I spent the better part of last night and this morning trying to concoct the angle and spirit in which to set up tomorrow’s contest of basketball skills against Virginia. Analogies, personal stories, data, historical references were all in the mix at some point. Here’s where I landed:
VCU is hosting the sixth-ranked team in the country in a rematch of last year when Treveon Graham hit a three that left me speechless and students started camping out on Wednesday and Wes McElroy is doing live radio from a place called Shakaville and the worst seats in That Animal are on StubHub for several hundred dollars and 17 NBA scouts will be there and it’s a matchup of fast and slow and havoc and pack line and quite frankly it’s the most anticipated regular season college basketball state matchup ever when you consider the landscape.
Not very creative, but I think you get it.
But here’s the thing, and while it may be an unpopular statement it holds true in my mind. It’s a one-shot deal. (See what i did there?) If Puerto Rico taught us anything, a win over Virginia does nothing to the rest of our opponents except perhaps lock them in even more. We don’t get a five-point head start against Northern Iowa because of the win. Similarly, a loss against Virginia is a loss against a damn good sixth-ranked team and VCU won’t be forced to play with four players the first five minutes of Northern Iowa.
VCU could play very well and lose, and VCU could play an average game and win. It’s how it goes sometimes and college basketball doesn’t always make sense. This is the ultimate test of your faith in that concept of The Process. You have to look at the how, the growth from Oregon to Old Dominion to Illinois State to get your authentic measurement. Sometimes the results do not match what went into, and what comes out of, those 40 minutes.
A win will be outstanding and I will restock my supply of Stella for a fun Saturday night if it happens, but don’t lose sight of the most important thing: VCUs march to March and postseason relevance. “I don’t want to lose to Virginia” is an avoidance goal, and you know what we think of avoidance goals around here. Play well, get better, and keep getting better until we get to March.
As The Melvin said yesterday: “I don’t think we’re measuring anything. We’re going to play the way we’ve been playing…win or lose I think we’re in a good place.”
Now don’t get me wrong: it’s going to be difficult today to focus on the job that pays my mortgage. I will leave tomorrow morning to get to That Animal extra early, and for reasons having nothing to do with the Christmas Parade and traffic.
I want to soak up every single minute of this.
I’m not going to get deep into the scouting report. Honestly, this is the kind of game you worry less about the minutiae–that’s for coaches and players–and be a fan.
However for those that need a high level primer: Virginia’s guard combo of London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon play at their own pace, which is paramount in running an offense and staying calm. Anthony Gill is a quality wing scorer who can rip into the lane. The main man is Justin Anderson. He goes about 6-6 and plays with great emotion. He can shoot the three but is a load no matter where he is on the court. Mike Tobey is the role player to watch. Tobey really hurt VCU on the glass in the first half last season and UVa is grabbing 44% of its offensive misses. He goes 6-11 but can step out to 17 feet and shoot.
We talk about pace and getting the game going fast, but many times that’s a preference and not a necessity. Pace will likely dictate this one. VCU needs to be able to get fast baskets–turnovers and run outs are nice, but a good look in early shot clock situations is gigantic. That pack line defense is like snowfall–it gets treacherous the more it piles on. Consider this number: since 2012-13, VCU has played 38 regulation games with 70 or more possessions. UVa has played one.