HOUSTON ——Season-ending locker rooms are often grim, full of tears, anger and frustration.
Not so VCU's after the Rams' 70-62 loss to Butler in Saturday's Final Four semifinals.
But all seemed to realize that one April evening cannot spoil a magical March.
"We had a great run," said Rodriguez, a four-year starter at point guard. "That's what I'm thinking about right now."
Rodriguez, Rozzell and Nixon shot a combined 3-of-18 Saturday against Butler's rugged defense. Only Skeen, 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, thrived.
But Skeen wasn't thinking about his tour-de-force or of watching Monday's championship game.
"I just want to spend time with my family," he said.
Skeen's parents couldn't afford airfare to Houston, so they drove 27 hours from their Charlotte, N.C., home, stopping at a Louisiana hotel en route to catch a few hours' sleep.
"That's love right there," Skeen said.
And love was coach Shaka Smart's message to his players.
"He told us that he loved us," Rodriguez said, "that Eric Maynor's shot (to beat Duke in the 2007 NCAA tournament) kind of took VCU to one level, but we took it to a new level."
Indeed, the Rams (28-12) never had reached the Sweet 16, let alone the Elite Eight or Final Four. They had won five NCAA games in 30 years before winning five in 12 days to reach Houston.
"Monday's going to hurt," Rodriguez said, "thinking that could be us."
Butler will play in its second consecutive national championship game Monday, while VCU ponders a 48-32 rebounding deficit that decided Saturday's contest.
"That's been our Achilles heel all year," Rodriguez said of rebounding. "They've been doing that, and if they do it again Monday, they'll be fine."
A Butler national title would make mid-majors everywhere smile, including VCU.
"No, I'm not going to watch," Rodriguez said, "but I hope Butler wins."
"That would be pretty cool," said Nixon, limited to four second-half minutes because of leg cramps.
"Lifelong issue," Nixon said of the cramps. "It just sucks it happened right now."
VCU led for much of the first half, but never in the second. Yet as the clock approached three minutes, the Rams were within 58-54.
That's when they swarmed Butler's Shelvin Mack, who passed out of the double-team to Shawn Vanzant in the left corner.
"We had Shelvin Mack bottled up with the blitz," Rodriguez said, "and he skipped it over to Vanzant in the corner. … He stepped in and made a big shot."
Butler led 61-54, and Rodriguez figured the Rams were done. The tournament-tested Bulldogs were not going to relinquish a seven-point margin in the final three minutes.
As some teammates gnawed on fried chicken and others pored over the boxscore, Rodriguez, as usual, served as program spokesman.
His prevailing emotion?
"Just that it's over, and I'll never play with these guys again," Rodriguez said. "That's the hardest part for me."