Virginia Commonwealth Rams

1. The Straw(s) That Stir(s) The Drink. Everyone learned in short order who Eric Maynor was last year when he took over the CAA championship game against George Mason, hit the jump shot with 1.8 seconds left to beat Duke in the opening round of NCAA tournament and then led a 19-point comeback in the 2nd round against 12th-ranked Pitt that forced overtime before succumbing. He's continued the Superman act this year, winning the CAA Player of the Year award, maintaining the 13th-best assist rate in the nation and hitting over 40 percent of his 3s. But his biggest impact may be on the defensive end, where VCUs pressure defense has put up the best 3-point field goal defense in the nation at under 27 percent while rating in the top 30 of blocks, steals and overall defensive efficiency, according to the data at kenpom.com. They went 14-0 when scoring 70 or more points, but lost three conference games by a total of four points (and another by 12 to George Mason) when their offense was scuffling. Meanwhile, second year coach Anthony Grant should be a hot property to fill some potentially large vacancies that open up this spring. He was already within a hair of Billy Donovan's crewcut to being this year's Florida coach after he spent over a decade as a Gators' assistant, and he has been rumored to be in the running for the top job at South Carolina and LSU. His reputation in Florida is obvious when you notice that 6 of the 7 freshmen on the team are from that state. If he gets a bigger-time job it will be interesting to see how quickly he can make inroads into other, less swampy and soulless parts of the country.

2. No Flipping! 6'9" Freshman forward Larry Sanders is the tallest player on the roster and highlights a group of three sophomores and seven freshmen that Anthony Grant has recruited (presumably legally, in case Rick Greenspan is reading this) during his tenure. With Maynor the only returning senior next year, Sanders & Co. will make this Grant's team for the foreseeable future. Sanders has had an inconsistent regular season - 11 points, 8 boards and 7 blocks against Towson; 0 points and 3 fouls in only 3 minutes of play vs. Georgia St. - but would lead the nation in blocks at 20.1 percent if he qualified. He stepped it up in the CAA tournament, going for 14 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks against Towson and 8 points and 7 boards in the loss to William & Mary. Majoring in art (VCU has the #1 rated sculpture program in the nation according to US News & World Report - take that Cranbrook Academy of Art!), his bio on the VCU athletics website claims "His long, lean and athletic body will excite Rams' fans for years to come" - don't forget Jay Bilas, he gets excited by length, too! We can only hope for a sighting of David Duchovny watching courtside with a dreamy look on his face.

3. VCU Fun Facts. The current university president, Eugene P. Trani, has been quoted as saying that he will not allow football to come to VCU on his watch due to academic snobbery allegiance to al-Qaeda a fear of men in tight pants the extra incurred cost. He is considering scholarships for Civil War Re-enactments, however.....Among VCU's ridiculous Alumni are "Patch" Adams, Stephen Furst (best known as "Flounder" from "Animal House"), Debbie Matenopoulos, Stefan Lessard (Bassist for Dave Matthews Band), and some basketball player named Bill Zepplin ('72-'74) - could you imagine being a guy in college in the 70s with the last name Zepplin? And an athlete to boot? If any of the women actually wore bras during that era, I imagine you would get them thrown at you as you walked to class every day.....VCU has a branch campus for its School of the Arts in Education City, Qatar, informally known as VCU-Qatar. I'm pretty sure they're joining the MEAC (Middle East Athletic Conference) in 2009 along with Beirut State, Dubai Southern and Tel Aviv A&M. Fittingly, the school offers a major in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness......Grant starred at Dayton as a player in the 80s and spent a year playing for the Flint Miami Tropics of the United States Basketball League in 1987.....Athletic Director Norwood Teague sounds like he should be in Judge Smails' foursome at Bushwood Country Club. — Jamie Paquette