My apologies for the lateness of this preview. I was a tourist yesterday, enjoying what NYC has to offer, and then I ran by Die Koelner Bierhalle for some, shall we say, non-writing activity with a wonderful contingent of VCU fans.
But now its time to lock in to basketball (except for another trip over to KBH for some pregame non-writing activity).
I have a list that I keep. It's a mental list, but it's a clear one. I find it every time I hear the words of an item on the list strung together by some media foof. I call it the "Dumb Things That Sound Smart" list.
"You should press a pressing team" is on it. Think about it: that's dumb.
The whole "Wichita State should lose before the postseason" argument was dumb.
Also on that list is an item that applies to VCUs matchup against Richmond this evening in the A10 tournament: "it's tough to beat a team three times in a season." Dumb. Again, think about the words you are saying. Now come up with the argument that makes it tough to do. Why is the third game tough? Why not the fourth? Second?
There's data to support this being dumb. My friend Jerry Beach researched this phenomena in the CAA. Here's where he landed:
Since 2001-02, when the CAA expanded to include the America East four…a team that wins both regular season meetings is 34-11 when meeting for a third time in the tournament, including 10-0 since Drexel fell to James Madison in the 2010 opening round.
Don't be dumb.
You know the players by now. Kendall Anthony is a pest but a high scoring, quick shooting, fast as lightning pest. He's going to get his, but the Rams have to make everything tough. If Anthony is to score 24 points, it needs to be on 7-20 shooting, not 9-14.
Terry Allen is the other main concern in my mind. Allen has the ability to create his own shot and carries Reddic-size. He dropped a 27/7 on Duquesne last night in the Spiders victory, hitting four three-pointers.
Alonzo Nelson-Ododa had a 13/7 night. He carries a ton of skills that he has yet to bring to the floor on a consistent basis. When Ododa plays well, Richmond is a different team. And finally, Trey Davis is a beastly rebounding firecracker. VCU needs to keep him from becoming a scoring threat.
This is also a game where you need to keep an eye on open mouths, shorts-tugging, and slow transition from big men. Each of the above players went north of 30 minutes last night, including 37 from Davis and 34 from Anthony. That's a lot of minutes, and those weren't havoc minutes.
The Grimace Factor is in play. When the grimaces on the Richmond players' faces begin to outnumber their defensive stances, VCU is in good shape.
I don't think we give enough credit to the portion of havoc that is the VCU offense attacking immediately in the frontcourt. Even off of Richmond scores, look for VCU to be in the frontcourt attacking on offense. That doesn't give the Spiders a moment's break and that's a mental deterrent. It wears you down as much mentally and emotionally and it does physically.
A team can overcome being mentally not there by shooting well. They can overcome not playing well by playing very hard. One of the best traits of havoc is that it suffocates the mind, the body, and the heart.
SUM IT UP, KNUCKLEHEAD
Richmond has a clear advantage in that it played last night. That matters, as the Spiders have a feel for the floor, the sightlines, the swishes, and that field of play.
VCU is well-served getting off to a fast start. The Rams are going to have those first few minutes of getting comfy in their environment, the "feeling out" stage of tournament basketball. That generally lends to inefficient play, especially on offense.
If VCU can get out of that initial stage either ahead–let's say 12-6 at the 14-minute mark–or in a tie game, that bodes well. Once VCU settles into itself and begins simply playing basketball, anxiety will give way to energy, which will give way to focus. And combine that with the natural affects of fatigue from Richmond's short bench, second game in 24 hours, and havoc of the head and you have to like VCUs chances tonight.
In short: guard the three-point line, attack, and rebound. Then attack again. Everything else will fall into place if VCU does VCU things. In a tournament atmosphere, anything else would be, well, dumb.