Choppy waters, my friends. Choppy waters. In the past, oh, two weeks, VCU has lost Briante Weber for good. Lost Treveon Graham for who knows how long. Lost to its rival. Lost on a buzzer beater. And lost in double overtime.
It’s been like having a tree in your yard dump leaves into the gutters and grass, making a weekly mess. So you decide to cut down the tree, which falls into your house. Which jacks up your insurance rates. And then a swarm of bees takes over the stump. And stings your dog. Which means you pay a high vet bill.
These kids are trying. Hard. Hard to the point of cramps and fatigue. I may go as far as saying this team plays harder, with an edge, than any VCU team I can remember. Your memory, at my advanced age, blurs some of the minutiae, but this team plays hard to a striking degree. That much I know.
But it’s also hard to a fault.
The issue last night, other than Jordan Price, was that too many guys tried to do too many things. Call it overcompensation, or whatever term you wish, but this is part of the learning experience. A 3-23 brickeration from three was more a result of bad shots, not bad shooters.
And here’s a fact. Not an excuse, mind you, but a cold, hard fact. This is a team that lost not just its two best players, but two program-defining players. One, a potential national defensive player of the year and a senior point guard. The other, a potential conference player of the year whose jersey will hang, and the most dependably productive player since a kid named Maynor trolled Broad Street.
This isn’t George Mason losing Corey Edwards and Shevon Thompson. This isn’t GW losing Kevin Larsen and Patricio Garino. Did you really expect VCU to take a skillet to the heads of its first three opponents in the wake of these injuries? There needs to be a time of recalibration, and we are seeing it.
The guys on the floor want to do the right thing, and the coaches will teach them how to do the right thing. And I’m aware that playing hard is not good enough, not for where we want to be in the middle to late stages of next month.
But I’ll take what we have over a laggard getting by on his talent and unwilling to scrap. Do you want Jordan Burgess, or Renardo Dixon? Mo Alie Cox, or Eric Davis? We were never promised hot steak and cold Stella. It’s bumpy. But this is the kind of group I’ll embrace.
It was easy to see the sunshine two weeks ago. Anybody can do it when you’re 17-3. Now? Not as easy. I’ve written and deleted hundreds of words since last night, late last night. It boils down to one simple question, really: what do you think Dr. Hunt would be saying right now? Shut up, and channel that.
Since losing four of five games to close the 2010-11 regular season, VCU is 107-33 (.764). We were 125-40 (.758) leading into that losing streak. The point is a simple one: a terrible stretch of games is not a foreign concept. For cripes sake, we were 5-3 this year with two losses in three games. We had this conversation this year, and then won 12 straight games.
We win before these streaks, and we win after these streaks. We will be fine. We always are. Treveon Graham will be back. The train has hit a rocky patch but it will chug along very soon. We play to be ready for March games, and nobody guaranteed you it would be an easy path.
Are you on board?