Raise you’re hand if you’re still numb after what happened yesterday. I know I am.
After a month and a half of winning, VCU’s 12-game streak came to a screeching halt, in front of a packed Siegel Center no less, at the hands of a team the Rams had dominated to the tune of three consecutive 20-plus-point beatings in Richmond. Close to 8,000 fell silent while about 30 GW fans behind the visiting bench stood in celebration.
I hated that.
We’ve been the team doing the celebrating on the road. We’ve done that six times this season including in the living room of our crosstown rival.
Today feels weird, but hey, that’s basketball for basically just about everyone outside of Wooden’s Bruins and the ’76 Hoosiers.
We’ve become accustomed to winning. While we’re still in great shape and undeniably ahead of schedule, that one next to our nine in our A-10 record just looks odd.
So what happened and where do we go from here?
Size happened – Coming into this game the Colonials very much resembled all of the teams that had handed VCU their five losses prior to yesterday. Their main lineup consists of 6’1, 6’6, 6’8, 6’9, 6’10. The addition of 6’9 Wake Forest transfer, Tyler Cavanough, gave GW that extra player needed to pull of their first win against the Rams since downing VCU at the Colonials’ Smith Center, 76-66, with a similar lineup but one that featured 6’9 shot-blocking machine, Isaiah Armwood.
VCU’s formula has been to attack the basket relentlessly. It has worked INCREDIBLY well since A-10 play began — overall after yesterday’s disaster VCU still ranks third in A-10 2p% at 51.8% — but has worked against teams that in no way resemble GW’s physically imposing lineup.
The Rams simply could not score inside the arc, connecting on just 37.2% of their two-point baskets. It was just the second time in A-10 play they’ve finished at under 50%, the only other time coming at home against George Mason when they finished at 45.1%. It was the first time since the Cincinnati game that the Rams had finished under 40%.
During VCU’s three-game losing streak this season the Rams shot under 40% inside the arc three straight games, shooting 38.6% against FSU, 38.6% at GT and 32.5% against Cincinnati. All three of those teams, like GW, are huge. The blueprint for beating VCU this season has been an incredibly obvious one: be big and fairly talented.
Fouls didn’t happen/aren’t happening – If VCU isn’t connecting inside the arc they need to be connecting at the free throw stripe. While the Rams managed to outscore GW 16-10 at the charity stripe, they were whistled for four more fouls on the afternoon (see stat in next paragraph for a “spooky coincidence” relating to that number).
True story: Evon Burroughs, Eric Anderson and Alvin Cox came into the game at the Siegel Center all with a history of calling more fouls on home teams than away teams. According to bbstate.com’s most updated profiles on each of the three officials, that trio combined averages 4.94 more fouls per game called on home teams than visiting teams (a number greatly skewed by Burroughs). An obvious disadvantage for the home team (note: from my research Burroughs’ last visit to VCU came last January where he was a part of a crew that whistled 26 fouls on the Rams to just 18 on the Saint Joseph’s Hawks). They also missed an incredibly obvious shot-clock violation on GW that resulted in a made three-point basket late to tie the game.
But getting back to the free throws, despite a strategy of a relentless attack of the paint in hopes of drawing fouls, the Rams simply aren’t doing that. VCU’s offense ranks 8th in A-10 play in free throw rate while no VCU player ranks in the top-25 of the conference in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. If I’m VCU (which I am), I’m pretty pissed about that fact. VCU is the ONLY team in A-10 play without one single player in the top-25 of the A-10 in fouls drawn per 40. If I’m Will Wade at this point I’d possibly consider an acting class for my team, learning to “emphasize” hits taken while attempting to get to the bucket.
The script got flipped – GW had one obvious advantage coming into this one: rebounding. So go figure that it was basically the one stat VCU won, out-rebounding the Colonials by seven. GW however won the turnover battled 12-10, turning some of those turnovers into incredibly easy baskets. It was havoc in reverse.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Here’s the good news (great news?): VCU is still tied for first in the Atlantic 10 at 9-1, the Rams’ best A-10 start since joining the conference. The black and gold are 100% in control of their own destiny.
Up first: VCU at UMass.
The Minutemen are 2-7 (four home losses) in A-10 play and don’t play nearly as big as the Colonials. They currently rank 11th in A-10 offensive efficiency and 8th in defensive efficiency — but 13th in defensive free throw rate, which will hopefully be good news for the Rams.
A win in Amherst would move VCU to 10-1 heading into a three-game home stretch that includes what should be a blowout of Saint Louis before two tougher contests against a banged-up Rhode Island team and a tough Spiders squad that took the Rams to OT in what turned into a nice road win for the Rams.
VCU will be the favorite in six of their final eight games. They were the favorite yesterday so obviously, being the favorite guarantees VCU absolutely nothing.
The Rams suffered a setback yesterday, but this fight is far from over.