Today, VCU gets the Wisconsin Badgers, and we have a little about those guys, and a little about what we saw Friday.
Wisconsin missed 12 of its first 13 shots against Georgetown on Friday and hit 31% for the game. It was very unWiskylike for a team that prides itself on clean execution for head coach Bo Ryan. Take very little from that performance.
The Badgers are led by Nigel Hayes (22 points against Georgetown), a tremendous inside/outside threat and one of the five best players VCU will play against this season. Hayes goes 6-8, 240 but is comfortable on the bounce. Bronson Koenig is a deadeye shooter and their leading scorer.
However Ethan Happ is the guy that does not stand out to you, but is ridiculously effective. Happ has as many offensive rebounds (14) as defensive rebounds this season and had a double-double against the Hoyas.
In short, as a friend mentioned to me after some wine last night: Wisconsin is Belmont on steroids. They play disciplined, execution-style basketball. And in short, VCU has to speed up and muck up this game. It will be important to be aggressive and punch, but be wary of the counterpunch. Wisconsin is a great counterpuncher.
After what we saw Friday night, I like our chances.
I mentioned late Friday that there are no more question marks as it relates to Will Wade, his staff, and this VCU basketball team. Some people took me to task, so please allow me to clarify.
This has nothing to do with shooting threes or a consistent inside presence. It has nothing to do with point guards attacking to the baseline, loose turnovers, or defensive rotations. Zippy.
So yes there was a deathly cold spell and there were mistakes made against Duke. When we got to that middle part of the second half Friday night, I think the guys tried a little too hard and compounded the problems. As good teams will do, Duke made us pay.
Shooting woes. Careless turnovers. Poor decisions. Missed assignments. A midgame vortex of near calamity? I just described nearly every college basketball game you will watch. The VCU/Duke game took on the character of most every game between competitive teams.
What’s more, the kinks VCU is working out, those things Will Wade say need cleaning up, have occurred in every season since I began following the team in 1986. Perhaps it was different pre-1986.
But we can admit a few things on this fine Sunday morning.
It was easy this summer to talk about Wade and his connection to VCU. His success at Chattanooga. And yes, Korey Billbury stuffed stat sheets at Oral Roberts and Hamdy was big. VCU had a lot of production returning and would not miss a step. The storyline was an easy one that we would transition into the WFWE easily.
But we can admit we were all nervous. We didn’t know. Not really.
And then on Friday night VCU stuffed it down Duke’s throat for about 30 minutes. The Rams forced Duke to adjust to VCU, not the other way around.
Mike Krzyzewski was forced to call a timeout less than two minutes into the second half. JeQuan Lewis was dominating the basketball and forcing Duke to respond to his desire. Coach K had seen enough. He took big man Mason Plumlee out of the game and went small.
VCU was pounding his team and he needed to spread the floor and get quicker. He could see what we could all feel was coming–a slugfest in which his team was not the favorite. Krzyzewski has not won a million games for no reason, and it eventually paid off. Still he needed that cold spell from the floor and vortex to build their lead.
This has nothing to do with that nebulous, and really stupid, concept of a moral victory. VCU lost the basketball game. I’m not trying to get around that fact, and not trying to make anybody feel better about anything specific to Friday night’s game. It was a loss, and when all is said and done, you are judged on the cold basis of wins and losses.
Not one word that is written here has anything to do with that–we will talk about bad shooting and stupid turnovers all season long. There will be questions marks about specific occurrences in specific games. That makes this year like any other other year. What I’m talking about is one level higher than that.
The overall basketball product and leadership? And the future of the VCU program?
Not. One. Question.