Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: VCU's NCAA run shows if you make the Dance, you have a chance

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Virginia Commonwealth University: Trying to Shaka the world!

Q: Oh, I get it. Because the VCU coach's first name is Shaka. You don't actually think that's clever, though, do you?

A: Not clever. Just Smart.

Q: Oh, boy. You've already fumbled the first two snaps from scrimmage today. But how about those Shaka Smart-led VCU Rams, huh?

A: Coolest story of the NCAA tournament by far. Here's a team that didn't even gather to watch the selection show together -- those guys figured they were NIT-bound -- and now they're playing Kansas today for a spot in the Final Four.

Q: What's the long-term impact of VCU's run?

A: Here's what I hope it is: I hope it makes the annual "bubble" discussion more meaningful. For years, analysts have argued that it doesn't really matter, that bubble teams have no national title shot either way. Nonsense. The way VCU blew out Georgetown and Purdue, then came up with enough big plays to beat Florida State, underscores the fact that the days of major separation between team 1 and team 48 are well behind us. You get in, you've got a shot.

Q: With FSU and Duke eliminated, North Carolina is the lone ACC team still in the tournament. What are the Tar Heels' chances?

A: As good as any. Vegas actually has them a slight underdog today against Kentucky -- the best blue-blooded matchup of the tournament to date -- but the Tar Heels have won 12 of their past 13 games. They'll go as far as Harrison Barnes can take them, and that has potential to be pretty far.

Q: What was the best reader comment on your blog this week?

A: There were a lot of intelligent and funny ones, as usual. But the best one, I think, was very short. It was posted in the wake of Thursday's news that Virginia Tech football player Xavier Boyce and his girlfriend had been arrested on charges connected to injuries to their infant child. We still don't know what happened at this point -- certainly not enough to speculate too much about what will come of this -- but I think BotetourtHoo spoke for UVa fans, Tech fans, and every other human being when he typed the following seven words: "Hope the baby girl will be okay."

Q: Well said. On a lighter note, did you see that NFL receiver Chad Ochocinco has been trying out for a Major League Soccer team?

A: Yes, and let me say something I never thought I'd say in my lifetime: Chad Ochocinco deserves some kudos here. This isn't like Terrell Owens doing sit-ups in his driveway. Ochocinco's actually been a huge soccer guy since he was a kid -- even said that's what he REALLY wanted to play until his grandmother convinced him to focus on football in the 10th grade.

Q: So how's he doing?

A: Not great. The coach of Sporting Kansas City (the team he's trying out with) said, "during the flow of the game, it's above him at the moment." And Chad himself admitted: "By no means did I think I was going to come in here and wow everybody, and in a way, it just lets you know how good these guys really are that I'm eating humble pie."

Q: This guy? Humble pie?

A: Exactly. That's why I'm actually pulling for him in Monday's practice game against a minor league team. Could be his last shot to show something.

Q: Who wins today's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Fontana?

A: Carl Edwards. He's done a really nice job of carrying over the momentum he built late last year to start strong in 2011. After a win at Vegas and a near miss at Bristol, he's ready to find Victory Lane again this week. Not to mention his average finish in 13 career starts at California is 9.2.

Q: Hey, you actually hit your Bristol pick last week, didn't you?

A: My picks have been known to Shaka time or two.

Q: Sigh. Can we just go watch the games now?

A: Yes. Yes we can.

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