Two facts are indisputable from last night's hyper-emotional loss to St. Joseph's.
I've had a chance to sleep on the call, as well as five hours in transit home. I came to a distinct conclusion based on that extended opportunity to view the replay and think about what I saw. I turned it over and over in my head, and Ed Corbett's charging call on Treveon Graham remains garbage.
The part that galls me the most is that the exact play in question is PRECISELY a point of emphasis for the officials this season. Defenders are not allowed to slide under the offensive player after the offensive player has begun his upward motion and is in the air. Even if you believe that play being a 50/50 call in terms of position, the way the officials have been instructed to call the basketball game flies in the face of the call Corbett made. Just awful.
That said, there's another fact that cannot be escaped: even if Corbett makes the right call, VCU trailed by one point. Even with Graham going to the line with a chance to tie, St. Joseph's has the ball and there's no telling what happens in the end-game situation. Anything you try to put together from that point is merely speculation that occurs in your head. It's a feeble and fruitless exercise. We will never know, and nothing will change, so it's time to move forward.
But I'm filing this one in the top drawer for easy access.
The end-game controversy should also not mask the fact that VCU didn't arrive in Philadelphia with the same level of energy displayed in past trips away from That Animal. St. Joseph's dictated the play of the game for probably 32 minutes. You can see that in the offensive rebounding numbers: this was the first Atlantic 10 game this season in which the opponent grabbed more offensive rebounds than VCU.
You could also see it in the St. Joseph's offensive flow. Cutters sliced untouched and unassailed into the lane to create easy opportunities. That's not hallmark VCU defense and representative of a team that's a step slow. On offense, VCU didn't crack the 1.00 points per possession line. The only two times that has occurred in A10 play are last night, and at GW–both VCU losses.
We seem to pick on the defense a lot when things go wrong, but the offense was not clicking last night either. No matter what led up to the numbers, giving up 69 points is not bad, and scoring 62 points is not good.
We came into the game touting the short bench of St. Joseph's. It lived up to billing as three Hawks players combined for 16 total minutes. However VCU played itself into a short bench last night. Outside of Melvin Johnson, who was offensively outstanding, the Rams got next-to-nothing from its bench. The combo of Guest, Shannon, and Alie-Cox combined for 18 minutes, missing all three shots from the field and grabbing one rebound.
But here's the final inescapable fact: with all that brutal play, all that chunky offense, all that skullduggery from the officials, this was a one possession game with one minute to play. This is a team that had won 11 of 12 since Northern Iowa and played damn good basketball. We're not suddenly terrible. This was one game that we didn't do certain things. Just as one win is on win and doesn't represent a trend, one loss does not represent a trend.
They are humans, playing a human game. It isn't golf, where you don't have somebody else impacting your play. As I always say–the other guy is trying to win, too.
Imperfection and the quest to get as close to perfection as you can are the alpha and omega of college basketball. Some nights that see-saw tilts the wrong way. This was one of those nights. This VCU team that is 11-2 in its last 13 games is the same VCU team that was 11-1 in its last 12 games.
So relax. We have a bit of a biggie coming on Wednesday night when Mike Lonergan brings his GW team to town and that game matters greatly. There's the emotion of a big win, the margins of what that means to this team, and there's the cold numbers. We need to even up with the Colonials so they don't own a tiebreaker.
Let's just hope Ed Corbett stays home.