By Steve Ginsburg
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Virginia Commonwealth's offense has given new meaning to the term March Madness and the Rams look to lure Butler into the same frenetic style when the two teams meet in the NCAA Tournament semi-finals on Saturday.
While VCU will race up and down the court at every opportunity, Butler prefers to run a half-court offense and wait for a mistake by the defense.
"In terms of our energy and enthusiasm as a team, I don't think there's any other way to play," VCU coach Shaka Smart said on Friday. "I don't think there's any other way to coach.
"We're in the Final Four. What more can you say? It's a phenomenal opportunity for us. Opportunities multiply as they're seized.
"And we want to seize them with all the energy we have."
The winner of the VCU-Butler game will play either Kentucky or Connecticut for the national championship on Monday at Reliant Stadium.
Smart, 33, said the Rams' style of play helps him recruit players to the 32,000-student public university in Richmond.
"The great thing is when we play other guys that also like playing that way -- but maybe that's not their style of play -- sometimes we're able to get those guys seduced into playing that way."
Smart, whose unheralded team defeated Southern California 59-46 just to get in to the main draw of the tournament, is not sure Butler can be baited into a run-and-gun style of play.
"They're not going to just start playing your way because you ask them to. You have to force them to. That's going to be a battle of wills."
VCU's game plan has worked so far, as the Rams have upset Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and Southwest Region top seed Kansas en route to their first Final Four.
While VCU is in unchartered territory, the Bulldogs are playing in their second straight Final Four despite having lost their best player from a year ago, underclassman Gordon Hayward, to the Utah Jazz of the NBA.
"Every year you dream about going to the Final Four but it doesn't happen for a lot of people," said Butler junior guard Ronald Nored. "Even though we went last year, it sure doesn't feel like an old habit."
Led by seniors Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen, VCU is not about to abandon the accelerated offense over the last two weeks that put them on college basketball's biggest stage.
Smart said his players love to sprint.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)