A look ahead: Rams catch a break in conference schedule?
VCU wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a solid 8-5 finish, which was actually my predicted “realistic best-case scenario” after watching the Rams fall to Liberty in a pre-season exhibition contest.
The 8-5 finish includes a pair of near-misses that would’ve made for very nice OOC resume boosters (Michigan and Texas), as well as two underrated wins over Old Dominion and Bucknell.
Being realistic again however, those wins probably won’t move the needle much for an NCAA tournament committee and seeing how it’s a down year for the Atlantic 10, few opportunities remain for quality wins. That most likely means VCU has two paths to securing an NCAA bid: 1) win the automatic bid by winning this year’s A-10 tournament in DC and/or 2) Finishing in the top-2, or perhaps even needing to win the regular season crown to assure an at-large bid.
Things actually shake out fairly well for that, on paper of course.
RAMS HAVE TOP-4 SCHEDULE ADVANTAGE
There are four current kenpom top-100 teams in the Atlantic 10: Rhode Island (52), St. Bonaventure (58), Davidson (85) and VCU (92).
Let me preface this by saying something just feels off about kenpom’s rankings this year. I don’t know if he tweaked his system or what (and I’ve always loved his rankings), but Davidson at 4-5 with no top-100 wins and a 16-point loss to No.223 App State (a team VCU beat by 13) being ranked ahead of an 8-5 VCU team that owns two top-100 wins (No.72 ODU and No.97 Bucknell), two near misses against top-40 teams Michigan and Texas and their worst loss coming against No.50 Marquette, just makes zero sense to me.
Either way, here are the top-100 v top-100 A-10 schedules this season:
Rhode Island (5 games) – v St. Bonaventure, @ VCU, v Davidson, @ St. Bonaventure, @ Davidson
St. Bonaveture (5 games) – @ Rhode Island, @ Davidson, v Rhode Island, @ VCU, v Davidson
Davidson (5 games) – v St. Bonaventure, @ Rhode Island, @ VCU, @ St. Bonaventure, v Rhode Island
VCU (3 games) – v Rhode Island, v Davidson, v St. Bonaventure
St. Bonaventure then adds a home-and-home series with the next highest ranked team in Saint Joseph’s, while VCU and Rhody get the Hawks just once but the A-10’s sixth-best team, Dayton, twice. Davidson plays both Saint Joseph’s and Dayton both just once with the later being played in front of 13k at UD Arena.
The Rams’ home-and-homes this season come against Dayton (kenpom No.138), George Washington (158), George Mason (228), Fordham (230) and Richmond (238). That type of schedule does not a strong resume make, but it could make for an inflated wins total and an easier path to a regular season Atlantic 10 title and a No.1 seed heading into the closest conference tournament to VCU — DC, just two hours-ish away — since the Rams owned the Richmond Coliseum back in 2012.