We're in a no-lose situation in my mind, which is odd because I can't, off the top of my head, remember the last time we've been in this situation. Think about it: the pressure is on SLU. They are the team at the top of the standings, playing at home against a good opponent, ranked, being written about, having to prove themselves on national TV.
VCU steps into Chaifetz knowing it leaves no worse than tied for second in the A10 in middle February. I like that. A lot. You know why? It means the L box of Aggressive, Confident, and Loose is checked. We all know the A is a given. This VCU team has no issue playing aggressive. And if you are aggressive and loose, you can’t help but to be confident.
Now, I think there is one very important segment to the game. It will come early. To me the game may come down to playing with confidence after VCU gets punched. What happens after the Rams fall behind 14-6 is important. I’m not saying we will fall behind early, but you get the point. At some point SLU will punch VCU right in the teeth and the Rams must respond.
Last year in this building was a disaster. Things started harmlessly enough, but a 21-1 run from SLU pretty much began a solid hour of playing the “if we can get this thing under double digits…” game. That’s no fun. VCU didn’t respond to being punched.
And with all the over-analysis that's going to occur, I think it comes down to shooting percentage. If VCU can shoot more than 45% from the field we stand a very good chance of winning this one.
What’s more, I don't think VCU needs to plunge a 13-25 from three strike, but a 9-21 (ish) game is the right ballpark. We have to make a good number, and shoot a decent number, of threes. The way SLU plays defense trading two-for-two makes things difficult. The Rams will need to trade a bunch of twos for threes.
Older Rams fans will picture the UNCW teams of the early 2000s. Strong on defense, gritty, not particularly gifted on offense but chock full of weapons, including a big man that can shoot. Heck, Brad Brownell coached with Jim Crews for one year at Evansville. VCU can't hold the ball on offense and should expect a physical game.
ACL is perfect for this test. I like our chances.
SLU last lost on December 1, which was 16 games ago, to Wichita State. In fact, their only other loss was to Wisconsin, who won its first 16 games. Hmmmm. 16 and a loss.
Anyway, head coach Jim Crews starts five seniors–hoo nanny swaddle that baby–and are very balanced on offense. They go seven deep with productivity and their tallest player is second on the team in threes.
Defense is their calling card, though. Tough, in-your-shirt defense. The Billikens are tops in the A10 and third in the nation in defensive efficiency. Put simply, they just don’t let you do anything.
Viewing tip: SLU bumps its opponents off the ball a ton, curtailing cuts and disrupting the flow of an offense. It bodes well for the Rams if that happens to be something the officials are watching.
Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans are the show ponies. Jett averages 17.8 ppg in A10 play and is a tough, physical player with deceptive quickness. He is a solid ballhandler, so you can expect the Rams to try to trap him. He will gamble on defense, hmmmm.
Evans is my favorite player in the A10 that does not wear a VCU uniform. He is an SOB of the highest order, and I mean that in a complimentary way. Evans is a strong 6-6 player who scraps for rebounds and attacks on offense. He leads the A10 in free throw attempts.
Rob Loe (9.4ppg, 6.8rpg) is 7-0 and can bury the three. He has to be accounted for in the offense because he can also pass well. Loe is also a stone wall in the post. Mike McCall (7.9ppg) can be a shooter, although he has not done so this year. McCall is also an above-average ballhandler and their best perimeter defender.
Their main, and probably only true, three-point threat is Austin McBroom (9.2ppg). McBroom is small and slithery—lightning fast and 39-97 from three. He’s made all 19 free throws in A10 play, but he is also a suspect defender VCU can attack.
Finally, Grandy Glaze and Jake Barnett are the guys that make everybody better. Glaze is a garbage man in the paint, and Barnett makes plays. More three of every four field goal attempts from Barnett are threes.
Sum It Up, Knucklehead
I'm not a woman, and you can shut up right now, but I frequently check in on Maya Smart's woman-focused blog. A few weeks back she had an entry surrounding the concept of multipliers, that is, single activities that accomplish multiple goals.
If you want to get into shape and spend more time with your spouse, go for a walk with your spouse is the example. Two goals with one activity.
(Side note: extend yourself, you neanderthal–you never know what you can learn.)
We've got that opportunity in this SLU game. An opportunity for a big road win. A top 25 RPI win. Great damned feelings. Or, as one of my favorite people texted me today: let's go do this.