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Sweet 16 Preview Southwest Regional - (11) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (10) Florida State

Friday, 30 minutes after Richmond/Kansas

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In a regional semifinal matchup that virtually nobody predicted on Selection Sunday, the eleventh-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University Rams will face the tenth-seeded Florida State Seminoles in a Southwest Region Sweet 16 contest at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas.  The Rams and Seminoles have left a trail of busted brackets in their wake, setting the stage for the first-ever Sweet 16 clash between an eleven seed and a ten seed. Only the 1998 Southeast Regional semifinal between 14th-seeded Chattanooga and tenth-seeded Providence has featured a higher seed total (24) than this one (21). Yet, there is little doubt that both teams earned the right to play in the Sweet 16.

VCU won three games over five days, routing both sixth-seeded Georgetown and third-seeded Purdue in the process, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.  The Rams have had extraordinary balance in the postseason; a different player has led the team in scoring in each of their first three tournament games.  Senior forward Jamie Skeen led the way with 16 points in the 59-56 victory over USC in the First Four game last Wednesday while Brett Rozell and Bradford Burgess did the same in the wins over Georgetown and Purdue, scoring 26 and 23 points respectively.  Senior point guard Joey Rodriguez has run the Rams’ offense with verve and aplomb, scoring 37 points and dishing out 23 assists in the three games.  

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The Seminoles advanced to the Sweet 16 by defeating seventh-seeded Texas A&M 57-50 in the first round, and then upsetting second-seeded Notre Dame 71-57 in the round of 32.  Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team has played superlative defense in the Big Dance, holding the Aggies and Fighting Irish under 32-percent shooting from the field.  While the Seminoles are expected to play good defense - they have led the nation in field goal percentage defense each of the past two seasons - they aren’t necessarily expected to shoot 9-of-19 from three-point range as they did in the win over Notre Dame.  Sophomore guard Michael Snaer made 3-of-4 three-pointers and scored 13 points on Sunday, helping to ease the burden on the Seminoles’ go-to guy, junior forward Bernard James.  The 6-10 James has been a force in two tournament games, scoring 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting, grabbing 16 rebounds, and blocking six shots in the absence of the team’s best defender, big man Chris Singleton, who has seen spot minutes but has not been much of a factor for the Noles in their run to glory.  

The teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament, and have not played each other in the last 15 years.  The winner of this contest will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas versus 12th-seeded Richmond in Sunday’s regional final.  

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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