Four years is an eternity in the college basketball world. Entire recruiting classes who began their careers full of hope, potential and promise have moved on. Many coaching tenures don’t last four years.
The magical Final Four run will reach its four-year anniversary at the conclusion of the season this March. The legendary 2011 NCAA tournament run from First Four to Final Four put VCU as a university on the national map, and its impact is still felt throughout the campus.
However, with the graduation of Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic last spring, no players remain from the 2011 team. Only head coach Shaka Smart and assistant coach Mike Morrell were on the coaching staff that made the trip to Houston.
This is the seniors’ last chance to leave their own legacy and remove themselves from the shadow of the Final Four team. Jarred Guest said he feels it’s a reasonable expectation.
“That was definitely a big win for VCU itself, so that’s something that people are just going to hold on to because it was a great accomplishment,” Guest said. “But just to have our own team, and have everybody know us for us, that’s definitely a big thing.”
Just because the Rams haven’t reached the Sweet 16 and beyond since 2011 doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a tremendous level of success since then.
The Rams reached their fourth-straight NCAA tournament and were a five-seed in the past two tournaments. They have won 26 or more games in Smart’s five-year tenure, something that only Duke University and Syracuse University have accomplished in the same time frame.
From an individual standpoint, the seniors have been arguably one of the best classes ever. Seniorguard/forward Treveon Graham has a chance to break VCU’s all time scoring record and senior guard Briante Weber is on pace to break the NCAA all-time steals record.
Regular season accomplishments and individual records aside, college basketball teams are judged on how they perform in March. Many fans tend to forget that VCU finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular season standings in 2011.
Although he is not a senior, guard Melvin Johnson is a junior with valuable tournament experience. The lone junior on the roster said that in order to achieve the team goal of making a deep NCAA tournament, the team has broken the vision down into smaller goals.
“The past two years the goals have been to get back to the Final Four, those goals are still attainable but not as realistic as getting to the second weekend,” Johnson said. “So that’s actually one of our goals this year, outside of winning the conference championship, is making it to the second weekend, and from that point on, whatever happens, so be it.”
There is always an added sense of urgency when seniors enter their final seasons. This is especially true of the class of 2015 due to the Final Four run that occurred while they were in high school shortly after some had committed to VCU.
After winning five game in the 2011 tournament, the Rams have only won two tournament games in the past three postseasons.
The team is eager to prove that the Final Four run wasn’t a fluke and potentially even do better than that this March.
“A lot of times coach Smart says of the Final Four, no one else except him and one other coach experienced it, so why not go back,” Graham said. “ We want to do our best to get back to the Final Four and even further if we can”.