VCU’s season isn’t over yet — the Rams made the NCAA tournament for the sixth year in a row as a 10-seed on Selection Sunday, following a tough 87-74 loss to the Hawks in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Rams now face 7-seed Oregon State on Friday in Oklahoma City.
“We feel a lot better even though the loss is still kind of fresh,” said senior and Oklahoma native Korey Billbury. “I’m excited to get back and play in front of my home town.”
The transfer player was one of the Rams’ prime offensive assets against St. Joe’s, registering 19 points and a spot on the A-10 All-Championship Team.
“We knew what we were supposed to do,” Billbury said after Sunday’s final game. “It wasn’t them, it was us.”
First-year head coach Will Wade was confident his team would make it to the tournament, even just minutes after the loss in the A-10 final, but said he was thrilled to know the team would be competing in Oklahoma next week.
“Give our guys credit they rallied,” Wade said. “Korey came to us for one season now he gets to play in the tournament in his home state.”
While for Billbury the first round of the NCAA tournament signifies a homecoming, and for Wade, a big moment as a first-year coach — it is perhaps most symbolic for senior Melvin Johnson, who will be competing in his fourth-straight NCAA tournament.
“Hearing our name called, guys were excited and smiling again,” Johnson said. “It’s a relief to see our name up there as an at-large bid. You have to be really fortunate to be in this position.”
Former head coach Shaka Smart’s team, 6-seed the University of Texas Austin, will also be competing in Oklahoma City on Friday against 11-seed Northern Iowa — meaning if VCU and Texas were to brush paths it could potentially happen in a Sweet 16 matchup.
In the meantime, the Rams are preparing one day at a time. Wade said the team will be sure to get some well deserved rest before turning its attention to March Madness.
“It’s nothing special as the way you prepare,” Johnson said. “It’s not like it’s the World Series. It’s just big time basketball.”
Oregon State finished 19-12 on the season and Beavers return to the tournament after a 26 year hiatus from being selected.
“They are a good team, we will need to play well but we are excited about the opportunity,” Wade said.
Sports Editor, Bryant Drayton
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