Pay no attention to the mid-major behind the curtain. They might have lost and currently feel dejected, but they are still becoming the great and powerful VCU Rams. Outside of my horrible movie reference, VCU did actually lose in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
In fact, the Rams didn’t only lose, but lost in a murder-death-kill type of fashion (two movie references!). Still, that does not mean this year was a failure.
VCU has started on the path of some other mid-majors. Gone are the days where the Rams would need to win a conference tournament to get a pair of dancing slippers. They now, thanks to recent success, are a program who are awarded at-large births with the same frequency as a team from one of the power conferences. This would have not been the case pre-Shaka Smart awesomeness.
The next big key for VCU is conference and coach stability — the best they can do is keep being the program that they have become and hope the universities around them strive to improve.
That still leaves Smart, the apple of every athletic director’s eye. VCU need not do a fake extension and “lock him up for 10 years.” We already figured that game out, Smart has an out-clause put in there so he can escape when his dream job opens up — that dream job being more money than you can throw a stick at.
Smart has already passed up a bunch of other jobs to stay at VCU, meaning he probably really likes it there and would like to stay. Not that it is as simple as this, but the Rams’ athletic department needs to dig deep in their sofa cushions and throw as much coin at Smart as humanly possible.
The Rams are starting to build something pretty special. Despite an early out in the big dance, the entry to it without reservation shows they are on their way to national relevancy. Hopefully a stupid little thing like not paying Smart millions of dollars won’t keep them from becoming the next big thing.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone