“We’re not far away from being a really good team.”
Despite another tough loss to then-No.23 ranked Cincinnati, new VCU head coach Will Wade saw something in his new Rams squad that looked promising. It was VCU’s third-straight loss after two losses in Atlanta, Georgia to two ACC teams, Florida State and Georgia Tech, the later of which came in true road game action.
Prior to that losing streak the Rams had challenged the likes of last year’s National Championship teams, Duke and Wisconsin — leading both at halftime — but had come up short in both contests with a roster adjusting to a new coach, several new faces and a roster that no longer included lead offensive option Treveon Graham or arguably the program’s best defensive player in its history, Briante Weber.
VCU competed in the non-conference but came up short in all of their top-100 battles against Power 5 schools.
“We’re not far off guys…We’ve taken on a brutal schedule with a team that is still growing and it’s going to help us in conference,” Wade told local media in an epic seven-minute answer to one question asked on the comparisons to Wade’s learning curve with his new VCU squad versus his UT Chattanooga team who eventually rolled through conference play after tough non-conference schedules.
“Simplistically, what we’re doing is solid and we could not change hardly anything except who we’re playing and you would think the details were a lot better”.
Wade and the Rams have yet to lose a game since that interview.
VCU is now 13-5 and a perfect 5-0 in conference play, an A-10 record that includes three road wins including two key victories against kenpom top-100s in hostile road environments.
VCU’s brutal non-conference schedule combined with a little “gel time” seems to have helped craft a Rams team that looks very well prepared for Atlantic 10 play.
Wade’s new A-10 challenge will likely prove more difficult than navigating the calmer waters of a Southern Conference that saw his teams go 27-7 in conference play over two seasons (versus their 13-23 record the two seasons prior to his arrival), but if you’re a believer in trends — and Wade’s track record looks prrrretty good up to this point — one can’t help but be excited for the future of this season and the beginning of the Will Wade era at VCU.
That’s a trend VCU fans will expect as well, after starting the last three seasons of A-10 play at an impressive 8-2 in conference, ending two of those seasons as the No.2 seed entering in the A-10 tournament — finishing as tourney runners-up both times — then taking a 5-seed all the way to a Championship the final season under Shaka Smart at VCU.
Six of VCU’s next nine contests are within the friendly confines of the Stuart C. Siegel Center. If home-court advantage means anything — and here at VCU, we think it does — that could setup the Rams to match, or even better the success of previous head coach Shaka Smart, helping to send VCU back to their northern home away from home of Brooklyn, NY with a high tourney seed and hopes of yet another NCAA tournament appearance to kick off the Will Wade era.
It’s early, but all indications are that VCU has yet again nailed a coaching hire after three consecutive home runs.