VCU reaches Final Four

RICHMOND - Onward to the Final Four: Gov. Bob McDonnell showed his support after Virginia Commonwealth University's men's basketball team defeated Kansas, 71-61, in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight matchup Sunday.

The governor issued a statement commending the Rams as thousands of fans celebrated on and around the VCU campus. This is the first time in its 43-year history that VCU has reached the Final Four.

"I want to congratulate Virginia Commonwealth University on their historic win against the Kansas University Jayhawks," McDonnell said. "Virginians are celebrating their victory all across the commonwealth."

The VCU vs. Kansas game triggered the second round of mass gatherings that have occurred in Richmond as the Rams continue to make their way through the tournament.

"This is a big step in the right direction for VCU," said junior mechanical engineering major Patrick Jackman. "Everyone knows that VCU is the best at supporting our team, and our energy after the game proved it."

The first breakout of street celebrations came Friday after VCU beat Florida State, 72-71. On Friday and Sunday, immediately after the games ended, students and other fans poured into the streets surrounding VCU's Monroe Park campus.

On Sunday night, police blockaded some streets (including West Broad, Lombardy and Harrison) and monitored the crowds in cars and on horses. Thousands of fans attended a watch party at the Stuart C. Siegel Center on West Broad Street and then continued their celebration outside and in nearby restaurants and bars.

"People were right out there in the center of streets," said Richmond resident James Murphy. "Cars stopped and played music, people were dancing in the streets and on top of cars, and others were hanging out of windows chanting."

Several hundred fans filtered into the VCU Compass, in the heart of the campus, on both game days. Some students brought instruments to match the screams of pride erupting from the crowds. Sunday's chants included: "Final Four," "We want Butler," and "Let's go Rams!"

Along West Broad Street, some people cheered on Sunday's massive gathering from their apartment windows as individuals climbed on the tops of cars and the rooftops of buildings. Fans held signs and banners; one even sprayed a fire extinguisher into the crowd.

Virginia's governor said he hopes there will be another celebration this Saturday after VCU takes on Butler in the semifinal round of the Final Four in Houston.

"VCU is a great university with a well deserved reputation for academic and athletic excellence," McDonnell said.

"We all look forward to cheering them on in the Final Four next weekend. I know they've got two more big wins left in them. Head Coach Shaka Smart and this group of talented student athletes are doing a tremendous job representing their school and community. Go Rams!"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011