I can think of no better way to start this little blog post than to quote my good friend and VCURamNation.com co-founder, Marcus Shrock, who said after last night’s loss:
“I’ve not been alive long enough to see a team finish their NCAA season undefeated. Yet, every year someone wins a National Championship.”
Now I know the naysayers will slam the “national championship” part in that but his point was this: everyone loses. The very BEST lose.
Take for example Louisville’s 2012 Final 4 team that lost to Kentucky before getting a chance to advance to the national championship game (coincidentally Louisville would go on to win it all the following season). That team fell to a Providence squad that would finish the season 15-17, by a score of 90-59. The Cardinals boasted a roster littered with not only top-100 talent, but top-50 talent (Chane Behanan, Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva all top-50 starters). Hall of Fame coach, Rick Pitino, took his group into Providence Rhode Island where they would go on to shoot 37.9% from the field and get out-rebounded by 10 to a sub-500 Friars squad in a road rout. It was the only win Providence had over a nine-game span and the then-No.14 Louisville Cardinals’ fourth loss in five games, yet they never canceled the season then eventually found themselves in the Big Easy as a part of that season’s Final 4.
The team that ended their season? Eventual national champion, Kentucky. The Wildcats went 38-2 then reloaded their roster with a recruiting class that consisted of four top-40 players including ESPN’s No.1, No.13 and No.15 overall ranked players, all of whom were McDonald’s All-Americans. That team went on to lose to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, a season that included seven double-digit losses including a 30-point road beatdown to an unranked Tennessee Volunteers squad.
Hell, last year’s national champ lost by 33 points to Louisville….IN MARCH.
Fact: over the previous three complete seasons (2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14) five of the current top-10 nationally ranked teams have at least four losses of 15 points or more, those schools being Kentucky (4), Duke (4), UNC (6), Texas (8) and UVA (4) — three boasting coaches who have at least one national championship (Calipari, Coach K and Roy Williams, all will retire as Hall of Famers).
VCU had three such losses over that span, four including last night. Would they have more if they had to play the schedules of those other teams? You bet they would. But that’s not the point. The point is VCU is a program on the rise who hopes to reach the level of some of those programs, programs who even at the very tip top of the mountain still get their teeth kicked in from time to time, and not just by each other.
VCU is very much on the rise, but it’s a rise that takes time. The black and gold’s 2014-15 rosters consists of five former ESPN top-100 recruits, only one of which is an upperclassman: junior guard, Melvin Johnson. Three are freshmen (Larrier, Gilmore, Tillman) one is a redshirt soph (Burgess) and two more are on their way, both being top-80 recruits: Tevin Mack being VCU’s third highest rated recruit ever at No.58. He’ll join the Rams’ second highest rated recruit in the history of the program, No.43 Terry Larrier, both of whom will be underclassmen on next season’s squad.
Does VCU have a ton of work to do? You better believe it. But so did the Rams’ 2010-11 team that trailed the University of Richmond by 23 points after the first half in a road game, the same team who lost by double-digits to the likes of Northeastern, Georgia State, ODU and George Mason (by 21…at the Siegel Center). That team eventually rebounded when it mattered most, reeling off blowouts against Purdue and Georgetown, not to mention a 10-point win over Kansas in the Elite 8, a game the Rams had gone up by as much as 17 at one point.
As fans we have a tendency to view our teams in a bubble, thinking we are the only team that can consistently OCCASIONALLY post a real stinker. I’m here to tell you I’ve looked beyond the campus boarders and can assure you that happens all over the country.
VCU’s season is far from over and havoc is far from reaching it’s ceiling (contrary to Rob Dauster’s click-bait piece on NBCSports today).
I know enough about college basketball to know that I don’t know s*** about college basketball, but trust that a guy I do know knows a lot more than any bozo freaking out after one loss.
We lost a game, but guess what? We play another tonight. After that we’ve got at least 26 more. Enjoy the journey.