In exactly seven days, VCU will open play in the CAA Tournament against either Drexel, James Madison or, if something crazy happens, Towson. But the Rams will likely dedicate more time looking within themselves than working out the tiebreaker scenarios and first round CAA Tournament games that will decide their quarterfinal opponent.
After the Rams’ 72-69 loss to James Madison Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center – VCU’s fourth straight conference defeat – the Black and Gold clearly has some soul searching to do.
Troubling themes that have plagued this team throughout the regular season reared their ugly heads again Saturday, namely, defense and rebounding. Additionally, a team that once prided itself on its ability to score in bunches from beyond the 3-point arc has gone surprisingly cold from long range of late. VCU was 9-of-27 from three on Saturday, including 2-of-11 in the second half. The Rams had two 3-point opportunities in the final 10 seconds against JMU and couldn’t get either to fall.
The Rams were outrebounded, 36-30 and were outscored in the paint, 42-18. VCU limited All-CAA forward Denzel Bowles to just 14 points, but was burned repeatedly in the second half by the quickness of James Madison point guard Devon Moore, who drove with impunity during one particularly frustrating stretch for VCU in the middle of the second. Moore finished with 18 points and five assists.
After losing four of five games, the Rams don’t exactly have the momentum they’d prefer on their way into the CAA Tournament.
“We fought hard, but you can’t give a team forty something points in the first half and second half our shots weren’t falling,” said senior point guard Joey Rodriguez, who finished with six points and 10 assists. “It’s the same stuff over and over again. Same stuff from Drexel, same stuff from ODU, same stuff from Mason. It’s the same things that keep shooting us in the foot. In basketball, you can’t have two or three guys doing the right thing, but then if the other two aren’t doing it, it’s going to hurt you because there’s five people on the court. We’ve just got to get everybody on the same page and move forward.”
In terms of CAA seeding, VCU’s loss doesn’t change much. The Rams had a chance to move from the fourth to the third seed with a win and a Hofstra loss, but otherwise, not much could’ve changed. VCU will still get a first round bye in the tournament, but as losers of three straight conference games heading into Saturday, a win over JMU clearly would’ve provided a shot in the arm. Instead, Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart will need to find a way for this team to relocate its swagger.
“As far as going into the CAA Tournament. Yeah, it would be terrific to go in on a winning streak, but the reality is we’re not on a winning streak. The reality is that we’ve lost our last two and if we want to advance – now, we certainly can advance and we have a team that’s capable of doing the right things to compete for a championship – but we’ve got to do better than we did today.”
- VCU will be the No. 4 seed in the CAA Tournament and play the winner of the No. 5 vs. No. 12 seed on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Richmond Coliseum. The winner advances to play top-seeded George Mason at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
- Saturday marked VCU’s fourth straight sellout at the Verizon Wireless Arena, the first time that’s happened. The four sellouts also tie a Siegel Center record. Barring a string of sparsely attended postseason games, VCU will shatter the previous Siegel Center attendance mark of 6,169 per game, set in 2007-08. VCU is averaging 6,645 in 14 home dates this season.
- Joey Rodriguez dished out 10 assists Saturday, his third double-digit assist of the season.
- Freshman Rob Brandenberg, who has been nursing a bruised quad, made a four-minute appearance during the first half Saturday, but did not return. Brandenberg has only played seven minutes in the last three games combined.