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Added Mowbray: “We just mourned. It was like someone died.”

Yet just as Richmond got hot, so did the Rams. They reached the CAA final, earned one of the final at-large berths in the tournament and defeated Southern California, Georgetown and Purdue in a five-day span.

Now, there’s the possibility of a city rivalry being transported more than 1,000 miles away. Some fans from each school will be able to make the trip. Many more will be back in Richmond watching, a circumstance local establishments will find beneficial as they sell food, drink and school-logoed gear.

Bookstores on both campuses did brisk business Monday, with the eventual arrival of Sweet 16 merchandise certain to drive sales beyond levels seen even during a Christmas rush.

Internet sales, much of it from alums, were especially strong. It created a conundrum for Debbie Matze, the general merchandise buyer at Richmond’s on-campus bookstore: How to handle a crush of requests both in person and from online customers.

“It’s going to be a battle of what do we put out on the sales floor and trying to get these orders filled,” she said.

The demand is there from students as well. Brothers, the Richmond guard, noticed more Spiders logos, sweatshirts and hats when he returned to campus early Sunday. Just as significantly, both schools seem to be rooting for the other to help keep their city on the map.

Perhaps it’s because both teams were assured of nothing a few weeks ago. Instead, Richmond is the first city to have a pair of teams playing on the season’s penultimate weekend since Los Angeles sent UCLA and Southern California to the round of 16 in 2007.

“We thought the season was over after we lost the championship game, and then you get this second chance and it’s like ‘Now we have a second chance, don’t mess up. Just keep going,’” Ricketts said.

And if the city’s dream matchup materializes, Richmond’s basketball community would receive an unexpected opportunity few realistically dreamed was ever possible. Richmond must topple top-seeded Kansas, while 11th-seeded VCU must upend 10th-seeded Florida State to make it happen.

But if both teams win?

“It is a rivalry when we play during the season, but I think it’s viewed as more than a rivalry if we played them in the Elite Eight because it’s viewed as more than just bragging rights,” Brothers said. “It’s still bragging rights for when you come back home, but it is [bigger].”

As big, it would seem, as anything Richmond has ever seen.