We here at the Glasshalffull Headquarters take pride in the fact that VCU is consistently one possession from finding magic, things are never as bad as they seem, and the Stella is cold in summer and winter.
But I’d be lying if my face didn’t crinkle up a smidgen in the aftermath of a troubling loss at Fordham. So I did what I always do when I can’t get the things bouncing around between my ears in some semblance of order. I walked in the front door, organized what I thought I saw on a sheet of paper, and beelined straight for stats and trends to prove/disprove my mental activity.
And I realized my nervousness is a product of timing. The Stella remains cold, and hope is not lost. Here’s what I mean.
Last season we remember the 5-5 start and the NCAA tournament victory. In between, VCU ran out 9-0 in the A10 before stumbling down the stretch at 5-4. This included two teeth-grinding road losses (UMass, Mason).
Two seasons ago, a 7-0 A10 start begat a 4-6 finish–three losses were at home, and three on the road. My memory is not sharp enough to recall whether or not we needed the A10 tournament title to make the NCAA tournament, but that’s what happened.
Three seasons ago, a 7-1 A10 flurry had everyone feeling fancy, until VCU lost three of its next four games, all on the road.
My point is this: in every single season VCU drops road games, and they seem to cluster. The problem this season is the cluster occurred earlier than usual, which causes discomfort.
This stems from looking ahead, beginning tomorrow. LaSalle, Dayton, Richmond are all at home but those three are a combined 15-3 in conference. Richmond’s loss is to Dayton. Ditto LaSalle. That’s a daunting list of main courses for That Animal.
And the reward for an inspiring three-game win streak? A trip to the netherworld of Olean and St. Bonaventure, who sits at 4-2 in the A10 with only losses to Richmond and Dayton. The Bonnies are well-coached and play much better on that snakepit of a home court.
So when you look at that, along with the trips to Dayton and Rhody that you circled in red pen in November, you get nervous.
So on one level, be very nervous. It’s not going to be an easy road. You can, however, be comforted by the fact that it’s a road we’ve traveled before–and traveled last year under Will Wade and Company.
Besides, even with Jonnie Williams having an out-of-body experience he is still fourth in the A10 in assist-to-turnover ratio. VCU is still second in the A10 in field goal percentage. It’s third in steals and fourth in turnover margin.
Justin Tillman had nine made field goals against Fordham in the second half and overtime. All nine were assisted and Tillman had six dunks and three layups. Before Fordham Venus-Fly-Trapped Mo Alie-Cox, he was playing his best stretch of basketball this season. Jordan Burgess–a critical presence on the court–will not sit every game with foul trouble.
Things have gone sideways in the past week, but the execution mistakes that led to two road losses are not insurmountable hurdles. Just like every other stinking basketball season. We have every reason to be nervous, but we have every reason to be hopeful and full of promise. Will Wade has said he will also make changes.
This isn’t new territory, just out of place.
Show up angry tomorrow with a new level of hunger in That Animal: it’s our territory. The guys love it, you love it, and I love it.
It can be the first step back on track to our annual mid-March pilgrimage to the west coast. It may be a different dance that leads to The Dance, but getting the invite is all that matters.