RICHMOND, Va. – Head Coach Shaka Smart has only been overseeing the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball program for just over 19 months, but he hasn't exactly been sitting back and relaxing.
Over that span, Smart has tied his predecessor Anthony Grant for the quickest to 30 wins (39 games) in school history, captured the 2010 CBI Championship, beat a nationally-ranked Big 12 team (Oklahoma last year) and now beaten an ACC squad on the road.
Next week, Smart's squad has a chance to boost their resume even more as they head to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Season Tip-Off Final Four. Joining the Rams will be nationally-ranked Villanova and Tennessee, as well as the legendary UCLA basketball program.
"Anytime you can be associated with three elite level programs like that, it's something special," Smart said. "Our goal coming into the year wasn't just to get to New York, but continue to win when we get there and that's exactly what we're focused on."
The Black & Gold will take on Bruce Pearl's Tennessee squad in the first semifinal on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on a national broadcast on ESPN2. Villanova and UCLA will follow at 9 p.m. that evening.
Tennessee heads to NYC as the second seed in the tournament and ranked 23rd overall behind junior guard Scotty Hobson and big man Tobias Harris.
VCU advanced to Madison Square Garden after wreaking havoc on ACC foe Wake Forest on Tuesday night, 90-69, behind a game-high 25 points from junior Bradford Burgess.
Wednesday's two winners will meet in the championship game on Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPN, while the consolation game will be played at 2:30 p.m. on Friday either on ESPN or ESPN2.