The Virgina Commonwealth Rams are in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, but for the first time since the 1980s they will be the higher seed than their opponent as they take on the Akron Zips on Thursday.
The Rams' highest seeding came in 1985 when they were a No. 2, but they fell to a No. 7 Alabama team in the second round. Since then, Shaka Smart and the Rams have made a name for themselves as a double-digit party crasher, highlighted by a 2011 run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
For more on the story, visit Mid-Major Madness
VCU finished second in the A-10 with a 12-4 record and fell in the tournament championship final to the Saint Louis Billikens. This year's iteration of the Rams can score with the best of them as VCU averages 78 points a game, good for 11th in the nation overall. Four players score in double figures for the Rams, led by sophomore guard Treveon Graham's 15.5 points a game. They have a smart senior in Darius Theus distributing the ball at point guard, averaging 4.9 assists a game. Many of those assists end up in the hands of junior forward Juvonte Reddic, who more often than not puts the ball in the hoop as he averages 14.4 points off of 56 percent shooting.
This is the fourth NCAA Tournament appearance for Akron, who are still looking for their first tournament win in school history. The 7-foot senior center Zeke Marshall, who is one of the nation's most efficient players at getting the ball in the hoop, scores 13 points a game off 65 percent shooting, and patrols the defensive end with 3.7 blocks per game. He is joined up front by junior forward Demetrius Treadwell, 11.4 points and 7.9 rebounds a game.
Tenacious defense is a trademark of the Rams, and Akron might have their hands full keeping control of the ball. Akron turns the ball over 14 times a game and the Rams force 19.9 turnovers a game to lead the nation.
Game time: TV: 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
Live stream: NCAA.com
Location: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Mich.