QUICK HITS: VCU at UVA
GRAHAM’S MAYNOR MOMENT
Eric Maynor’s Duke dagger capped the first half of his career at VCU in a 22-point performance against the Blue Devils. At close to the same point in his career, Treveon Graham hits his signature shot to take down No.25 UVA in front of a sold out JPJ. Up until now, Graham has been a silent killer for the Rams, leading VCU this past season in scoring but doing so with little to no flash. To quote the brilliant Michael Litos: “The guy is like direct deposit. You don’t ever really see the check, but the money is in the account.” But last night Graham essentially “made it rain on them Hoos” by draining an NBA-ranger to send 10,000+ UVA fans into an instant depression while simoultaniously becoming the hero of this young season for VCU. Those of us who paid attention have always known just how good this young man is, now everyone else does as well.
A TIP OF THE HAT TO TONY BENNETT
VCU fans have watched UVA and Virginia Tech coaches dodge the Rams for years. Not Bennett. As a player for Wisconsin-Green Bay from 88-92, Bennett saw his alma mater receive similar treatment from local schools, Wisconsin and Marquette. As a head coach he has bucked that trend, choosing to embrace the tough in-state battles against non-BCS programs and has done so at no detriment to his program, getting UVA back to relevancy and a national ranking to start this season. Last night Bennett’s team came up just short of a potential marquee win on this young season, but in doing so won the respect of college hoops fans across the sate while also packing UVA’s JPJ to it’s capacity for the first time in a non-conference game since 2007. It’s easy to hate in-state rivalries but damn hard to dislike a guy like Bennett.
SHAKA USES SPOTLIGHT TO HELP CAUSE
Coach Smart rolled into last night’s post-game press conference in a black VCU warmup jacket that he quickly ditched just before sitting down in front of a room filled with Virginia and national press members. Underneath that jacket he had put on a FRIENDS RVA t-shirt, a shirt the Smart family have been helping to sell as a part of a campaign to raise funds for the FRIENDS Association for Children, an organization that helps provide child development services in Richmond’s Jackson Ward and Church Hill neighborhoods. It was a subtle move, and one that may have gone unnoticed by the media members buzzing after a thrilling ending to a basketball game, but a move that spoke volumes of the character of last night’s winning coach.
SMALL BALL FOR THE WIN
The additions of several new bigs this season looks to be a blessing for the Rams, but when VCU walked off the court as victors last night, it was the combination Weber, Brandenberg, Burgess 2.0, Graham and Reddic that finished off the Wahoos for VCU. Bennett commented on the difficulties of defending Graham at the 4 position, and while we may see plenty of small forward Treveon throughout the season, it looks as if the small ball mismatch is still an effective one for VCU.
Surprisingly enough, VCU hasn’t started a season 2-0 since 2010 (ok, so not that long ago, but still seems surprising). They went on to the Final 4 that year, so perhaps this 2-game win streak will bring with it some of that ol school magic. This is however the second-straight season VCU has won their first game played against a nationally ranked squad. Like last year, VCU will take on Winthrop in their third game of the season followed by a neutral court tournament in a tropical local. The Rams destroyed Winthrop 90-54 last year then went 1-2 in the following tournament (defeated No.19 Memphis, then lost to No.5 Duke and No.13 Missouri by a combined 12 points).