This may be a tad unpopular, but as excited as I am to hop in the car and head down to the Siegel Center this afternoon, when I jump back in the car six hours later VCU will be 0-0 no matter what happens between seat belt usage.
For all the run up to get to this point there’s still one more week before it becomes real-real.
Make no mistake about my excitement level. I’ve been humming Peppas anthems for the past 48 hours and laid out my clothes last night like a grade-schooler preparing for his first rec league game. And as a friend said to me this morning: “we get to play a basketball game tonight. Against another team.” Yes we do.
But tonight’s exhibition against CalPA is not about Xs and Os. Not turnovers forced nor three-point percentage. Not offensive rebounds nor defensive rebounds. It’s more important that the coaching staff break out their test tubes, beakers and bunsen burners in an effort to find the combinations that work best together. Tonight is about science, not art.
Here’s what else I’m after tonight: the energy and level of enthusiasm–start to finish, and collectively–from the players in the absence of Briante Weber. Look at it this way: if Weber plays 25 minutes per game, there’s still 15 minutes–37.5% of the game–in which the five players will have to amp up the energy level with Weber on the bench. Tonight they get a full 40 minutes without Weber.
What’s more, I want to see an SOB mentality, a certain assassin’s mindset, in their eyes. It’s an exhibition game and CalPA coach Bill Brown deserves an ovation, but when that clock starts the VCU players have to be all business. The CalPA players have to be nameless, faceless, brandless people standing in the way of VCU preparation for a tough season. This will help not just for the tough games on the slate, but also to help prevent banana-peel games.
This foots to the most interesting thing Shaka Smart said after the Black & Gold scrimmage. Smart noted that they tracked the percentage of time each player had the ball in his hands. The coaching staff was able to show them lower numbers than anyone expected, with the rhetorical: “what can you do to help your team win when you don’t have the ball in your hands?” (Thanks, CK.)
Side note: if you want an outstanding primer on the subtext of this game, check out Chris Kowaczzzzyyck’s piece at Around the Horns. Bill Brown matters.
Programming Note: assistant coach Mike Morrell has graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview at all road games this year, and I will post it here. We will preview the upcoming opponent and maybe talk about his choice of ties. Morrell has a smart man’s perspective and I’ll try my best to stay out of his way and avoid dopey questions. Look for the first one next week for the regular season opener against Tennessee.
Why only road games? I can get to Morrell between meetings at the hotel or at the end of pregame shootaround. Logistics are in my favor and I don’t want to promise something I can’t deliver. As you can imagine his schedule is busy, and because nobody has spoken to my boss about doubling my vacation days, it’s tough for me to get down to That Animal prior to home games. So we’re taking it on the road.
I’m taking suggestions for the title of this feature.