There were many uncertainties heading into the 09-10 hoops season. For starters, how do you replace your all-time leading scorer/assist man, Eric Maynor, who oh-by-the-way played the most important position in college basketball? Obviously, losing NBA talent (20th pick overall) is never a positive for a team who last sent a representative to “the league” in 1993.
Add to that, er…subtract your coach from the previous three seasons. Before departing the capitol city for the estimated $2 million dollar pile of female deer which awaited him in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, all Anthony Grant ever did for VCU was win three CAA regular season titles, 76 games, two CAA championship games which resulted in two auto NCAA tourny appearances, one of which saw a game winning Maynor jump shot that thrust the black and gold into the national spotlight in the tournament’s only upset of the day.
On the bright side, the Rams returned 4 of 5 starters including a potential NBA prospect in 6’11 Larry Sanders, added two highly touted transfers in Jamie Skeen (6’8, Wake Forest) and Jay Gavin (no longer on the team) as well as an up and coming 31 year old coach from the same Florida bloodlines from which we found Grant, Shaka Smart.
After a 9-2 start, 8-1 out of conference including wins against then 17th ranked Oklahoma Sooners, crosstown rival Richmond Spiders, and two big return game paybacks over Nevada and Rhode Island, VCU seemed to not only meet, but exceed expectations of a team predicted to finish 3rd in the CAA.
Back to back conference losses followed by two 4-1 win loss patterns, and the Rams currently sit in a three way tie with William and Mary and Drexel for that crucial 4th seed heading into this year’s CAA tournament (teams 5-12 play an additional Friday night game, forcing them to win one more than the top 4 seeds to punch their ticket to the Big Dance).
If VCU can get out of Harrisonburg with a win this weekend they’ll have their first chance at distancing themselves from that pack in a home tip against Drexel. This game is crucial for the Rams as Drexel’s remaining conference schedule consists of the 9th, 10th, and 11th place teams…respectively.
With that, VCU can only assure themselves of a 4th seed by winning the remainder of their conference games, including a road win at rival Old Dominion.
Currently, Drexel would hold a tie-breaker over VCU (IF they finish with an equal conference record) by having swept the current 1st place team, Northeastern, who swept VCU.
VCU would have the tie-break if oddly enough…rival ODU found themselves at the top of the standings as VCU will have a higher win % against the Monarchs having won a game against them earlier this season (Drexel lost their only meeting with ODU this year).
William and Mary has lost 4 of their last 7 heading into this weekend’s matchup against current top seed, Northeastern (12-2, 17-8). Their road would then take them to Fairfax for their only game against George Mason (11-3, 16-9). The Tribe finish their conference season against last placed Towson and at UNCW, currently 9th at 4-10 in the CAA.
Only 3 teams seeded 4th or lower have gone on to win the CAA tournament.
East Carolina became the lowest seed to ever win it at 7th, in 1993 over top seeded James Madison. The CAA only included 8 teams at that time, so no team has ever put together the 4 wins needed to win it as a 5th seed or lower in today’s current CAA tournament structure (Friday-Monday).
Only 5 teams seeded 5th or lower have ever made it to a CAA tournament title game, two of which were within the past three tournaments…6th seeded George Mason in 2007, and 5th seeded William and Mary the following season.