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Rams butt heads with Shockers in second-round affair

The 12th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth Rams seeded Wichita State Shockers in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at Portland's Rose Garden.

VCU made sure it was not one of the teams crossing its fingers on Selection Sunday by defeating the top-seeded Drexel Dragons in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament title game. The Rams were praised last season after a phenomenal performance in the NCAA Tournament which ended in the Final Four. Coach Shaka Smart and his team were expected to fall off a bit this season as the team lost several key contributors from last season's deep run. The new cast stepped up and led the Rams to a program record 28 wins along the way to their automatic bid. VCU comes in having won 17 of its last 18 games. The Rams are balanced and finished third in the CAA in both scoring offense (68.4 ppg) and scoring defense (59.8 ppg).

Wichita State won the competitive Missouri Valley Conference's regular season title, but suffered a 65-64 setback to Illinois State in the league's tournament. The Shockers earned an at-large bid after an outstanding regular season, in which they defeated Colorado and UNLV in their non-conference slate before finishing with a 16-2 record versus MVC opponents. Coach Gregg Marshall guided the program to the 2010-2011 NIT title, and will look to build upon that success on the grand stage. WSU reached the Sweet 16 in 2005-2006, which was its last time in the NCAA Tournament.

This tournament bout will break the 1-1 all-time series tie between VCU and the Shockers. The Rams defeated WSU, 68-67, on Feb. 18, 2011 in last season's annual BracketBuster event.

The Rams are ranked third in the CAA in scoring offense with an average of 68.4 ppg. They also are ranked third in scoring defense as they have held opponents to only 59.8 ppg. Bradford Burgess provides leadership for an otherwise inexperienced squad. Burgess leads the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg, which is slightly down from his junior year average. Burgess had multiple big time performances in last year's tournament, including a 26-point showing in the Elite Eight versus Florida State. Forward Juvonte Reddic contributes 10.6 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game while Troy Daniels contributed 10.0 ppg. Rob Brandenberg and point guard Darius Theus are also important role players who will be called upon in big situations by Smart.

Wichita State has been dominant this season and outscored its opposition by 15.2 ppg. The Shockers are a strong rebounding and defensive team, but have the ability to light it up as well. WSU has a much more overall experience. Marshall is starting four seniors and a junior while utilizing a junior and senior as his top two reserves. Center Garrett Stutz is going to be a problem for VCU. The senior big man averaged team-bests of 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game with his complete offensive game. Despite being seven feet tall, Stutz has the ability to knock down outside shots as well, which makes him a very tough matchup. Joe Ragland is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg, while Toure' Murry is providing 12.2 points and 3.3 assists per outing. Ben Smith, David Kyles, and Carl Hall will see a considerable amount of action.