There’s still a pulse

Fred Jeter | 3/21/2024, 6 p.m.
It wasn’t exactly what it wanted, but VCU will take it.

It wasn’t exactly what it wanted, but VCU will take it.

After falling to Duquesne, 57-51, in the A-10 finals and being denied an NCAA berth, the Rams made travel plans for Philadelphia to face top-seed Villanova in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

The game was set for 9 p.m. Wednesday night. VCU was leading 31-30 at halftime and at Free Press deadline. The winner advances to play March 23 or 24 against the survivor of Central Florida vs. South Florida on a campus site. VCU is 22-13 while Villanova is 18-15.

This would be the second-ever match between VCU and Villanova. The Wildcats defeated the Rams in 2014.

NIT quarterfinals will be March 26 and 27 on campuses. The Final Four will be April 2 and 4 in Indianapolis.

A player of interest for ‘Nova is senior forward Tyler Burton, who transferred to the Big East school from University of Richmond, where he was an All A-10 selection. Burton averages eight points for the ‘Cats.

Three out of four: The Rams, seeded fifth for the A-10 tourney, defeated Fordham, Massachusetts and St. Joseph’s to reach the final, telecast on CBS.

The Rams, then under coach Mike Rhoades, won the A-10 tourney last year in Brooklyn and then lost to St. Mary’s, Calif., in the NCAA opening round.

Judgment: An “unsung hero” for VCU was West Virginia U.S. District Court Judge John Bailey, who ruled in mid-December that multiple transfers were immediately eligible.

That meant VCU’s Joe Bamisile became eligible 10 games into the season. He had played at Virginia Tech, George Washington and Oklahoma in the three previous seasons.

Given a reprieve, the 6-foot-4 forward out of Monacan High responded, averaging 14 points and four rebounds while hitting 38% of his 3-pointers and 74% at the foul line.

“Bam the Ram” had 20 points (7-for-15 from field) in the finale versus Duquesne to go with four rebounds and three blocked shots.

Bamisile is a senior academically but eligible to return to VCU for the 2024-25 season. Max Shulga, the Rams’ All-A-10 senior guard, and starting senior guard Zeb Jackson also are eligible to return.

Only players VCU is sure to lose are graduate students Kuay Kuay and Sean Bairstow. The lone announced newcomer is 6-foot-3 guard Brandon Jennings out of St. Christopher’s School.

Packing them in: The Siegel Center was loud and mostly full throughout the regular season. The Rams averaged 7,200 per game, second in A-10 to Dayton’s 13,407. Regular season co-champ Richmond was third at 5,833. George Washington (1,628) was last.

Other notable NCAA news:

A-10 champ Duquesne drew Brigham Young in the first round Thursday in Omaha. It’s the Dukes’ first NCAA appearance since 1977.

A-10 quarterfinal loser Dayton will play Nevada Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Sun Belt champ James Madison will play Wisconsin Friday in Brooklyn.

Big South champ Longwood will play Houston Friday in Memphis.

In a battle of No. 10 seeds, ACC semifinalist Virginia was to play Colorado State in a “First Four” matchup in Dayton on Tuesday night.

Among the No. 16 seeds, MEAC champ Howard was to play Wagner Tuesday in Dayton’s First Four. Howard defeated Delaware State for the MEAC crown in Norfolk after eliminating host Norfolk State in the semifinals.

On the Division II level, CIAA champion Lincoln, Pa., was a 92-63 loser to Gannon, Pa., in the first round of the Atlantic Region March 15.

On the women’s side, A-10 champ Richmond will play Duke Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.