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Moving to A-10 a smooth transition for VCU

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: Head coach

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 15: Head coach Shaka Smart of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams points from the sideline in the first half against the George Washington Colonials during the Semifinals of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 15, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images) Credit: Getty Images / Mike Lawrie

Need a few pointers on how to jump conferences without missing a beat? You probably should make an appointment to see VCU coach Shaka Smart.

VCU hasn't slipped once since leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10. The Rams, who knocked off George Washington in an A-10 semifinal on Saturday, ended their time in the CAA following the 2011-2012 season.

VCU captured the country's attention with its NCAA Final Four run in 2011, becoming just the third mid-major (George Mason, Butler) at the time, to make the national semifinal. Wichita State made the Final Four last season.

Rather than stand pat in the CAA, the Rams moved on to greener pastures, joining the A-10 for the 2012-2013 season. The result has been nothing short of brilliant as Smart's crew will likely make the NCAA Tounament for the fourth straight year.

It's not often that a mid-major makes a move to a bigger conference and doesn't suffer a drop off.

George Mason (11-20) has struggled mightily in its first season in the A-10, going just 4-12 in conference play. TCU (9-22, 0-18) has also seen better times since jumping from WAC to the Big 12. Butler (14-17, 14-14), once the darling of the mid-majors, has also struggled.

There have been other success stories. Creighton (26-6, 14-4) has had an excellent rookie season in the Big East. Xavier (21-12, 10-8) has also had a solid season.

Utah (21-11, 9-9) has had a solid season in the Pac-12.

"I think what it says about our guys...Is that our players are a lot better than people thought during the recruiting process," Smart said. "Because 75 percent of our players were recruited to come to VCU wen were in the CAA, so they were kind of recruited at that level."

Smart noted that two of his top players - Briante Weber, Treveon Graham - were not highly sought after players.

Graham had 22 points and Weber chipped in 16 points and eight assists in the Rams' 74-55 win over George Washington in an A-10 semifinal Saturday.

"Those guys, especially Briante...He was begging to come to VCU," Smart said. "That's one of the reasons he's been good, [he's] a guy that wants to be a part of VCU."


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