Yes, Virginia Commonwealth belongs in the NCAA tournament.
The real question is: Who can stop the Rams?
Fresh, fast, furious and at times flawless, VCU didn’t look a bit like a team playing its third game in five nights. The Rams pressured Purdue, broke through its defense for numerous layups, and overwhelmed the third-seeded Boilermakers of the Big Ten, 94-76, on Sunday in Chicago to earn their first trip to the round of 16.
As their fans chanted “VCU, VCU,” players hugged and celebrated on the floor of the United Center. What a trip — what a week — it has been. Now it’s on to San Antonio for the 11th-seeded Rams (26-11) to play 10th-seeded Florida State on Friday in the Southwest Regional semifinals.
It was just a week ago the Rams received an at-large bid to the disbelief of some critics. Shuttled off to Dayton for a “First Four” game, they beat Southern Cal on Wednesday, got into Chicago in the wee hours Thursday, routed Georgetown on Friday and then did the same to the Boilermakers.
“A week ago, we thought we were done,” said relentless point guard Joey Rodriguez, who had 12 points, 11 assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes.
“And now, we’re here in the Sweet 16. Anything can happen now.”
Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose Boilermakers (26-8) were denied a third straight trip to the round of 16, agreed.
“If you watched VCU a certain time in the season you wouldn’t see what you just watched out there,” Painter said. “Then you watch them during a four- or five-game stretch and you literally think, ‘They can beat any team in the country.’ ”
Bradford Burgess scored 23 points, and the Rams’ depth wore the Boilermakers down.
Kansas 73, Illinois 59: In a bracket filled with upsets, the top-seeded Jayhawks are jumping for joy.
Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds, powering Kansas past Illinois in Tulsa, Okla.
The twins scored 24 of Kansas’ first 29 points in the second half, punctuated by consecutive two-handed slams by Markieff that made it 62-51 with 3:51 to play.
The Jayhawks (34-2) avoided revisiting their loss to another No. 9 seed, Northern Iowa, exactly a year earlier. Instead, they’re moving on in a bracket filled with underdogs.
No. 11 seed VCU and 12th-seeded Richmond will join them in the Southwest regional semifinals in San Antonio. Kansas plays Richmond on Friday.
Mike Davis led the Fighting Illini (20-14) with 17 points and seven rebounds. Star point guard Demetri McCamey was held to six points and seven assists.
Florida State 71, Notre Dame 57: Bernard James scored 14 points, and the Seminoles (23-10) showed there’s more to their game than defense with an upset of the second-seeded Fighting Irish (27-7) in Chicago that puts Florida State in the regional semifinals for the first time since 1993.
It was an impressive effort by the 10th-seeded Seminoles, who face upstart VCU in a Southwest regional semifinal Friday in San Antonio.