Reliving the magical run to the Final Four

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball has a tradition of making the NCAA Tournament, playing in the Big Dance eight of the last nine.

The streak dates back to 2011, when the Rams made their magical run from the First Four to the Final Four — the first team to accomplish the feat.

The bid to the tournament in 2011 was something few people on campus thought would come to fruition, as the Rams were on the bubble to get in. There was so much uncertainty that coach Shaka Smart did not even hold a viewing party with the team, a common trend today.

When Adam Stern, the sports editor of The CT, found out the Rams were in the tournament, he was driving on the highway headed home from Richmond.

“I remember when I was on my way home, I was on the interstate, and I was driving up and my buddy was just updating,” Stern said. “And all the sudden he said we made it. We weren’t even watching the live [broadcast], and I remember just flipping out.”

The Rams were selected to face the University of Southern California in the First Four days after Selection Sunday. So, Stern and two others were sent to Dayton, Ohio, by the Student Media Center to cover the tournament game.

VCU ended up cruising past USC and were slated to face Georgetown in the First Round in Chicago, so just like the team jetted to the next location, Stern and company followed days later.

The Rams trounced Georgetown just like USC, and CT staff started to realize the run was becoming something historic.

“We went to Chicago,” Stern said. “I think we beat Southern California by like 10 to 15 points and sure enough again, we blew out Georgetown. That’s when we started realizing it was something special going on.”

The CT trio trekked through the entire tournament covering the Rams run, traveling from Chicago to San Antonio, Texas, where the Rams faced Florida State in the Sweet 16.

“We had basically won three blowout games in a row. Finally, Florida State gives us a tough game, and we end up winning on a basically a buzzer-beater by Richmond native and legend Bradford Burgess,” Stern said. “Next thing you know, we’re in the Elite Eight.”

Burgess’ buzzer-beating shot put the Rams in the Elite Eight against Kansas. Stern said that he thought the run was going to come to an end facing the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks.

“I thought we might win because we were playing incredible. But in the back of my mind I was like, OK, like you’re being unrealistic. Today’s when you go home,” Stern said.

After the Rams beat Kansas and clinched a spot in the Final Four, Broad Street was flooded with VCU students and fans celebrating the win. Stern said during the postgame press conference, the players watched videos of the party in the street.

With the Rams playing on the national stage, Stern rubbed shoulders with many sports writers and personalities he read and saw on television every day.

“Walking in the media center, you’re walking next to guys like that who have been covering college basketball for like 20, 30 years,” Stern said. “Greg Doyle at that time, who is now with the Indianapolis Star, he was a big CBS sports writer and I got to meet him.”

Stern and company also had an interesting encounter in a restaurant at the Elite Eight in San Antonio, Texas.

Pat Forde, a sports writer for Yahoo, bought the CT trio a round of drinks at the restaurant.

“We went out to a bar and literally Pat Forde, the Yahoo writer, was there,” Stern said. “One way or another he ended up realizing that this table of us were VCU fans, and literally like Pat Forde just bought us a round.”

The experience was a lasting memory and one Stern said he will never forget — when Forde bought them drinks.

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