Prior to writing yesterday’s game preview I had a bad feeling about this VCU at Mason game. Despite the Rams large final margin when the black and gold hosted GMU earlier this season, I seemed to recall Mason’s guards penetrating VCU’s defense with relative ease, then unfortunately for Mason fans not finishing buckets once they entered the lane. I remembered Mason center Shevon Thompson struggling to get the offense going and thought, “hey, these guys are capable of beating VCU”. Then I wrote the game preview yesterday, looked at the numbers, saw that the Rams routed Mason despite shooting 40% from the field and thought, “nah, we’re fine, these guys are terrible”.
The Rams put together arguably their worst game of the season against the A-10’s current No.13 team, VCU’s worst loss in terms of kenpom ranking since falling at No.220 Georgia State in 2011, giving VCU two bad losses within their last five games with three blowouts wins, two against solid teams, sandwiched in-between. Very odd.
It makes zero sense, but it’s our new reality and one that complicates both VCU’s NCAA tournament hopes as well as their A-10 title path.
Despite that loss however, the Rams are tied atop the A-10 standings with Dayton and Saint Joseph’s. VCU owns a head-to-head tie-breaker over the Hawks and will face Dayton at UD Arena in the Rams last game of the season. That’s the good news. They’ll also have plenty of opportunities to redeem themselves with three remaining top-60 RPI games before they even get to the Atlantic 10 tournament.
The bad news is VCU now will need to pull off not one but TWO road upsets to take advantage of those opportunities, the first coming this Saturday at GW against a Colonials team that has already handed us one loss this season and is the type of team that has given the Rams problems all season (large, talented).
Focusing on the GW game, here’s what’s at stake: A Rams win not only keeps them tied atop the conference standings, but would clinch a double-bye for the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn. What that means for VCU is they won’t have to win four games in four days for the second year in a row to win the conference tournament championship. What that means for me is I get to casually watch the A-10 beat each other up in Brooklyn on Thursday without the risk of a loss or stress. That’s a fun day for me, meaning this road game at GW is HUGE. It would also equal another top-50 RPI road win, which NCAA selection committees seem to dig.
If the Rams can’t take care of business in DC they’ll need some help all of a sudden in the following games:
St. Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure – A Hawks win in an odd Rochester “neutral court” game would mean VCU could win one of their final three — the most likely of which would be VCU’s senior night home game against Davidson, a team they beat once already this season — and remain a top-four A-10 team thanks to a head-to-head tie-breaker over Bona. In that scenario Saint Joseph’s would also likely be the A-10 regular season champ by that point and would aid VCU in a three-way tie-breaker scenario between the Rams, GW and St. Bonaventure if it were to come to that.
George Washington at Davidson – Let’s assume for a second GW beats VCU this Saturday, something we don’t want to imagine but a very real possibility. The Rams would drop to 12-4, GW inching closer to catching VCU at 11-5. The Rams would have two games remaining, the home contest v Davidson followed by the road game at Dayton. VCU would need to win one of those two but will be the favorite to capture just one of those, the home game against the Cats. VCU would not be able to afford an equal record with the Colonials due to what would be a head-to-head tie-breaker owned by GW at this point, meaning the black and gold would need Davidson to win their final home game of the season to keep VCU a game ahead and inside the A-10 top-four, aka double-bye territory.
St. Bonaventure at Saint Louis – The least likely of the somewhat likely assists VCU could get from other Atlantic 10 teams, Saint Louis nearly defeated the Bonnies earlier this season in Olean and have been quite competitive as of late, nearly upsetting Dayton this week before falling at home in overtime (what VCU needed to do at Mason). This scenario assumes VCU wins one of their final three games and the Bonnies take down Saint Joe’s. In that case the Rams need either a SLU win over Bona or a Davidson win over GW to advance.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
Just win. It’s really that simple. Realistic? Maybe, maybe not, but VCU winning out would put the Rams in a very good position, handing them their first A-10 regular season title while putting them in a great spot for NCAA tournament consideration even with the recent losses to UMass and Mason. The Rams are a two-point kenpom underdog at GW this Saturday, a 10-point home favorite over Davidson, then a three-point road dog at Dayton. Pomery has the Colonials favored to win all but their final game at Davidson, a scenario that would help VCU somewhat and has St. Bonaventure also dropping their game against Saint Joseph’s, which would do the trick as well.
Win out and keep it simple.