Sorry Butler, the team that's saving trees is a much better underdog story:VCU's slim fight
SAN ANTONIO — There are underdogs and there are underdogs.
It's the difference between the fuss over Sarah Jessica Parker celebrating her 46th birthday and an average businesswoman having a birthday. Even in the Southwest Regional — the NCAA Tournament's Cinderella regional — the difference between the little haves and the little have not are pronounced.
And you can start with the media guides. These are the books of info that every athletic program in the country produces. They're reputed to be for the media, resources for reporters covering stories, but they turned into recruiting tools decades ago. They're now something to send to potential players, a bulky reminder of a program's big-time stature.
No. 1 seed Kansas' media guide is thicker than the textbook for most 400-level college history courses — with many, many more glossy photos. Tenth seed Florida State isn't quite Jayhawk huge, but it's in the same ballpark. Double digit side regardless, the Seminoles play in the ACC. Free Shoes University certainly doesn't do small time. Twelfth seed Richmond's media guide is more modest, but it's still a full, larger than 8 by 11 size book with plenty of colorful photos.
The Spiders have a long history of upsetting big-time coaches in the NCAA Tournament (just ask Bobby Knight). Richmond's been borderline March big time for decades.
Then, you get to Virginia Commonwealth University's media guide.
VCU's is more like a slightly bulked-up pamphlet. It's one fourth as wide as Kansas' monster. It's a bad teenage-novel-light 136 pages total. It doesn't have a single color photo inside. If Kansas and VCU's media guides got in a fight it would be the equivalent of Brock Lesnar taking on a fifth grader.
Here's your real underdog.
How can you not root for the team that's saving thousands of trees — because it doesn't have that much money?
Butler over in the Southeast Regional. Please. The Bulldogs are college basketball royalty compared to the Rams.
Eleventh-seed VCU had to play in the contrived First Four to even get into the 64-team main bracket (in fact the Rams' grinding down of USC is the game that seemed to drive First Four critics most mad). This is the only team in the Sweet 16 that's had to win three games to get there. If there's a 68-team in the 68-team field, it's VCU.
And now, the Rams are playing in the Sweet 16 game that will be probably be the least noticed of all: VCU vs. Florida State.
"I saw someone had us rated 16th out of the 16 teams still left (coming into the regionals)," VCU coach Shaka Smart said.
No wonder why Smart pulled off an old-fashioned publicity stunt in San Antonio, cajoling former NBA 3-point shooting specialist Steve Kerr (a TNT/CBS analyst who is calling the Friday night games) into a shooting contest with one of his players. That player — senior point guard Joey Rodriguez — promptly wiped out Kerr, hitting 9-of-10 treys, compared to Kerr's 6-of-10 effort.
"I thought Kerr would kill him," Smart laughed.
No he didn't. This true underdog was just toying with another big name.
Maybe, Rodriguez's feat will warrant a page in next year's media guide. Or a paragraph. Without a picture.
Hey, space is tight for a real Cinderella.