The Brooklyn experience didn't end well the previous two years for VCU, which tripped on the Atlantic 10's final step. But now the Rams were on the rise under the basket inside Barclays Center, taking turns climbing the ladder to claim a piece of the net.
The final string was left for senior point guard Briante Weber, who tore knee ligaments in late January, reducing him to an inspiration on crutches.
VCU has been in the conference for only three years, and it finally got the tournament championship part right on its third try. The fifth-seeded Rams won four games in four days to punch the automatic ticket into the NCAA Tournament, beating second-seeded Dayton, 71-65, in Sunday's A-10 conference final.
"It's just relief after all the hard work we went through this season and all the adversity we had to go through when Bri was out," said senior guard Treveon Graham, named the tournament's most outstanding player after his 20-point, 13-rebound, four-assist finale.
Weber wore the net as a necklace, the souvenir he had been promised.
"When I went out January 31," Weber said, "they all came together and said we were going to cut down the net: 'And you know who's going to be the last one holding the net?' They told me it was going to be me, and I believed them."
It was tied at 59 when Graham made a nifty move and drove to break the tie with 1:14 to go. Scoochie Smith, the Flyers' top scorer with 16, then had his pass stolen by Doug Brooks near midcourt. JeQuan Lewis -- Weber's replacement -- converted it into a layup for a four-point lead.
VCU, which hit 10 three-pointers to Dayton's two, went 8-for-8 from the line in the final 40.1 seconds.
Lewis fouled Jordan Sibert behind the three-point arc with 10.6 left, and Sibert made all three free throws to cut it to 67-65. But Lewis countered with two from the line at 7.9.
Dayton (25-8), which will play Boise State in an NCAA Tournament play-in game Wednesday, rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the second half to tie it at 43 but never was able to take the lead.
Now VCU is 26-9 and will face Ohio State in its fifth straight NCAA appearance.
"You want to cherish championships and we're so happy about that, but at the same time, we've got to turn the page," coach Shaka Smart said. "We want to go make some noise."