Brad Burgess has been an important piece of the puzzle for VCU for a long time. How long? Well, on Sunday evening, Burgess broke Patrick Ewing’s NCAA record for most consecutive starts with 143 which not only speaks to his longevity, but his consistency and ability from the moment he set foot on campus.
In other words, Burgess was never not a key piece to the VCU attack during his career and, as such, has become a beloved figure for the Rams as the only senior on the roster.
Last Saturday, VCU hosted George Mason on Burgess’ Senior Night. But as they honored Burgess at center court, George Mason took the floor for their layup lines. You can watch the video here. VCU was clearly bothered by it and took out their frustrations on the Patriots, getting up by as much as 20 in the first half as they cruised to a 89-77 win.
But grudges die hard. Playing the Patriots for the second time in Richmond in the span of eight days, VCU jumped out to a 32-4 lead — that’s not a typo — before cruising to a 74-64 win in the CAA semifinals. My question: were the Rams still peeved about the stunt that George Mason pulled on Senior Night?
“We’ve moved beyond that,” head coach Shaka Smart said with a wry smile. “We’ve put that behind us. I’m not going to say it wasn’t necessarily in certain guys’ minds, but we were focused on winning this game so we could advance.”
Good answer, Shaka. Starting point guard Darius Theus was a little more verbose on the subject.
“We just went out there and tried our best to get their respect. What they did was very disrespectful,” Theus said. “We just wanted to go out and show George Mason that they may be a good team, but we’re a good team also.”
I think you did just that, Darius.
But I think you showed it to a lot more people that just George Mason. Look, VCU is young. After losing four seniors off of last year’s Final Four team, they have a lot of underclassmen playing in expanded roles. Sometimes it takes a while for those youngsters to develop and grow into the player their team needs them to be. That’s precisely what happened with VCU.
And now the Rams are rolling. They’ve won 16 of their last 17 games, with the only loss coming on a buzzer-beater against George Mason at George Mason (who they have beaten handily twice since then). They press, their force turnovers, they shoot a lot of threes and when they get hot, well, you know what can happen.
The Rams will play Drexel on Monday night at 7 p.m. for the right to a stress-free Selection Sunday.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.