A 5-4 record, two neutral court close game losses against good teams including one the black and gold snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, a solid home win over Old Dominion, 1-4 against the kenpom top-100. Sound familiar?
That was the early season story of Will Wade’s first edition VCU team and it’s exactly how things have played out this season for Mike Rhoades and Co. in year-one of their tenure.
Wade’s Rams started the season 5-4 in almost identical fashion. Losses to Duke, Wisconsin, FSU, Georgia Tech with a win over ODU and another solid win at Middle Tennessee State. Rhoades’ first group owns three top-50 losses (UVA, Michigan and Texas) and another top-100 loss to Marquette and owns a home win over an experienced Old Dominion team that could do some damage in Conference USA.
With the Rams heading into Saturday’s road contest against Seton Hall as a double-digit underdog, Vegas says a 5-5 start is pretty much to be expected.
After the Rams last 5-5 start, the black and gold reeled off a 12-game winning streak under Will Wade that included a 9-0 start to conference play. VCU would finish the regular season 6-2 against kenpom top-100 teams — with three of those wins on the road — then dropped their only other top-100 contest in the Atlantic 10 tournament final to Saint Joseph’s.
This year’s VCU path, as well as their room for error, appears much different.
The Rams were able to build an NCAA tournament resume the 2015-16 season thanks to the conference’s seven top-100 teams that season. This year the league boasts just four of those teams, with VCU being one of them, meaning the Rams are scheduled to start a conference slate that at this moment offers just three top-100 win opportunities and none on the road.
VCU danced as a 10-seed at-large selection in 2016, meaning they weren’t too far off from missing that season’s field. This year, in a very down A-10 however, the black and gold’s margin for error is razor thin.
The Rams take on No.19 Seton Hall this Saturday, September 9 at 3PM in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.