NCAA Bracket 2012: How VCU Basketball Got To March Madness

March 5, 2012; Richmond, VA USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Shaka Smart gestures from the sidelines against the Drexel Dragons in the second half of the championship game of the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at the Richmond Coliseum. The Rams won 59-56. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Despite losing four starters from last year's Final Four team, the Virginia Commonwealth Rams put together a fine regular season and ran the table in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, beating George Mason and No. 1 seed Drexel on their way to a tournament championship and an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

No one really knew what to make of the Rams when the 2011-2012 season kicked off. They lost most of their key contributors, like Jamie Skeen and Joey Rodriguez, from last year's Final Four team and then began the year with losses in three of their first six games. Those losses came against Seton Hall, Georgia Tech and Alabama, but few people wanted to touch the 3-3 mid-major team.

Of course, to the untrained eye, it didn't look good. But head coach Shaka Smart has earned nationwide respect with his "havoc" defense, and that was on full display from the 'Bama loss onwards, when the Rams lost just three of their next 28 games on their way to the CAA title. The effectiveness of that defense was evident in their win against Drexel, which had won 19 straight games before the championship matchup, when the Rams forced 17 turnovers in the win.

The Rams will again take the "havoc" defense to the NCAA tournament and unleash it against teams who aren't used to facing such active hands in the first weekend and perhaps beyond.

For more on March Madness, visit our 2012 NCAA Tournament hub.

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