A DOSE OF PERSPECTIVE

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Losing stinks. Losing to Richmond or Old Dominion stinks more. However, one game does not a season make. Never has, never will. I always get a kick out of people who hit the panic button after one loss (to a good team, no less). Additionally, it’s nearly impossible to extrapolate an accurate outcome from a small sample, such as one game in a 30-plus game season.

  • Oakland won on the road at No. 7 Tennessee last night. Does that mean Oakland would win the SEC? Of course not.
  • Drexel beat No. 21 Louisville on the road last night (nice job, by the way), does that mean Drexel is going to roll the CAA this year? Possible, but I doubt it.
  • Delaware beat Old Dominion a couple of weeks ago. Delaware also lost to Cornell and Ohio.

The point is that, on any given night (cliche alert!), anybody can win. You have to show up. I’ll tell you what, 6-3 still feels pretty darn good.To give you an idea about what one loss means, heres a look a some of the Rams’ losses over the last few years.

  • 2009-10: Nov. 18, 2009: at Western Michigan, 83-67. Western Michigan finished with a 17-15 record and an RPI of 150; Jan. 6, 2010 at Drexel, 75-72. Drexel finished 16-16 last year with an RPI of 146; Feb. 13, 2010 at James Madison, 76-71. Final RPI for JMU, 241.
  • 2008-09 (A couple of real doozies here): Nov. 25, 2008 at East Carolina, 93-90 in overtime. ECU was so good this year that Mack McCarthy stepped down after the season. ECU finished 10-17 with an RPI of 223; Jan. 3, 2009: at Delaware, 81-79. Hens finished 13-19 with a 225 RPI; Feb. 4, 2009: at UNC Wilmington, 81-72. Probably the worst of the bunch. The Dub ended the year with a 7-25 mark and a 277 RPI. Also the worst road trip of my life.
  • 2007-08: Nov. 29, 2007: at Hampton, 64-55. Final record, 18-12. Final RPI, 151; Jan. 2, 2008: at James Madison, 62-61. This was the famous buzzer-beater, followed by JMU Coach Dean Keener grabbing the public address mic and shouting something mostly unintelligible. JMU was 13-17 and had an RPI of 218 that season. Keener also got the boot; March 9, 2008: vs. William & Mary, 56-54 (CAA Semifinals). The Tribe that season? Just 15-16 with an RPI of 160.

The moral of this wall of text? Well, in the last three seasons, VCU has lost five games to teams that finished with an RPI of 200 or worse. You know what it meant in the end? Mostly nothing. The Rams won two CAA regular season crowns, one CAA Tournament title and the CBI.

In 2008-09 alone, the best of the last three seasons, VCU dropped stinkers at East Carolina, Delaware and UNC Wilmington, three schools that finished a combined 31 games under .500. The Rams won the CAA Championship that year and came within a point of beating UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

OTHER STUFF

OBLIGATORY HIGHLIGHT VIDEO

SLOW STARTS TROUBLING FOR VCU

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VCU had been living dangerously the last three games. Saturday, it really came back to bite the Rams in a 72-60 loss to Richmond.

The Black and Gold didn’t score its first field goal until a Brad Burgess layup with 11:15 remaining in the first half. It only got worse from there as the Rams stumbled to a 40-17 halftime deficit and eventually fell behind by as many as 30 points in the second half.
The Rams had a similar dilemma against South Florida, digging a 28-10 hole in a 60-59 overtime loss. VCU also had to overcome early deficits in victories over VMI and William & Mary. It’s a troubling trend that the Rams know can’t continue.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” said Bradford Burgess, who provided 11 points and six rebounds Saturday, “It’s been happening the last couple of games. It’s something that we have to fix immediately or it’s going to be trouble. We were down 30 at one time. We can’t come back against good teams like that when we’re in that big of a hole.”
VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart felt like his team was ready to play Saturday, but it didn’t translate into success on the floor.

“It’s something I’m going to need to figure out,” Smart said. “I can tell you that our guys were highly-motivated coming into the game, at least just the way they were at shootaround and before the game, but we were sluggish offensively and I thought that affected us defensively.

On Saturday, the Spiders frustrated the Rams early with their matchup zone. VCU missed nine consecutive shots to start the game and didn’t score until a pair of Joey Rodriguez free throws at the 14:42 mark of the first half.
With 3:29 remaining in the half VCU pulled within 14 on a put-back by freshman Juvonte Reddic. Instead of being a moment that spurred a turnaround, it instead served as the Rams’ last bright spot of the half. Richmond closed with a 9-0 run, including a Dan Geriot 3-pointer from the left wing to beat the first half buzzer.
“I think with about four minutes left it was between a 12-14 point game, that’s always a critical point to go into halftime strong, we didn’t,” said Smart. “They made a run on us to close out the half and instead of us being within striking distance and instead it was 23 points, which is too much.”
The Spiders pushed the lead to 30 before VCU started its comeback. The Rams have been a great second half team this year and proved it again Saturday. The only problem was that this time it was too late. VCU has outscored its opponents in the second half in eight of nine games this season.
The lead was 29 points with 10:09 to play before the Rams closed with a 29-13 run the rest of the way.
“Our guys have a lot of fight in them,” Smart said. “That’s what’s disappointing  about tonight is if we’d shown that fight early on we’d have been fine, at least to make it a lot more competitive game.”

OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS

It’s silly to speculate too much, but Brandon Rozzell’s apparent hamstring injury looks like it should be taken seriously. I have no inside information, but Rozzell, who went down after stealing a ball from Dan Geriot at midcourt with 1:30 left in the first half, looked pretty uncomfortable and didn’t return… We got our first extended look at freshman Juvonte Reddic Saturday. Reddic played 12 minutes and was 3-of-3 from the floor and grabbed three rebounds. Two of those buckets came on put-backs on offensive rebounds, which is something this team could use more of… Jamie Skeen had a very quite double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. That’s his second of the year… At one point in the second half, VCU ran the exact same play for Ed Nixon on four straight possessions and scored on each one… VCU’s starting guards, Rodriguez, Rozzell and Burgess, were a combined 4-of-25 Saturday… Richmond-great Johnny Newman was seated courtside Saturday. At one point, freshman Rob Brandenberg threw a ball directly into Newman’s lap… VCU was just 1-of-14 from 3-point range Saturday.

MOVING FORWARD

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I’ve had about 382 people ask me how I was going to react to the LeBron James returning to Cleveland fiasco, so I’m glad that’s over. My feelings on the man haven’t, and likely won’t, change. Also, I had no illusions about this Cavalier team beating Miami last night. Sure, they could’ve summoned that WWE-type, break-the-sleeper-hold kind of spirit, but honestly it was a mismatch. The Cavs are playing with no real center, a trigger-happy, shoot-first point guard and Joey Graham, I mean, Joey Friggin’ Graham, as their starting small forward. I was happy the city got to let out a little emotion. Maybe it’ll help us move forward. Maybe not. All I know is that the moment he did his little “chalk toss” routine, he signaled to planet earth that he still doesn’t get it.

HURT SO GOOD
How long do you think I can use that headline before it gets old? Once? Twice? Six times? I’m going for broke. VCU junior Courtney Hurt dumped 34 points and 10 rebounds on East Carolina last night in a 77-72 loss. She was a free throw away from tying five players (yes, really) for the school single-game scoring mark. Hurt was really the only viable scoring option left for VCU after the losses of D’Andra Moss, La’Tavia Rorie and Kita Waller to graduation, so it’s not really a surprise to see Hurt filling the stat sheet.

Obviously, the Rams could use a secondary option, but those don’t grow on trees. Oh wait, they do. Junior Andrea Barbour is expected to be eligible for the second semester. The 5-10 guard averaged 15.0 points at Virginia Tech as a freshman. Until then, it’s Hurt and whoever is feeling it that night. Sometimes it’ll be Jennifer Lane, sometimes it might be promising freshman Jacqueline Brewer. In the meantime, Hurt looks like she’s going to be putting up some gaudy numbers. Through four games, Hurt is averaging 26.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

TRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIBE!
VCU faces off with William & Mary tomorrow at high noon. Hopefully, they’ll have enough time to get the parade floats out of the way before game time. William & Mary isn’t just the school witih the worst-looking athletics website in the league. They also play some basketball down there.

Tony Shaver’s Fightin’ Mustaches have been a bit of a mixed bag this year. They’re looking to overcome the loss of scrappy, donkey-kicking, shot-selection-be-damned guard David Schneider, as well as Danny Sumner. The Tribe has ben mauled at Virginia and Richmond, nearly upset Syracuse on the road and beaten perennial punching bags Howard, Mercer and Gardner-Webb. Quinn McDowell (14.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Marcus Kitts (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) have been good for “The College”, but starters Matt Rum and Kendrix Brown are shooting a combined .281 (18-of-64) this season.

However, William & Mary’s most glaring problem this season has been turnovers. The Tribe is averaging 16.6 turnovers per game and have a turnover margin of minus 5.9. Somewhere, the protagonists of “Havoc” are smiling. If the Tribe struggles to control the ball against VCU, the Rams will roll them.

THE LINKS

COUPLE OF GAMEDAY LINKS

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THE COMEBACK
VCU and South Florida have a long history that dates back to the Sun Belt and the Metro Conferences. They’ve met 36 times (VCU leads, 25-11), but none of those games is likely as memorable as this one.

…I REMEMBER, I HAD THE LASAGNE

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Let me be person No. 7,890,547 to bid farewell to Leslie Nielson, who passed away this week. Who knew Canadians were funny? My bad, I forgot about Brian Adams.

Anyway, the VCU Men’s Basketball team heads to South Florida on Wednesday to take on the Fightin’ Stan Heaths in Tampa, Fla. Heath, formerly of Arkansas and Kent State (Kent Read, Kent Write, Kent State), led USF to respectability last year in the 38-team Big East. The game will also be a homecoming of sorts for St. Petersburg native Ed Nixon, which brings us to today’s first link. Everybody’s favorite Delawarian, Scott Day, chats with Nixon about returning to the Tampa-St. Pete area.

RANDO LINKS

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