Top Illini head coaching candidates: non Shaka Smart variety

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Well, I didn’t see that one coming. Shaka Smart had an offer of $2.5 million plus, doubling his salary, and a chance at a top 20 national job in what was the nation’s best conference this year. And he had a chance to step up from mid-major to high-major in the Big Ten. I’ve been to Richmond, Virginia a couple times so I can tell you- this denial was shocking.

The only way the decision to stay at VCU could be interpreted as a smart one is if Smart wants to be a Ram for life (and life means a decade or so) like Brad Stevens at Butler, or he’s holding out for the UConn and UCLA jobs; and now only one of those jobs looks to be open next year.  high percentage of Illini nation is hard right-wing politically. They won’t like a coach spurning them to stay at Virginia Commonwealth. “Sounds like a socialist commune!” they’ll say.

Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas had a plan: option 1 was Shaka Smart, option 2-11 was Smart.

Now it’s time to move on to option 12.

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Shaka Smart to the Illini would make sense on many levels

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With the Bruce Weber termination in Champaign all but official, it’s time for Illini fans to start looking at who his successor will be. And there’s a lot of factors pointing in the direction of VCU leader Shaka Smart. He’s currently making $1.2 million per year now at Virginia Commonwealth on an eight year deal. Before his Final Four run, he made “just” $350,000 per season. He could have gotten even longer dough at NC State, as they offered him about $2 million a year for 6 years.

So that’s what it’s going to cost, in addition to the $3.9 million Weber buyout. Therefore, in order to spend money to make money, to break some eggs to prepare that omelet, Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas needs a splash hire. Perhaps he’s got the wheels in motion already.

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#50 VCU Rams: College Basketball 111 in 111

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Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series.  Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days.  We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

After their Cinderella run to the Final Four last season, part of me has a really hard time ranking the VCU Rams this low.  They seem ready to emerge as a yearly, dangerous mid-major team as long as Shaka Smart is running the show.  However, with four starters gone from last year, VCU has to replace a lot of experience.

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Video of VCU’s Shaka Smart Butchering Cubs 7th Inning Stretch

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On Sunday, VCU Coach Shaka Smart, previously the hottest coaching name in college basketball, got to throw out the first pitch before the Chicago Cubs faced the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field and also sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the 7th inning stretch.

It was as bad as Ron Zook’s turn, but not as bad as Ozzie Osbourne.

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VCU Rams: America’s new College Basketball Sweethearts?

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This NCAA Tournament second weekend features four double digit seeds, three of them within one region. The Butler Bulldogs are back in the sweet sixteen, but it’s hard to actually consider them a cinderella, even though they’re in a mid-major conference.

The city of Richmond, Virginia (mighty metropolis, urbane, sophisticated, international, cosmopolitan mecca that it is) has two teams still left in the college basketball big dance. That’s as many as the Big East or Big Ten and twice as many as the Big 12. But it’s not the Richmond Spiders, but the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams out of the Colonial Athletic Association who appear to be America’s sweethearts now.

We all love a good underdog story, and the VCU Rams are the closest thing to a Cinderella that we have going right now.

By Paul M. Banks

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