NCAA

Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

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Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

For many college basketball programs, previous encounters with Duke invoke painful or at least losing memories. Quite the opposite for Virginia Commonwealth - and now the program's current roster has its own opportunity to add a "we beat Duke" chapter to the school's history.

Following Friday's win over No. 19 Memphis, VCU (3-1) faces the fifth ranked Blue Devils (4-0) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Giving Duke's ranking and prestige, this game has the illusion of David vs. Goliath to the uninitiated, but quite the opposite to those aware of previous events.

Over the last two seasons, the Shaka Smart-coached Rams have reached the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the third round this past March. Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke bowed out in the round of 16 in 2011 and last year dropped its opening game against Lehigh.

Last season's loss was the Blue Devils earliest exit since 2007, the year VCU stunned Duke 79-77 for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 22 seasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points that day five seasons ago in VCU's only meeting against Duke. His free throw line jumper with a second remaining propelled the Rams to what at the time was the biggest win in the program's history.

In the next battle with Duke, once again it will be VCU's backcourt leading the way. To call the Rams up-tempo would not accurately describe the rapid pace Smart choreographs for his squad, especially on defense. Spearheaded by guards Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, VCU's relentless pressure forced 22 turnovers against Memphis, leading to 33 points.

Graham leads the Rams in scoring with 14.5 points, just ahead forward Juvonte Reddic (14.3), the team's top post option. Weber and Theus combine for 5.5 steals per game while the Rams average 9.75 3-pointers per game.

Even though Duke has perimeter threats of its own, including sharpshooter Seth Curry (18.3 ppg), VCU would be wise to keep the tempo moving considering the Blue Devils' interior power. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee is averaging 21.3 points while shooting a staggering 71.4 percent from the field. Mason Plumlee. The senior dominated with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's 89-71 win over Minnesota.

The challenge is not lost on Smart, who will battle coaching wits with Duke's famed leader Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.

"Playing Duke, what an incredible opportunity,'' Smart told the Associated Press "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era.

"But we won't fold up to the test.''

Jackson, Peoples lead No. 13 Hokies past ODU, 38-0

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Jackson, Peoples lead No. 13 Hokies past ODU, 38-0

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Steven Peoples had scored three career touchdowns for No. 13 Virginia Tech heading into Saturday's game against Old Dominion.

Now he's scored six, including a right-place-at-the-right-time deflection that turned his good day into a career day.

On the play, Peoples ran a wheel route and was a few steps behind Hokies start receiver Cam Phillips. Both were well covered, but quarterback Josh Jackson let fly from near midfield as the four players approached the end zone. The ball went to Phillips, but in the scramble with the defender, it bounced away, right into Peoples' arms for a 43-yard touchdown.

"I sat back and was waiting for Cam to catch it," Peoples said, noting Phillips' reputation for catching the ball in traffic. "As soon as it bounced off him, I caught the ball and I was like, `Man, that was a big-time catch.'"

On the sideline, while teammates celebrated, Jackson got a talking-to from coach Justin Fuente.

"Not for public consumption," Fuente said what asked what he told the redshirt freshman. "Not happy. We got lucky on that one so I made sure he knew about it. He's smart. He's tough. He understands stuff and he's still young."

Said Jackson: "That was the first touchdown I've ever felt bad after throwing."

Jackson threw for two more scores -- a 17-yard screen pass to Peoples and a diving 5-yarder to C.J. Carroll -- as the Hokies (4-0) finished their non-conference schedule unbeaten for the first time since 2011. Peoples also scored on a 1-yard run.

Virginia Tech started slowly for the second consecutive game, leading just 3-0 after the first quarter, but scored on four consecutive drives after getting untracked. The Hokies have scored 95 consecutive points since falling behind 17-7 at East Carolina last week.

The Monarchs (2-2), playing an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent for the second week in a row, fell to 0-9 against Power Five schools.

The game was the first meeting between the schools and featured the first career start for 17-year-old Old Dominion quarterback Steven Williams Jr. He showed a nifty ability to escape the Hokies' pass rush, getting sacked just once, but completed just 8 of 26 for 85 yards. Monarchs receivers didn't help by dropping several balls, including one that Travis Fulgham could have taken 75 yards for a touchdown.

"He didn't get a lot of help out there today," coach Bobby Wilder said after his team barely made it across midfield all game. "There were four of five times where we needed to make a catch, we needed to make a play, and we didn't."

Williams took it in stride.

"It's just part of the game. We know we need to clean that up," he said. "We have to be more aggressive. If we find our run game, we're going to be fine."

Jackson was 20 for 30 for 298 yards and has now thrown for 11 touchdowns. He did throw his first interception of the season against the Monarchs, but the Hokies took the ball away three plays later, leading to their first touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Hypocrisy of NCAA loud and clear with Maryland Football promotion

Hypocrisy of NCAA loud and clear with Maryland Football promotion

The NCAA is a dumb and monumentally stupid organization with rules that often don't make sense for the student-athletes they govern. One of those is paying, or more specifically not paying, athletes.

In an incredible twist of irony, Maryland will give one lucky regular student (that isn't an athlete) $10,000 for something an athlete (not a regular student) could potentially perform on the football field.

This is a highly specific play that will have to happen in order for one lucky student (again, not an athlete) to win the money, but the hypocrisy is incredible and this entire situation is so backward.

A student-athlete could score a touchdown (while not being paid) for the university and while scoring said touchdown will be helping make money for the university (money they will never see a dime from). The university will then turn around and give money to a student who did nothing to earn it, except decide to stay around in the second half for a game that is expected to be lightly attended, thanks to the achievement of a student-athlete who is incapable of receiving said money. 

That makes sense. Totally.

This comes on the heels of a report earlier this week that Division 1 coaches were "spooked" and against new rules that would allow students who met a minimum GPA to transfer and have immediate eligibility.

This is all totally fine.

Anyway, I can't believe someone didn't see the irony here and think "eh, we just had one of the biggest upsets of the weekend and should have a better way to capitalize on our momentum with something cool to entice people to stick around against Towson?"

I guess not.

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