Yesterday’s close loss at Rhode Island was perhaps not the biggest of surprises, but after a halftime lead despite poor shooting, gives this blogger the feeling we let one get away. Regardless, a 13-3 A-10 record and current second place standing is what we’re left with with two games to play. Not the worst of positions to be in. The Rams still have a good shot to win a league title or at worst, will finish third in the league. Take a look at the scenarios.
BEST-CASE: OUTRIGHT LEAGUE CHAMPS
This is the least likely of scenarios because it would consist of the Rams winning at Dayton (VCU will be underdogs in that one), then Dayton following that home loss with a road loss at GW (kenpom gives UD a 70% chance of winning that one as a 6-point favorite). The Rams would also have to win a home contest against Mason to finish the season for that to happen. That isn’t exactly an extreme long shot, but it’s hard to imagine Dayton dropping their final two. That scenario would obviously put VCU as the No.1 seed in this year’s A-10 tournament, with Dayton (2), Richmond (3) and Rhode Island (4) rounding out the top-4.
REALISTIC BEST-CASE: A-10 CO-CHAMPS, A-10 TOURNEY 1-SEED
Again, this path means VCU must win at Dayton on Wednesday, something that will be tough to do but not impossible, as the Rams have already proven capable of beating Dayton this season as they did on Jan 27. VCU would then also need to hold serve at home and assuming Dayton wins at GW, the Rams would share league champ honors with shared record with the Flyers but would earn No.1 seed based off season sweep of the Flyers.
THE ODDS-ON FAVORITE SCENARIO: A-10 SECOND PLACE FINISH
The Rams will be an underdog at Dayton and a home favorite against Mason. If you basically assume favorites win the games they are supposed to, VCU would finish 14-4, two games behind Dayton’s 16-2 first place finish. If Richmond and Rhody do what they are supposed to as well, the Rams would be setup for an A-10 semi-final rivalry battle against what would be third-seeded Richmond if both were to survive what promises to be tough quarterfinal matchups.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: THIRD PLACE FINISH
The Rams can finish no worse than third in the league. Due to a season sweep of Richmond and a two-game lead over the Spiders with just two to play, VCU can not fall behind the Spiders in the final conference standings if those two were to end up with a tied record at the end of the season, even if URI finishes tied with them. As a group (VCU, URI, UofR), VCU would have the best winning percentage among the three, putting them ahead of both URI and UofR if there were a three-way tie behind Dayton. The only way VCU drops to third would be if the Rams lost both of their final two games, Rhode Island won both theirs AND Richmond lost at least one more game. The Rhody Rams can pass VCU in that scenario because a two-way tie for second between ONLY VCU and Rhody would go to the Keaney blue Rams thanks to Saturday’s head-to-head tie-breaking win for Dan Hurley and Co.
WHAT I THINK HAPPENS…
I think the Rams likely drop that road game at Dayton (I say that with my realistic hat on, not my VCU hat), defeat Mason and finish second in the league.
VCU hasn’t beaten a top-30 team in a true road game since Nov 12, 2013 when Treveon Graham hit perhaps my favorite dagger of all-time, dropping UVA in Charlottesville, meaning the Rams will have to do what they normally don’t in what would be a very rare top-30 road win Wednesday. This season VCU is 2-2 against kenpom top-100 teams in true road games, defeating No.93 St. Bonaventure in 0.4 miracle fashion then winning somewhat comfortably at No.95 Richmond. The Rams’ two top-100 true road losses came at No.91 Davidson and Saturday against No.51 Rhody. Dayton is much better than both of those teams and is 5-1 against top-100s at home this season, their lone loss coming back on Nov 19 against No.14 St. Mary’s, 61-57. Do I think VCU can beat Dayton on the road? Absolutely. But the numbers suggest that isn’t likely to happen, meaning a second-place A-10 finish may be our fate with a tense rivalry A-10 quarterfinal against Richmond potentially looming.