Of all the college basketball hotbeds – North Carolina’s Triangle; Philly; Metro Washington, D.C.; even Boston and New York City if you’re looking for sheer quantity – Richmond, Virginia is not one of them.
A few upsets here and some stellar shooting performances there, and The River City is feeling pretty important right now, as it’s home to two of the 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament. Yes that’s right, Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth still stand, as each yearn to be crowed this year’s true Cinderella Story.
To put things into perspective, here are some much larger land masses that can’t lay claim to that distinction; places that do not have two teams playing in the Sweet 16.
- The State of California
- The Pacific Time Zone
- The Northeast Megalopolis- The area of land beginning in Washington, D.C. and extending up to Boston, home to 43+ million people.
- China – Home to 1.33 billion people.
How crazy is that?
A city of just 204,000 residents, which may be best known for the setting of politician Patrick Henry’s 1775 “Give me Liberty of Give me Death” speech that set into motion colonial Virginia’s revolution and subsequent independence, is now home to two established universities just a pair of victories away from the Final Four. Even cooler, both teams are in the same region, meaning they’re just one victory away from actually playing against each other for the right to play in the Final Four!
It’s clear that while big name programs like Kansas, UNC and Duke still remain, Richmond and VCU are still getting their share of national attention. Spiders head coach Chris Mooney is the game’s hottest young coach, likely springboarding off this run to greener pastures, so his name is connected to all major vacancies. For VCU, Purdue head coach Matt Painter told the media after his Boilermakers were waxed by the Rams that he was just beaten by “a championship caliber team.”
While the two square off in a non-conference battle each and every season, Richmond-VCU doesn’t quite have the bloody hatred, name-recognition rivalry that projects to a national level. The Spiders did get the best of the Rams at the Robins Center back in December, snapping a six-game losing streak against their cross-town brethren from the CAA.
But that’s sort of irrelevant right now. The mere fact that this mid-sized city has two teams advancing this far in such a captivating event is just a blast to see unfold.