Shaka says Texas staff was ‘worried’ about potential Rams match-up

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Shaka Smart's Texas Longhorns​ and the VCU Rams are in the same building this weekend for the NCAA Tournament. While the Rams and Longhorns will play each other in the First (or Second Rounds if they both win), Smart said his staff was nervous about a potential match-up before the brackets were announced.

"To be honest, I thought there was chance we might play them in the first game and there were some guys on staff that were a little worried about it I said 'hey guys it's on our control,'" Smart said Thursday.

Smart, who led VCU to five NCAA appearances including 2011's historic Final Four run, left the Rams at the end of last season. When Smart left, so did some of the talented recruits who wanted to play for him at VCU. Former Smart assistant coach Will Wade was later hired to take over the team.

While expectations might have been lowered during the transitional year, Wade, along with senior Melvin Johnson and junior Mo Alie-Cox, battled to bring the Rams back to the Big Dance.

"Those guys have done a terrific job," Smart said. "I think it's really a testament to the work of Mel and Mo and the whole team and then also [head coach] Will [Wade] and his coaching staff."

Should the Rams and Longhorns both win their first two games in the tournament, the Rams will face their old coach in the Sweet 16.

The VCU Rams begin the march to the Final Four Friday afternoon versus the Oregon State Beavers. The game is scheduled to tip at 1:30 p.m. on TNT. If you do not have cable, or are stuck at work without access to a television, you can still watch the Rams play their First Round game — thanks to NCAA March Madness Live.