Plotting VCU’s path to an A-10 regular season title
Last night was rough for two reasons. Reason No.1: an undermanned VCU squad dropped their second consecutive game to rival Richmond, giving the Spiders their first sweep of the black and gold since 2001. But perhaps more importantly, reason No.2: the Rams missed a golden opportunity to sit alone a top the Atlantic 10 with a one-game lead over the competition with just three games to play.
VCU’s double-overtime loss paired with a Dayton win and a Davidson road win at Rhode Island left all four teams tied atop the standings at 11-4. The season doesn’t end today so we won’t even go into the tie-break scenarios on that hypothetical, seeding those four at this moment in time. The beauty of VCU’s current situation is despite Wednesday’s loss, the Rams are the one of just two teams in the conference who are in control of their own destiny as we finish this thing.
The other team? The Davidson Wildcats, who VCU will play in a road game on March 5, quite possibly for an A-10 regular season title.
Here’s what needs to happen, and it’s actually quite simple: Win out.
If VCU wins all three of their games only one Atlantic 10 team, Rhode Island, would be able to tie them in record. Having beaten Rhode Island earlier this season that would give the black and gold a head-to-head tie-breaker and a No.1 seed in the conference tournament.
But that won’t be easy, and realistically, VCU won’t be favored to do so.
The Rams start that three-game quest Saturday against an undermanned but very talented Dayton Flyers squad coming off an Elite 8 appearance last season.
The Flyers play just seven players because, unlike most teams who choose to do so, are left with just that after suspensions from earlier this season. What players they do have left however are extremely talented and play one of the best brands of team basketball you will see. They are undersized with their two tallest players checking in at 6’6 210lbs but are relentless and boast the conference’s No.2 offense and No.4 defense. They lead all Atlantic 10 teams in the conference in both 2-point and 3-point percentages.
That game won’t be easy for VCU as the Rams will once again be without the services of Briante Weber, Mike Gilmore and potentially Justin Tillman. What advantage VCU once had in depth and size vanishes without their two young bigs.
Kenpom predicts a seven-point VCU win in that one with a 74% chance of a Rams victory, but his computers don’t take into account those players being out of the lineup.
If VCU can get past the Flyers in front of a friendly Siegel Center crowd, perhaps the biggest challenge comes next in a road trip to Belk Arena to take on the Davidson Wildcats.
Davidson has lost just one game all season on their home arena, falling at the buzzer to St. Bonaventure a game before the exact same player (Marcus Posley) stunned VCU in the exact same manner.
Outside of that, the Cats have won their Atlantic 10 home contests by an average margin of victory of 22 points, three of which came without the services of second-leading scorer, Jack Gibbs.
They have lost a total of four games in Belk the past three seasons.
VCU narrowly escaped the Wildcats earlier this season, defeating Davidson 71-65 in Richmond prior to Briante Weber’s season-ending injury.
That will not be an easy game and is one I predict will decide the league’s regular season champion. Unfortunately I realistically side with Kenpom’s prediction, a three-point home win for the Wildcats.
If VCU wins however they will hold head-to-head tie-breakers over any potential challenger and will need to simply finish off George Mason at home on senior night to head to Brooklyn with the top seed.
It doesn’t matter what other teams do. If VCU handles their business they win their first conference title of any kind since joining the Atlantic 10 two seasons ago. As it stands however, it’s the Davidson Wildcats that are predicted to run the table from here on out, grabbing their first A-10 regular season title in just their first season in the league.