams so doubted they would get a NCAA tournament invite that they watched Cartoon Network and went out for burgers instead of watching the selection show. Now, all of America will be watching them in the Final Four.
The 11th-seeded Rams are heading to Houston, and top-seed Kansas is heading home after a major upset.
VCU stunned the Jayhawks, 71-61, on Sunday, becoming just the third 11th seed to reach the Final Four. The Jayhawks had been the last top seed remaining, but what looked like an easy path to the Final Four ended in a stunning collapse.
“Once again we felt like nobody really thought we could win going into this game,” said VCU coach Shaka Smart. “Our guys have done a phenomenal job of putting all the doubters aside, all the people that didn’t believe in us, and going out to do their job.”
VCU guard Joey Rodriguez counted one of Kansas’ vaunted Morris twins — Marcus or Markieff — as one of those many doubters. During a pregame meeting with officials, Rodriguez said one of the brothers offered him some parting words: “The run ends here.”
“We’ll see,” Rodriguez countered.
Jamie Skeen led VCU with 26 points, and as the final seconds ticked away, heaved the ball from the free throw line into the stands.
Kansas players trudged off the court. Several, including Markieff Morris, cried.
“Probably the best game they played ever,” Markieff said. “Probably the best game ever as a school tonight. We let them. We let them beat us.”
Smart was guided from one interview to another wearing the cut-down net around his neck.
The celebration even carried to other arenas. In Newark, N.J., where Kentucky was playing North Carolina, the crowd erupted when the final score was announced.
The Rams needed five wins to go from First Four to Final Four. Along the way, they toppled the Pacific-10 Conference’s Southern California, the Big East’s Georgetown, the Big 10’s Purdue, the ACC’s Florida State and now the Big 12’s Kansas.
They’ll pick on someone their own size next: Butler.
The Jayhawks spent the first half in a haze.
Kansas (36-3), which hadn’t trailed by more than two points in the tournament, was down by 17 five minutes before halftime.
Marcus Morris had 20 points and 16 rebounds, and his brother had 13 and 12. They played in disbelief as VCU used the long ball to bury the Jayhawks early.
The Rams hit 9 of their 12 3-pointers in the first half to build a 41-27 lead.
Kansas cut it to 46-44 with 13:11 to play, but a 10-2 VCU run put the Jayhawks back on their heels.
VCU (28-11) matches fellow Colonial Athletic Association member George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986 as 11th seeds to reach the Final Four.
This is the third Final Four since ’79 with no No. 1s; the first with no No. 2s as well.