VCU edges Drexel, avoids Selection Sunday drama this year

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College hoops powerhouses, beware: VCU’s back in the Big Dance. And there’s no debate about it this year.

The Rams held off Drexel 59-56 in the CAA tournament final Monday night, clinching the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and avoiding any drama on Selection Sunday. Last year, the Rams were one of the last teams given an at-large bid and played in the First Four before making an historic run to the Final Four.

“It’s great,” senior Bradford Burgess said. “Last year those six days after the championship were pretty rough for us not knowing what we were going to do. Now we can sit back and chill and relax and watch some basketball.”

source: AP

Not that the CAA final didn’t have some drama.

VCU (28-6) used its pressure defense to make a 23-10 run over the final 10 minutes of the first half for a 16-point lead at the break. But Drexel (27-6), the CAA’s regular-season champs, slowly crept back into the game thanks to better ball-handling, some better shooting (star Damion Lee scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half) and some missed VCU free throws in the final minutes.

The Dragons cut it into a one-possession game, but VCU junior guard Troy Daniels hit two free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining, forcing them to try a 3-pointer for the tie. It missed, VCU batted around the loose ball and that was it.

Daniels finished with 11, while Darius Theus had a career-high 16 points and five steals.

The Rams have now won 17 of their 18 games and epitomize the word “hot” as the tournament rolls around. Their defense – no team forces turnovers at a higher rate – ensures they’ll be a handful no matter which team draws them to start.

And if a team avoids VCU, the Dragons won’t be any easier. Provided the NCAA seeding committee makes the correct call and places Drexel in the 68-team field, it’s a team capable of making the Sweet 16.

After all, this is a team that hadn’t lost since Jan. 2, a school-record run of 19 consecutive wins. It’d played a relatively soft schedule, but its on-court performance makes it worthy of inclusion. If the committee does so, it’ll certainly be the right move. CAA teams have shown as much in the past.

But don’t just take my word for it. Ask VCU coach Shaka Smart. He knows a thing or two about who belongs in.

“There’s no doubt that they’re an NCAA tournament team,” he said.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC

Big South moving 2016 conference tournament

Cliff Ellis
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The Big South is moving its 2016 men’s basketball tournament out of Coastal Carolina and a new site will be figured out by November. According to a release from the conference the Big South is using a league bylaw that stipulates that members leaving with less than two years of notice are not eligible to host championships. Coastal Carolina announced this summer that it would be leaving for the Sun Belt as of July 2016, so the Big South wants to find a new location that benefits teams staying in the league.

The Big South men’s and women’s conference tournaments are now also going to be split into two unique events, with the men’s championships being held Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6. The women’s event comes the next week from March 10-13. Bids for both events will come into the league and a new location will be selected in the next few months.

It will be interesting to see if the site of the conference tournament is moved to a campus site or placed at a neutral venue. That type of thing could alter how the NCAA tournament autobid gets played out. With Coastal Carolina coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this obviously changes their approach to the postseason now that they have to leave their city.

Virginia Tech could redshirt sophomore guard

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Virginia Tech is trying to decide what to do with injury sophomore guard Ahmed Hill, who had surgery this summer to deal with a tear in his patella tendon in his left knee.

The 6-foot-5 Hill has still not been released to work out with the team, but he is about a week to 10 days ahead of schedule in his rehab. But the injury is still nagging enough that Hill might not be healthy enough to really contritbute this season. Head coach Buzz Williams is deciding soon whether he wants to redshirt Hill or not.

Hill started a team-high 30 games for the Hokies last season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I don’t have a decision on (Hill),” Williams said to reporters on Monday. “I will make the final decision. I’ll let (him) and his mom be a part of it, but I want to make a decision using the wisdom of doing this for a long period of time. If you let a kid make the decision, they always want to play.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable that I would want to play him. It’s just too early to be able to have much more of an answer than that.”

It’s still a rebuilding year for Virginia Tech, but they do get Maryland transfer Seth Allen, who is a talented guard who can score. The Hokies were hoping to have Hill and Allen as complimentary perimeter scorers, but now the plans might have to be altered. Williams went on to say that he would like to make a decision on Hill’s status by Halloween.