Emotional Rams thrive in spotlight, struggle in shadow
VCU notched their 19th win of the season last night as they traveled to Harrisonburg to face a hot JMU Dukes (17-8, 7-6) squad in front of a packed JMU Convocation Center crowd.
The going got tough, but as has been the case more often than not this season, the Rams came up clutch in yet another difficult atmosphere.
In fact, VCU has proven itself to be a MORE difficult opponent in the big games this year. Â And while the Rams have thrived in front of packed arens full of booing fans, they have often struggled in empty gym situations.
So far this season, the Rams six road wins have come in front of an average of 5,050 fans.
Their five losses? Try 3,623 butts in the seats, four of which were viewable by less than 3,000 fans.
For the most part, VCU has been able to channel the emotion of a big game situations into black-and-gold W’s.
The Rams blew out Wake Forest in front of 8,119 in Winston-Salem, got a home win over Drexel in front of 6,313 (a team that handed now 13th ranked Louisville it’s first ever loss in their new 22,000 seats facility), scored 9 more than rival Old Dominion in a sold out (8,457) game in Norfolk, won the battle for 1st place at the time in the CAA over Hofstra in front of 7,200+ VCU fans, and just recently handed rival JMU a home loss in a must-win game in front of just under 5,000.
They were also able to win in front of 5,126 UNCW fans in the always difficult Trask Arena.
VCU’s lone road blow out in a sparsely populated venue came in front of 2,245, 1/3rd of which were Ram fans who made the short trip down 64 East from Richmond to Williamsburg to watch VCU’s annual destruction of William & Mary.
Shaka Smart’s squad also proved true to this emotional style of basketball when barely squeaking out a 4-point win in front of the 1,365 in attendance at 4-19 Towson, a team winless in CAA play.
VCU has turned it’s home court advantage into one of the best in the country, as the Rams 22-game home win streak is good enough for fourth best in college hoops, just behind the likes of Duke, Kentucky, and an underrated Utah State program.
Past players and coaches have often commented on their ability to feed off the emotion in the arena, which home and away has proven especially true with this year’s team.
VCU is a perfect 12-0 this season in their home on Broad St.
The Rams will need to maintain that same big game intensity and ability to come out on top, with sure to sellout home games against ODU on the ESPN family of networks, a senior night battle against JMU, and their only meeting this season against a George Mason team they are currently tied atop the CAA standings with (each at 11-2 in conference play).
VCU also travels to Philadelphia to face 5th placed Drexel, and gets a Bracket Buster matchup at Wichita State, a team averaging 10,670 fans per home contest, better than all but three teams in the ACC.
Just as importantly, the Rams will need to avoid another road let down as they travel to Delaware this Wednesday against the 7th-placed Blue Hens, currently averaging 2,357 fans, the 8th worst home attendance in the CAA.