ON A PLANE ABOVE THE U.S. (WWBT) - I'm currently en route to San Antonio, and the first thing I think about is how lucky I am to have come to this city at the perfect time for a sports reporter.
The two teams reaching the Sweet Sixteen are, by themselves, two of the biggest sports stories in decades in Richmond. But to have them both be happening at the same time, and playing at the same site, make this a one-in-a-forever occurrence. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
With the national media negativity swirling around VCU, it seems obvious to say they are the bigger surprise. But their road was certainly tougher than the Spiders. The way they soundly beat the three teams in their way, did much more than prove their naysayers wrong -- it made them one of the scariest teams to play left in this tournament.
Not to take anything away from the Spiders, but their road was considerably easier. Granted, they earned a tough victory over higher seeded Vanderbilt, but, the Commodores were a weak 5 seed and UR was a strong 12 seed. It could have just as easily been a 7-10 game. Then, Richmond torched a Morehead State team they were clearly better than.
The Sweet Sixteen match ups certainly act as the big equalizer in this scenario -- UR gets one of the championship favorites in Kansas, while VCU gets rewarded by playing another double digit seed in Florida State. The Rams game, in my mind, is a 50/50 tossup.
Richmond is a serious underdog, but the Spiders are not treating themselves that way.
While VCU fires itself up on being doubted, and that "no one believes in us" mentality, Richmond had a quiet confidence, and they don't seem to let what other people think, or what the seeds say, effect their psyches.
It is a contrast in styles, which certainly mirrors the contrast in their coaches. We'll see if either can get their teams to the Final Four.