Shaka Smart says VCU will need to shift its focus quickly to prep for George Washington.

Shaka Smart says VCU will need to shift its focus quickly to prep for George Washington.

RICHMOND, Va. – There will be just 44 hours between the final horn of VCU’s 86-68 win over UMass Thursday and its 7:30 p.m. tip with George Washington Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena. After sleep, class and meals, that’s not a lot of time to prepare for a college basketball game.

The Atlantic 10 Conference typically plays its games in a Wednesday-Saturday format, but the Rams’ midweek game against the Minutemen was slotted for 9 p.m. Thursday to accommodate television. Coincidentally, George Washington will be coming off six days rest. The Colonials last took the court on Feb. 9 in a 59-56 loss to Butler.

It’s a situation that VCU Coach Shaka Smart says will ask the Rams to be efficient in their preparations for the Colonials.

“It’s important that we shift our focus mentally to George Washington,“  Smart said. “They’ve got a really good team. They’re well coached. They’ve got a great system. They’re very, very different than UMass, so we’re going to have to shift our focus quickly.”

“We’re going to get real familiar with them [Friday] in practice,” said junior Rob Brandenberg. “The most important thing we can do is take care of our bodies. Get rest tonight, get treatment tomorrow and get ready on Saturday. It’s a big game on Saturday, so we’ve got to get ready to play.”

On Friday, Smart said the Rams (20-5, 8-2 A-10) will likely host a practice light on physicality and heavy on scouting reports and opposing sets. Despite the short turnaround, Smart says the Rams have been down this road before, and he believes they’ll be ready.

“Our guys are pretty good at learning a team relatively quickly,” he said. “So we’ll spend a lot of time on that [Friday].”

VCU has won four straight and sits atop the Atlantic 10.

VCU has won four straight and sits atop the Atlantic 10.

Twice this calendar year, the Rams have played consecutive league games on Thursday, then Saturday. The results have been mixed. On Thursday, Jan. 17, VCU topped Saint Joseph’s in overtime at the Siegel Center. Two days later, the Rams beat Duquesne in Pittsburgh. The Rams also dropped back-to-back contests on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 against Richmond and La Salle, respectively.

VCU is one of, if not the fittest team in the A-10, so whether the lack of rest will be an issue is subject to debate. Just in case, Smart should be happy the Rams pulled away from the Minutemen Thursday night and allowed him to use his bench liberally. Just one Ram, Treveon Graham, played more than 28 minutes against UMass.

One this is for sure. Smart isn’t interested in excuses.

“It’s too late to cancel,” said Smart with a grin. “They’ve been sitting around all week to play, but if we sit around and use that as an excuse, that they haven’t played since Saturday, that we only have 44 hours between the game, that’s just a recipe for getting let down.”

George Washington is 11-11 overall and 5-4 in the A-10. It’ll take an adjustment on VCU’s part to prep for the Colonials, who are nearly polar opposites of the frantically paced Minutemen the Rams played Thursday. Smart is confident VCU will be well-versed by sundown on Saturday.

“They’ll be fine,” Smart said of his players. “They’ll respond. They need to go out and play VCU Basketball Saturday, and that’s what’s going to bring us success.”

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