NOTES: VCU’S AIMS FOR WINNING ROAD FORMULA

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Troy Daniels is shooting nearly 44 percent from 3-point range in road and neutral site games this year.

Troy Daniels is shooting nearly 44 percent from 3-point range in road and neutral site games this year.

RICHMOND, Va. – The second half of VCU’s Atlantic 10 Conference schedule is no holiday. Of the Rams’ eight remaining games, seven are against teams with a sub-100 RPI, including Butler, currently ranked 14th nationally in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

It’s a 4/4 home/road split down the stretch for first-place VCU (18-5, 6-2 A-10). Those road contests include Charlotte on Feb. 9, Saint Louis, Xavier and Temple – four schools with an average RPI of 58. It’s a gauntlet that could cement VCU’s NCAA at-large hopes. The good news for the Rams is that they’ve had success on the road of late.

In the last three years, VCU is 16-6 in conference road games and 24-10 in true road games overall. That includes the Rams’ 6-1 mark in true road contests this season.

“Our guys have done a nice job on the road,” VCU Coach Shaka Smart said. “I give our guys a lot of credit. We’ve won every road game the last year, save two that were unbelievable comebacks by our opponents. So, our guys have put [us] in positions to win all those games.”

Smart doesn’t believe the Rams’ ability win in hostile environments is an accident. Smart and his staff have worked carefully, he says, to instill a road warrior mentality in the minds of players. Although the official lexicon of the VCU Basketball Keys to Road Success (title is my own) is a closely-guarded secret, Smart did offer a portion of his philosophy at his weekly press conference Wednesday.

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RAMS HOPE TO BENEFIT FROM BREAK IN A-10 SCHEDULE

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VCU will wait six days between A-10 games this week.

VCU will wait six days between A-10 games this week.

RICHMOND, Va. – We now interrupt this regularly scheduled season for rest.

VCU, at the midpoint of its race for an Atlantic 10 Conference championship, finds itself in the midst of a six-day break between league games – a respite built into each A-10 school’s schedule. The Rams (18-5, 6-2 A-10) topped Fordham on Feb. 2, but will not play again until they travel to Charlotte on Feb. 9.

Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart says the team is doing its best to capitalize on its bye week.

“We’ve practiced pretty hard,” Smart said Wednesday at his weekly press conference. “[Tuesday] was really good. It was one of the most competitive practices we’ve had all year. For certain individuals we’re treating this week differently. For some it’s a little more about rest, for some guys it’s more about getting them in the right frame of mind, getting them more aggressive, and hopefully by Saturday we’ll have everyone where we want them to be.”

It’s not uncommon to have a week-long break between non-conference games, especially around Christmas and during finals week, but it’s a relatively rare occurrence during conference play. That was not a feature of the Colonial Athletic Association schedule, which was more compact due to the league’s affiliation with the ESPNU BracketBusters event and a conference tournament that took place a week earlier than the A-10.

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VCU-CHARLOTTE, AN OVERDUE ENCORE

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NorthCarolinaUOf-Charlotte_ATHPMK01a_1946-1999_SCC_SRGBNice to see you again, old friend.

While VCU’s more youthful fans may be unaware, the Rams share a bond with Charlotte that few other rivals can match. When the Rams and 49ers meet on Saturday, Feb. 9 in Charlotte, it will be the first game between the two since Dec. 7, 1995, back when the schools were more recognizable as UNC Charlotte and Virginia Commonwealth (or the dreaded Va. Commonwealth). Rebrandings aside, that’s plenty of time for people to forget the battles these two schools waged in both the Sun Belt and Metro Conferences. In fact, Charlotte is the only school VCU has shared three conferences with.

From 1977-1995, VCU and Charlotte met 41 times, with the Rams earning a 26-15 edge in the series. Between 1980-1988, one of these schools ended the other’s Sun Belt Championship hopes in the league tournament five times. The most famous of those meetings was a March 7, 1988 clash in the Sun Belt Championship Game (the only time these two met for a title), won 81-79 by Charlotte at the Richmond Coliseum.

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