CHICAGO — Virginia Commonwealth is the team that supposedly didn't deserve a spot in the NCAA tournament, and Florida State was hardly a lock to advance.
Now look at them.
The Rams and Seminoles are headed to the round of 16 for a matchup that few would have envisioned when the brackets were announced, and one that will be a first for the NCAA tournament.
Never before have a 10th seed and 11th seed met, but that's exactly what will happen Friday in San Antonio after both teams left the United Center with lopsided victories on Sunday.
The 11th seed in the Southwest region, VCU routed Purdue 94-76 and 10th-seeded Florida State knocked off Notre Dame 71-57 on Sunday night.
"It's VCU against the world," said forward Jamie Skeen, who had 13 points. "Nobody else thought we could do this. Nobody else's bracket said that we're going to make it to the Sweet 16. Honestly, if it was me and I was just a regular person, I wouldn't put VCU in the Sweet 16. Who would have thought?"
Well, the Rams, that's who.
Bradford Burgess scored 23 points, and the Rams (26-11) won for the third time in five nights, routing third-seeded Purdue to advance to the round of 16 for the first time.
Few would have seen the Rams getting this far as they stumbled into the tournament with five losses in eight games, and they were so bad in February that coach Shaka Smart decided to have an exorcism of sorts in practice before the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
The Rams ended that month with four losses in five games. Smart wanted his team to forget about that, so in a symbolic move, he ripped the February page out of the calendar and burned it.
"Ashes everywhere. It was great," said Joey Rodriguez, the quick point guard.
Even better is this.
The Rams beat Drexel and George Mason before falling to Old Dominion in the conference tournament, then got invited to the NCAAs even though they had 11 losses. Critics wondered why they were selected.
Now, after three impressive wins in five nights, the question is, who can beat them?
Southern California and Georgetown couldn't in the first two rounds and Purdue (26-8) fared no better, and after taking out teams from the Pac-10, Big East and Big Ten, they'll set their sights on the ACC.
"They're playing with such passion and desire and unity," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It's like they're representing a lot; their school, their conference. But more than anything else, they seem to have bonded with such a strong determination, that they just seem to be all in sync defensively and offensively. I've never seen a team play with that type of focus. I think they play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. I think people didn't particularly think that they should be in the tournament, and some of the guys made some comments that gave them what you call bulletin board material, and they responded like they have something they want to prove.We have a lot of respect for them."
VCU certainly looked good against Purdue, just as it did in the first two rounds.
Besides the big effort by Burgess, Skeen scored 13 and Rodriguez controlled the tempo, finishing with 12 points and 11 assists. VCU shot just under 57 percent and finished with 26 assists and four turnovers.
For Purdue, it was simply a rough night.
Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson scored 25 in his final game for the Boilermakers to go with 14 rebounds. But Purdue's other star, E'Twaun Moore, struggled and managed just 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting
Ryne Smith had 20 points for Purdue, hitting 6 of 8 on 3-pointers, but the Boilermakers were just 8 for 25 from long range.
"You see all these guys on TV, and we're watching them all year and in our heads, we're like, 'Man, we can play with these guys,'" Rodriguez said. "We're getting the opportunity now and we're proving it."
Florida State's performance against second-seeded Notre Dame was as impressive.
Bernard James scored 14 points, Michael Snaer added 13 and Seminoles (23-10) showed some offensive punch to go with that lockdown defense while upsetting the Fighting Irish (27-7) to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1993.
They put Notre Dame in a big hole with seven 3-pointers in the first half and led by as much as 23. Four players finished in double figures, and James went 6 of 8 with 10 rebounds despite needing three IVs on Sunday and feeling as if he was going to get sick the whole night.
"If we can stay consistent on the offensive end, I like our chances," said Derwin Kitchen, who had 10 points and six rebounds. "We've just been so up and down and inconsistent on the offensive end, it allowed us to stumble at times and lose a few games. If we can stay consistent and execute on the offensive end, I like our chances because we play so well on the defensive end."