Sizing Up the Opposition: VCU

In its 30-plus years as a Division I-A men's basketball program, Virginia Commonwealth University -- based in Richmond, Va. with nearly 30,000 students -- previously listed a win against Louisville to open its new basketball arena in 1999 as the school's best athletic victory.

After the first round in the NCAA Tournament Thursday, VCU fans likely will call for a new vote. The Rams stunned Duke 79-77 on a last-second jumper by 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Eric Maynor to earn a matchup with No. 3 seed Pitt (28-7) Saturday at 5:40 p.m. at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.

VCU (28-6) has not advanced to the NCAA Tournament's second round since 1985. The victory also came in Coach Anthony Grant's first tourney appearance. He was an assistant at Florida the past 10 seasons and Gators coach Billy Donovan's top lieutenant in the NCAA title run last spring.

The Rams were led by Maynor with 22 points in 39 minutes against Duke, while 6-4 senior guard Jesse Pellot-Rosa and 6-3 junior guard Jamal Shuler tallied 14 points each. Also, 6-7 junior forward Michael Anderson and 6-2 senior guard B.A. Walker had 10 points apiece, and 6-7 junior forward Wil Fameni had eight points. Other players include 6-4 freshman forward T.J. Gwynn, 5-10 senior guard Matt Coward, 6-7 senior forward Franck Ndongo and 6-10 senior center Calvin Roland.

Walker is VCU's leading scorer with 14.8 points per game, while Maynor and Pellot-Rosa average 13.6 and 13 points, respectively. Fameni averages 9.2 points per game, and Shuler -- the first player off the bench -- is at 8.4 points. Anderson is the other starter.

Along with Virginia Commonwealth, Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Georgia State, Hofstra, James Madison, UNC-Wilmington, Northeastern, Towson, Old Dominion and William and Mary comprise the Colonial Athletic Association. ODU and VCU were the CAA's NCAA Tournament teams. Drexel and Hofstra made it to the National Invitation Tournament. VCU was the only first-round winner.

Pitt is just 1-3 in its previous games against VCU. The Panthers lost 76-73 in overtime Dec. 17, 2000, in Richmond, Va. in the most recent matchup. It was Ben Howland's second season as Pitt's head coach. The Panthers also lost 64-60 the season at Fitzgerald Field House Dec. 23, 1999.

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