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Shaka Smart turns downs Illinois


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I heard an interview with Patsos the other day.

He talked about the pressure teams like George Mason and VCU have put on the small schools/mid major programs.

He said that even a school like VCU, has a bball budget 5 times the size of Loyola and the difference in arena(ie attendance) makes it very hard for a school like Loyola to even contend on their level.

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From the press release issued today by VCU. http://www.vcuathletics.com/sports/mbkb/2011-12/releases/201203212y4slr

"I am very grateful for the support and belief in the coaching staff and basketball program that comes from the very top of our university's leadership -- President Rao, Athletic Director Norwood Teague and the VCU Board of Visitors ? as well as our phenomenal fans," Smart said. "There are great things to accomplish at VCU and I'm looking forward to building on the successes of our program and university."

I am thrilled that Shaka is staying. For him to turn down four BCS schools over the last 2 seasons speaks volumes that he is here to build this program into something that can maintain success year after year.

I'm sure people will say he's making a big mistake by not "moving up", but who's to say Illinois is moving up for him? Obviously UI has a long and storied basketball history, but maybe Shaka wants to build something himself here at VCU and become the "Gonzaga of the East." This season, he had the 9th youngest team in the country and turned out 29 wins (a school record), won the CAA tournament, sold out every home game (one of only 5 schools to do that this year), and went back to the NCAA Tournament where he lead his team to an upset over 5th seed Wichita State and narrowly missed beating Indiana.

Next season he only loses one player, Bradford Burgess. Yes, that's a big loss, but with most of the team coming back (all his recruits) and some pretty good recruits coming in (including Brad's younger brother Jordan, an ESPN top 100 recruit), I think he's got the team the way he wants it.

Go Rams Go!

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I heard an interview with Patsos the other day.

He talked about the pressure teams like George Mason and VCU have put on the small schools/mid major programs.

He said that even a school like VCU, has a bball budget 5 times the size of Loyola and the difference in arena(ie attendance) makes it very hard for a school like Loyola to even contend on their level.

When we think in terms of basketball we see all of these teams as small, "mid-major" programs. But VCU has 24,000 undergrads and a 7,500-seat arena. George Mason is 20,000 and 10,000, respectively. These are major public universities that have just never competed at that level, and there is no reason why they can't, other than tradition, if they want to spend the money.

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When we think in terms of basketball we see all of these teams as small, "mid-major" programs. But VCU has 24,000 undergrads and a 7,500-seat arena. George Mason is 20,000 and 10,000, respectively. These are major public universities that have just never competed at that level, and there is no reason why they can't, other than tradition, if they want to spend the money.

While the whole "mid-major" label is a matter of opinion, I consider teams like VCU to not be mid-major. They are a perennial contending team with NCAA tournament success. The CAA is a mid=major conference. VCU and GMU are not mid-majors. Likewise for Gonzaga in the WCC and Xavier/Temple in the A10.

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Couple things:

I hope Smart is making a good decision. Some guys want to build their own, some want to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Not going to classify him in any way, if he is happy at VCU, good for him. I hope his recent success there is sustainable - I do not get the feeling Brad Stevens is turning away four and five star guys. Maybe Smart can attract quality talent on a sustainable basis.

IMO, dominating the CAA is not a very lofty goal. Ending the year with a strength of schedule in the 130s is not a great way to build a program to any sort of elite status.

If Smart can attract the 4 and 5 star guys to VCU and make that sustainable, then good for him - he's probably making the right decision. If not, he is turning down a top 15-22 program where he would likely - because IMO he could attract better talent and - have better teams entering the NCAAs.

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