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A Tale of Three Brains…

Dear God.

I didn’t realize I had the capability to sleep while my head nods side-to-side, that I could drift into a REM state while the pistons in my brain were firing like a freshly-stoked locomotive engine.

That’s what last night’s A10 version of Braveheart’s Battle of Stirling–also known as VCU versus Dayton for the regular season honor of #1 seed–did. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and excruciating. It was everything it was purported to be, and then some.

And when I awoke this morning, I realized I also have the skill to drink coffee with my head nodding side-to-side. I’m sitting here, stringing together these words, and I dive in and out of the emotion and reality, the juxtaposition of winning and losing, the bifurcation of any of three shots rolling in instead of rolling out, and of Brooklyn ahead and the regular season that preceded it.

I’ve decided you have to have to have three brains, so far, to deal with last night’s loss and he opportunity in front of this VCU team. Three brains to process a roller coaster regular season that came to a close with the gut punch loss to Dayton, and the excitement of what we have moving forward into the postseason.

Quite simply, it was a phenomenal basketball game.

VCU started fast–a three-threes barrage that opened Dayton’s eyes and stirred the echoes, floor to ceiling, of the 13,500 pom-pom waving Flyer-faithful. Game on.

You knew Dayton would stabilize and recover. That’s what good teams do, and that’s exactly what happened.

After that initial barrage, both teams went to the corner of their respective benches and pulled out a heavy gunnysack. Each team reached into that gunnysack and began throwing rocks at each other.

All things considered, it was well-officiated. VCU committed eight fouls in the first nine minutes of the first half, and just one foul thereafter. The crew made it known they were going to let the teams play, but only to a certain point. Both teams adjusted.

It was a high-level game played with vigor. Each team would earn everything on the offensive end. The pure numbers and the eye test trump any imagery.

Dayton held a five-point lead for 1:04 in the first half, and VCU had its own five-point lead for all of 14 seconds in the second half. In fact, from 18:40 of the second half until 1:43 of the overtime, outside of one possession that lasted seven seconds, this was a one-possession affair. VCUs four-point overtime lead lasted 21 seconds.

Put anther way: in the final 25 minutes of the game, the second half and overtime, somebody had the ball in their hands with a chance to tie or take the lead for all but 44 seconds.

That’s just silly.

***

So where does that leave us, headed to Brooklyn later this week? You figure it out for yourself.

Brain One

That sucked. Too many self-inflicted wounds. We missed too many free throws and had the game in our hands in regulation. I feel like I’m chewing nails this morning. And now we are in the position where we likely need to win two and play on Sunday to feel comfortable about our NCAA tournament chances.

It was RIGHT THERE and we didn’t make the plays late to win an important game.

Brain Two

Nobody knew what to expect from this season. No idea. New head coach, new staff, lost the recruiting class. Who is Korey Billbury? Ahmed Hamdy? Who’s going to score with Tre gone? Can we defend without Briante?

But here we are at 14-4 and co-owners of the best record in the A10 regular season. We are the number two seed, far outpacing those murky expectations. And we go to Brooklyn hopeful we get the wins we need but very effing certain Ed McLaughlin made the right hire and VCU basketball is in good hands for the future.

I don’t know if this team will or will not make the NCAAs but I know we will be back and better than ever. And that ain’t pumpin’ sunshine, you know? Wade took all of that adversity, all of that newness, and molded a team with a different identity and won more A10 conference games than any VCU team since we made the move.

Brain Three

This brain is the love child of Brain 1 and Brain 2. The loss stinks and put VCU in a tenuous position regarding the bubble. However it took the best team it has faced in this conference on senior night in front of 14,000 people and had it right there. It would’ve been nice to win but that’s not a bad loss.

It represents the next step in a team growing into the postseason and I have very high hopes for Brooklyn and the NCAA tournament. The team showed a grit, again, which is useful in a tournament setting. I hate what I saw–a loss in a game that easily could’ve been won–and I hate that we left points on the line and missed a point blank stick back but I love that this team looks the part. VCU can win Brooklyn and eliminate the hand-wringing.

So who are you?

Brain One is absolutely legit. The loss was frustrating for every evident reason. But that has to be packed away. You have to remain in the present, stay in this moment. There’s not a damned thing we can do about the past–about last night or the regular season. We cannot change history so that Doug Brooks’ put-back rolls in or Brooks Koenig’s layup rolls off at the end of the Wisconsin game.

It’s time to move on.

Similarly, Brain Two is legit and wonderful. However that, too, must be packed away until sometime in May or June or July. Outside of knowing we have a high quality coach and team, it does you no good for right now to use this as a crutch.

There are games to win this season. We cannot write a future that has not occurred. If you make a proclamation about what this team will do in Brooklyn, or in 2016-17, that’s your story, not the team’s.

I’m a Brain Three guy and like to use my third eye.

There are specifics and details of either Rhode Island/UMass (Friday’s opponent) and then either St. Bonaventure or Davidson on Saturday that matter. We can deal with Sunday on Sunday.

And that’s how it all circled back to me.

VCU is headed to Brooklyn as one of the best teams in the A10. The Rams play well at times and poorly at times. The other guy is trying to win, too.

Nothing is guaranteed, not a win on Friday, a win on Sunday, or the NCAA tournament. The past doesn’t matter, and neither does the future.

But the opportunity is in front of us, and we are good enough to make it real.

Same as it ever was.

1 COMMENT

  1. what i wonder and worry about (from my head brain) is this. this team is better than last year. in large part because of a coach who has fashioned an offense across the entire team, has a hoss of a stopper in Mo Alie Cox, relishes the projects on his team (burgess and gilmore) and worries more about building a quality team than maintaining an effective brand. but i worry that the NCAA is brand conscious and that will wade says “really” too much and is not the media darling that his predecessor was/is. i am confident however that these gritty guys can piece together an A-10 tournament performance that will leave us all beaming in brooklyn (and beyond). i am elated about the evolution of justin tillman and jonathan williams. they give rocks and grit a good name.
    onward!
    wishing the guys friendly rims.

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