For this week's Samsung Consensus Fan Poll, I picked the game that guarantees an Elite Eight slot to a double-digit seed, Friday night's Southwest Regional Semifinal between the 11th-seeded VCU and the No. 10 seed Florida State (TBS, approx. 9:57 p.m. ET).
Even though this contest pits two teams who found themselves among the last few teams in, the circumstances of their selection couldn't be more different. The Rams' inclusion created a sizable amount of controversy, even if they were sent to Dayton to play in the First Four. Meanwhile, the Seminoles were expected to be in, especially after a third-place finish in the ACC, though their seeding was perhaps a line or two lower than expected.
More on the matchup, and the poll results are after the jump.
One thing the two teams have in common is that they used the first weekend (or week in the case of the Rams) to prove they belonged in the field of 68. VCU has simply steamrolled through their first three contests, topping USC by 13 in Dayton, then racking up a pair of 18-point wins over Georgetown and Purdue in the Chicago subregional. Shaka Smart's team had been inconsistent on defense during the regular season, but those issues became a memory once they stepped on a generic NCAA floor for the first time. Joey Rodriguez, the Rams' Central Florida born-and-raised point guard, is the team's heart and soul, while guards Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell and forward Jamie Skeen are VCU's other players to watch.
As for Florida State, the Seminoles crept into the Tournament, thanks to the broken foot forward Chris Singleton suffered during their February 12th win over Virginia. At first, FSU struggled without their defensive stalwart, but they gradually improved without him. Singleton made a cameo appearance in the Seminoles' 14-point victory over Notre Dame on Sunday. That victory, along with March 2nd's close loss to North Carolina in Tallahassee, shows that Leonard Hamilton's team is still capable of beating anyone, even without a key player on the court.
VCU's biggest challenge tonight will be scoring against an FSU team that's tops in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, and will lead the country in field goal percentage defense for the second straight season. Considering how they've performed against Purdue and USC, two other top 30 teams, I don't think they'll be afraid. The question is whether FSU will be able to score enough on a Ram defense that seems to be finding its legs at the right time. If they play with as much balance as they did Sunday night against Notre Dame (10 players playing at least 9 minutes and four reaching double-digits in points), they just may get enough offense.
It should be a close contest between these two underdogs, but who does SB Nation want to see win this one? All week, we've been polling the visitors to our college blogs. Here are the results.
Which double-digit seed do you want to win Friday's matchup to reach Sunday's Southwest Regional Final?
- No. 11 VCU Rams - 59%
- No. 10 Florida State Seminoles - 41%
3628 total votes
Even though both teams are unexpected visitors to the second weekend, fan support is clearly behind the bigger surprise, VCU. America likes the underdog, and in this one, the CAA team owns that role, despite the minimal difference in seeding. That, or Florida, and Clemson, fans really stuffed the ballot box on this one, in support of former assistant Shaka Smart.
The winner tonight will likely face top seed Kansas in Sunday's Southwest final. Of course, if the Rams' crosstown rivals, Richmond, should happen to pull a huge upset in Friday night's early tip, we'll see a double-digit seed in the Final Four for the first time since George Mason's run in 2006.