Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 3/28/2011 [Archive]

Rooting for the Underdog

Rooting for the Underdog

By Martha Randolph Carr

At last, the rest of America is about to finally find out about a great public university that's not only affordable but consistently is coming out on top. It only took a little trash talking by others, a great coach and some basketball. My alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, an urban school in a sea of better known Virginia schools beat the favored Kansas in the NCAA March Madness on Sunday to move on to the Final Four.

For the past month all of the commentators have been saying VCWho and snickering over their very little joke. ESPN's Jay Bilas said we didn't even belong in the NCAA running. It seemed impossible to everyone that VCU could march past basketball powerhouses USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and number one seed, Kansas to at last make it to the Final Four.

In fact, ESPN now reports that due to the 8th seed Butler upset and now the 11th seed VCU vs. Butler matchup next Saturday, only two out of over 159 million brackets got the Final Four right. Only 6.9 percent of brackets even got those four teams advancing out of the second round. Everyone else, but two guys whose names I'd like to know, is done for the season, including President Obama who picked Kansas.

Check with me next time, I could have let you in on the most obvious secret out there among college hoops and even college academics.

Just like Kansas player Marcus Morris learned, who was trash talking just before the start of Sunday's game and told VCU's senior point guard, Joey Rodriguez, 'You guys have had a nice run but now it's over,' don't underestimate us.

Rodriguez responded with his team by trouncing Kansas with a 71-61 victory. VCU player Jamie Skeen led the way with 26 points and 10 rebounds and was backed up by an entire team just doing their jobs and getting it done.

VCU has the largest student population in Virginia but the least amount of recognition even though VCU Chemistry Professor John B. Fenn won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and topped it by getting elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. The public university also has become one of the best art schools in the country and was ranked number one last year by U.S. News & World Report Magazine. Their emerging creative writing program was even ranked in the top 50.

Not only did the VCU Rams Men's basketball team win five games to get to the Final Four, the longest march by any of the finalists but they did it with an entire team playing well instead of just one or two key players. That's thanks to their 33 year old coach, Shaka Smart who's been playing all of the mockumentaries for the players all along to get them fired up and matched that with great coaching instead of inflated predictions. He knew they had the right stuff and the VCU Rams went out there and proved it.

ESPN commentator Charles Barkley who knows basketball from the inside out got it right when he said, 'Now VCU can tell everybody else to shut the hell up.' Apparently Bilas didn't get the memo and is still walking around saying he was somehow right about keeping VCU out of the tournament. Wonder how his brackets are doing.

Unlike George Mason, who's in the Colonial Athletic Association with VCU and got to the Final Four in 2006 with an average win of just over six points, VCU has steadily done it with an average of 12 points and a 12-6 season. Now, we march on to next Saturday and play Butler, the other Cinderella in this magical NCAA season.

The VCU Rams, their students and all of their alumni are going to take their hard won, long standing attitude of 'just watch me' onto the floor and under the spotlights and show everybody, we knew all along.

I'm a graduate of VCU and I get it. I've been told I'd never make it as a writer and my agent is now shopping my 4th book, a thriller set in Richmond by the way, and I was told I'd never make it into the ranks of syndicated columnists but here I am and then more recently was told I was dying of cancer in a year but that just didn't happen. You see, it's never about what anyone else thinks of you or what you can do. It's only what you believe you're bringing to the game that matters. Go Rams! Tweet me @MarthaRandolph and let me know what you think of the March Madness. Email Martha at

© 2011 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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