Random thoughts on a Friday morning. TGIF everyone.
A-10 REGULAR SEASON FINALE
The Atlantic 10 has been one of the more exciting conference races this season, producing a number of ranked teams including your No.21 VCU Rams (VCU was ranked as high as No.19 but could potentially surpass that with a road win at Temple this weekend). The Rams head into this weekend tied with Saint Louis at 12-3 in conference play, but need a little help to win the regular season title outright. If La Salle (11-4) defeats SLU in St. Louis on Saturday, and VCU follows that up with a win at Temple on Sunday, the Rams are the regular season A-10 champs. If La Salle wins and VCU loses, La Salle is your champ. If SLU wins, they are your champ. The worst VCU can finish is third, which would come from a La Salle win and VCU loss. Every scenario results in a first round tournament bye, meaning your Thursday next week may be a lot like most of your Fridays were in CAA tournament play.
VCU is No.21 in the AP Poll, No.19 in the Coaches Poll, No.29 in the RPI, No.14 by Kenpom’s computer rankings and No.23 in the Sagarin computer rankings. VCU’s strength of schedule ranking is No.65 (which is actually pretty good). VCU finishes the season at RPI-No.43 Temple, then follow that with neutral court A-10 tournament games against what will likely be only RPI top-100 teams. Moral of the story? VCU should be a lock for this season’s NCAA tournament, and are currently being projected in the No.5-No.7 range, and baring two losses to end the season, will still be dancing (we’re pretty much playing for seeding at this point). So start saving your money and clear up March 21st-24th on your calendar, because you’ve got tournament games to attend soon.
Prepare yourself Ram fans, it’s that time of year where BCS schools try and wreak havoc on VCU fans’ psyches, and you’re most likely to hear from two teams–and their entitled fans–in particular: Minnesota and UCLA. First thought…I hate that more than anything. One of my jobs as a VCURamNation.com blogger is to search the net for news on Coach Smart, and I hate hate HATE sorting through that mess. It’s like having to read rumors that your significant other is about to leave you for some a-hole who thinks he’s better than you, all while you and your girlfriend are having the best time of your lives, in our case, hopefully going on another long run through the NCAA tournament. Two potential candidates are UCLA and Minnesota (currently the biggest internet noisemakers on the subject). UCLA brings “prestige” and is thought to be one of the “elite” jobs Shaka would actually leave for, while Minnesota is led by former VCU AD, Norwood Teague. Shaka, I know you’re reading this, so here’s my pitch to you: 1) I love you 2) WE love you 3) Your players and their families love you, and 4) a Final 4 in your second season at VCU…a trip to the White House AND an opening gig introducing POTUS…Spike Lee…and almost Arther Ashe status in Richmond, VA…what can you really do at UCLA that you can’t at VCU? And with less stress. In all seriousness, I really hope VCU–and not just the Athletic Department, but the University–understands just how important Coach Smart is to this school and the city of Richmond. That said, the decision is ultimately up to coach smart and his family. Coach, I feel like you’re a family member now…and cousin Mat thinks you should stay.
NAISMITH STUDENT SECTION OF THE YEAR
That’s a legit honor. VCU outlasted the likes of Kansas, Indiana, Gonzaga and a number of other programs who have always thought to have had one of the best student sections/home atmosphere in the country, a total of 178 teams when the voting started. This is somewhat related to the previous section and an article I wrote last week. Basically, if you build it, they will come. VCU is a HUGE school, going back-and-forth with GMU for the honors of the largest in the state at around 32,000+ and counting. It’s also a relatively young school. That equals a TON of potential. One thing that has always been missing however was that school spirit you usually only get at a big football school. Eric Maynor’s dagger started it, the Final 4 run cemented it. The beast is awake and it craves basketball. 35 consecutive sellouts and counting, not a bad start.
According to Rivals.com, the only other teams to offer sophomore Treveon Graham a scholarship to play D1 hoops were Northeastern and Cleveland State. ESPN Senior National Recruiting Analyst, Dave Telep, told me yesterday that George Mason was interested as well, but ultimately passed on the DC native (which is a very George Mason thing to do). Graham ranks fifth in the A-10 in scoring at 15.7 per game, tops among underclassmen. For historical perspective, that’s about a bucket more a game than Eric Maynor had in his breakout sophomore season, and in 7.4 less minutes per contest.
CAN’T BELIEVE HOW QUICKLY THIS SEASON FLEW
I heard Robbie or Mike mention this after the Richmond game and totally agree. Playing the teams we did, almost all new, and certainly tougher than usual when it comes to conference play, just really made the regular season speed by. I can’t believe I won’t return to the Siegel Center for a men’s basketball game until next November. Crazy.