Four teams left.
One will be national champion.
I'm pulling for Virginia Commonwealth. You?
Let it slide off your tongue: VCU. Now do Butler; Kentucky; UConn. VCU sounds better. Feels better when you say it.
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Rams, Bulldogs, Wildcats and Huskies. Like Huskies the best, have some friends who have a pair and we love 'em, but Rams will do.
Wildcats? Pulled for them last year because of Patrick Patterson, whose grandparents have lived here all their lives. We ate with them and two of their daughters, even snuck a nip with grandpa, the night they lost to Butler - yes, the same Butler.
Bulldogs? Besides Eagles and Yellow Jackets, it's probably the most-used mascot around.
So really, why VCU. OK. I'm gonna ramble, so follow me down the yellow brick road to Houston.
In the early days, I began pulling not as much for a team but for a player. The first was Ernie DiGregorio, a guard at Providence, to this day was the best passer/shooter I've ever seen. Never won it.
Indiana State's Larry Bird, never won it. Dang you, Magic Johnson.
There was Oklahoma State's Bryant "Big Country'' Reeves. Gosh, I pulled for the big man who would have been an all-world defensive end. Never won it.
Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, a sure-fire NBA star. Never won, and he belly-flopped in the NBA. Didn't see it coming.
Davidson's Stephon Curry. Courage, heart, a gunner but he could hit shots. Never won it.
And this year, I picked BYU and Jimmer Fredette, who lost me when his team lost to Florida. Pass the ball, Jimmer. You have open guys standing under the basket. PASS IT. An analyst on ESPN radio said today Jimmer's bound for the far end seat in the NBA. No kidding.
So I'm down to VCU. I like all the players, but as a poll of three good ladies pointed out, I like the same one: guard Joey Rodriguez.
But this team is more than one, two or three players. At times, the Rams have five players on the floor who can nail the three. The Rams play good defense and play like they invented boxing out. They have discipline, look and listen to their charismatic coach, Shaka Smart, for direction.
And there are my three lady friends, among the most rabid fans in the country because of VCU. I go on Facebook after every VCU game to see what they posted. Guys, these ladies know their hoops.
Betty Jean Stiff Franklin and Cheryl Howe Pitts are their names. They graduated from Rock Hill High with me in 1970, and thanks to our recent 40th reunion, Facebook and our RHHS class of 1970 website, are among many long-lost friends who have reconnected.
The other is York varsity girls basketball coach Paula Blackwell, younger but would fit right in with us old folks, and was an assistant coach at VCU in 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 seasons.
"VCU is an inner-city school in Richmond with about 32,000 students, but it was so hard to recruit there,'' Blackwell said. "It was a school for those who loved art and music; saw some pretty weird things walking around campus.
"Sports just wasn't that successful there, but the people were very nice. So what they are doing now, I'm tickled to death. I've been pulling for them since the first game. We're going all the way.''
Pitts graduated from Winthrop and has lived in Richmond since 1981, when her husband, Michael, became a professor at VCU. Since March Madness began, she has read nearly everything she can about the Rams and has become a near expert.
Pitts said after the Rams beat Kansas last weekend, the team arrived back at school around 1:30 a.m. and the gym was full of cheering fans there to welcome their Rams.
"It's been that way when they leave and when they come back,'' she said. "The school and community here are completely behind them. We live 16 miles away, and VCU is our school. Our youngest daughter, Lisa, just graduated from there.
"We've been the underdog every game. It burned me up when one of the TV announcers said we shouldn't be in the tournament. We have shown we should be here."
Pitts is a former special education teacher but has retired. Franklin, a CPA, earned her accounting degree at VCU and worked there 10 years before moving to Atlanta. She is director of finance at Stone Mountain Park.
"I worked a while and went back to school when I lived in Richmond,'' she said. "I went to VCU and got my accounting degree in 1986, worked there until I left for Georgia in 1999.
"I'm a sports fan at the end, the Super Bowl, the World Series, but I've been watching every VCU game. During the Florida State game, I kept switching stations because I thought I was jinxing them. When one of the (Morris) twins from Kansas said he didn't even know where Richmond is, it flew all over me. I'll bet he knows now.''
The two Cinderella teams, VCU and Butler play tonight at 6. Traditional powers Kentucky and UConn play at 8:49. The winners play for the national championship Monday night.
The latest post on Pitts' Facebook wall says: "Can't wait until Saturday and the Final Four. Go VCU Rams!''
Franklin's has a photo and says: "Leo the Ram ... Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted at the Los Angeles Lakers game on Tuesday sporting a VCU baseball cap.''
I say: "Go Rams.''
Hope I don't jinx them. Really.