To predict, look for events that are certain but with uncertain timing (fragile will break), rather than certain timing but uncertain occurrence. (Nicholas Nassim Taleb)
12-4. 12-4. 15-3. 12-6. 11-7. 14-4. 15-3. 16-2.
That’s 107-33 combined. Those are the conference records for VCU over the past eight years, Anthony Grant to Shaka Smart, CAA to Atlantic 10. If there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that the Rams plant the flag near the top of its conference by season’s end. It’s a good lesson for those who wrung the skin off the backs of their hands in early December. We’ll be fine–that’s been a certain event for more than a decade.
In a nod to Taleb, we don’t know what VCUs conference record will be (uncertain occurrence) but the timing is certain (18 games by early March). The best we can hope to know Sunday afternoon: 1-0.
And what the fat does all that mean?
We have no idea when it’s going to come together, but it does. That’s based on far more than a fan’s homerific faith. It’s a track record. There’s a reason VCU is 26-2 in its last 28 December games, and 43-6 in December under Shaka Smart. The team starts figuring it out and playing better.
But even while VCU has played growingly better in the past five games, it isn’t a finished product. Far from it. There will be ups and downs. What’s more, a single game does not a trend make. So don’t take a 40-point win or 40-point loss on Sunday as a sweeping generalization for the entire season.
Keep an eye on the how. That’s what matters come March.
Fordham is 5-6, with all five wins coming in Rose Hill. The Rams are led by freshman Eric Paschall. Think Treveon Graham. Paschall goes about 6-6, averages 16/6 and isn’t a superb athlete, but he is strong enough (already) to compete in the lane and he can shoot the three (20-59, 34%). Mandell Thomas returns and though he is in a shooting slump Thomas can score. He averages 13.3ppg and leads the team with 40 assists (against 20 turnovers). Antoine Anderson (37 assists, 27 turnovers) shares ballhandling duties and has made 6-13 from three.
Ryan Rhoomes will challenge Mo Alie Cox. Rhoomes averages 8.3ppg and 10.7rpg and has similar hops as Cox.
Two other freshmen are worth looking at: Christian Sengfelder (12.3ppg, 6.6rpg) and Nemanja Zarkovic (5.3ppg). Sengfelder is a face up four man who can shoot the three. Zarkovic does a little bit of everything–42% from three (11 makes), 23 assists vs. 21 turnovers (excellent for a freshman)
Wild card: last year’s A10 co-frosh of the year, Jon Severe, is back with the team. Severe took a personal leave of absence a month ago but returned to the team on Friday. The kid is a straight bucketmaker, but it’s hard to believe he will be in any shape–both in terms of conditioning and team chemistry–to significantly impact Sunday’s game. However keep an eye on him.
VCU enters the game forcing a turnover on the defensive end in 25.3% of possessions, which ranks ninth in the country. Fordham is prone to cough it up, entering with an offensive TO rate of 25.8%, which is ninth-worst in the nation. The Good Rams are ranked third in the country in turnover margin (+6.9) and are averaging +9.5 in the past four games.
The deciding factor in any basketball game is never one stat, but this is your key indicator.