HIGH PRAISE FROM PECORA AND CO.

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Fordham Coach Tom Pecora is 0-9 as a head coach at VCU's Siegel Center.

Fordham Coach Tom Pecora is 0-9 as a head coach at VCU’s Siegel Center.

RICHMOND, Va. – Fordham Coach Tom Pecora knows VCU and the Verizon Wireless Arena well. He was the head coach at Hofstra from 2001-2010 and waged many a battle with VCU on this floor. He knows how hard it is to win here, too. After Wednesday’s 74-60 loss to VCU, Pecora is 0-9 all-time as a head coach in the building.

Following the game, he offered high praise for the program and gameday atmosphere VCU has built over the years.

I was talking to Mike Litos before the game…and I was telling him, I remember coming here in 2000 as the head coach at Hofstra after being the assistant there for seven years, and it was our first year in the CAA, and maybe 2,000 people [here] at a home game, and now you see the place rocking, and the band’s going, and the place is packed, and it’s just a great college basketball atmosphere. So, kudos to everybody here who’s part of making game night as good as it is here. I like pulling up to arenas and seeing people waiting to get in. It’s a good feeling for college basketball.

On the down side of that, as I was walking in and I said, hell, I’ve come in here with some pretty good Hofstra teams and never won, I’m coming in with a Fordham team that’s not that good yet.

Meanwhile, Fordham reserve Jared Fay was also impressed.

This season alone, Fordham has played games at Syracuse, versus St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, at Saint Louis and at UMass.

A WHOLE LOT OF AWESOME…AND A BASKETBALL GAME

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Thursday night, VCU welcomed George Mason to the Atlantic 10 Conference essentially the same way the Rams said farewell (although they didn’t know it at the time) to them in the CAA in 2012: with a Havoc-heavy double-digit win. In front of a raucous, “Check the Stu” legion of VCU fans – the 43rd straight sellout at the Siegel Center – VCU beat the Patriots 71-57.

It was a night where I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the bouillabaisse of terrific happenings on and off the court. First and foremost, the “Check the Stu” promotion. Much like last year’s “Stripe the Stu”, this was outstanding. Frankly, it’s intimidating to look up in the stands and see 7,700 black and gold shirts bearing down on you. Love how big-time that looks on TV too.

As if that wasn’t enough, the game featured possibly the best Briante Weber steal you’ll ever see, a thunderous Terrance Shannon tip dunk, a Shaka Smart chestbump (of Shannon) and a space kitten. Let’s recap!

#CHECKTHESTU
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This picture doesn't necessarily do it justice, but it's the only arena shot at have right now.

This picture doesn’t necessarily do it justice, but it’s the only arena shot at have right now.

#BRIFENSE
With about 47 seconds left in the game and VCU up double-digits, George Mason attempted to roll the ball in – an attempt to advance the ball without running clock. Bad idea. Briante Weber, who just flat-out never downshifts, came sliding in for one of the best steals you’ll see. Ever. Seriously.

EDIT: Slide gif now available.
weberslide

Weber finished with 12 points and added a total of five steals to move into sole possession of second place one the program’s career list.

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A SWEET 15: CELEBRATING THE SIEGEL CENTER’S BEST GAMES

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Microsoft Word - siegelfactsArenas, they grow up so fast.

VCU is playing its 15th season inside the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, a venue that has changed the course of the program and has become one of college basketball’s best atmospheres.

Before the Siegel Center opened, the VCU program was stuck in neutral. In the previous 14 seasons, the Rams made one NCAA Tournament appearance. In the 14 seasons since “The Stu” opened its doors, VCU has danced in March six times and recorded 13 winning records. Of course, there are a lot of other reasons for the Rams’ success over that period, namely, some great coaches. But it’s fair to say the program was more attractive to recruits, coaches and fans at the corner of Broad and Harrison, than in the Coliseum, a building too old, too big and too off-campus.

Since the Siegel Center opened its doors to basketball on Nov. 19, 1999, the Rams have played 212 games (not counting exhibitions) in the arena and won 183 of them, a winning percentage of .863. Along the way, there were plenty of unforgettable moments and epic battles. I tried to narrow those 212 games into a definitive list of 15 “greatest” games. Each game carries significance in its own right. Some were amazing finishes, some were historic. All of them were memorable.

15-VCU 52, Drexel 48 (Jan. 5, 2011) – Box Score
In a rivalry that produced numerous wacky finishes, this may have been the wackiest. After rallying from eight points down, Joey Rodriguez gave the Rams a 47-46 lead with a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left. Then it got nuts. With 13.2 seconds left, Jamie Skeen rebounded a potential go-ahead jumper by Drexel’s Chris Fouch and was fouled. Dragons’ Coach Bruiser Flint promptly picked up back-to-back technical fouls and the Rams’ clinched with win with five straight free throws.

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ALABAMA GAME A RARE OPPORTUNITY

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VCU fans rush the floor after the Rams upset 17th-ranked Oklahoma at the Siegel Center in 2009.

VCU fans rush the floor after the Rams upset 17th-ranked Oklahoma at the Siegel Center in 2009.

RICHMOND, Va. – When VCU hosts Alabama Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, the game will officially fall into a category of events rarer than Anthony Grant smiles during press conferences.

It will be just the 10th time the Rams will have hosted a school that is a current member of a BCS Conference (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, ACC, Big 12) since the Siegel Center opened in 1999. But even that number is a bit misleading. At the time of those games, two schools weren’t yet members of those power conferences. That means just seven out of VCU’s 194 games in the Siegel Center have been against schools operating under BCS banner.

It’s not for a lack of trying, Shaka Smart says.

“We try to schedule these games. Every once and a while, we’re successful,” he said. “Typically, people don’t want to come here, and I think that’s a testament to the fans here and the success the program has had over the past several years since 1999 that the Siegel Center has been open, and other teams know that.”

The Rams are 166-28 all-time at the Siegel Center, a winning percentage of .856. VCU is 3-1 at home this season. Schools from BCS Conferences are often wary of playing road games at schools from less prominent leagues, especially ones like VCU, who are tough to beat at home. VCU’s frantic style of play, compounded by the often deafening roar of 7,500-plus fans, can make other schools skittish about scheduling the Rams at “The Stu”.

“Those BCS schools aren’t just playing 13, 14 guys, they’re actually playing thousands of people. They’re coming to the Siegel Center. They have to play against us and the crowd,” said VCU senior Troy Daniels.

VCU's pressure defense proved too much for Big East member South Florida last season.

VCU’s pressure defense proved too much for Big East member South Florida last season.

Many BCS schools view the games as no-win situations because they’ll be expected to win, and if they don’t, they’ll face additional scrutiny.

The last BCS school to visit the Verizon Wireless Arena was South Florida last season, a game VCU won 69-46. Even when VCU has been successful in luring a BCS school to Richmond, it has rarely been a marquee name (see: South Florida). Saturday’s game with Alabama is part of a clause in Grant’s VCU contract that guaranteed the school a home-and-home series if the coach accepted another job. Grant left VCU for Alabama in 2009, and the two schools met last season in Tuscaloosa, Ala. with the Crimson Tide earning a 72-64 win.

VCU also received a home-and-home series with Oklahoma after Jeff Capel accepted that job. In 2009, the Sooners visited the Siegel Center as the 17th-ranked team in the country and left with an 82-69 loss. To date, it is the only time the Rams have hosted a ranked opponent at the Siegel Center.

Overall, the Rams are 7-2 in games at the Siegel Center against schools currently residing in a BCS Conference, including 5-2 against schools that were BCS-affiliated at the time of the contest.  So, while VCU’s opportunities have been limited, the Rams have often made the best of them. They’ll hope to do the same Saturday against Alabama. The Crimson Tide will likely be a top 100 RPI team all season, so a win would be a nice addition to VCU’s NCAA Tournament resume.

Here are VCU’s previous meetings with BCS schools at the Siegel Center:

1-*Louisville, W, 79-74 (11/19/99)
2-Colorado, W, 82-78 OT (11/28/99)
3-Mississippi, L, 84-88 OT (11/25/00)
4-Texas A&M, W, 107-106 2OT (12/2/00)
5-Pittsburgh, W, 76-73 OT (12/17/00)
6-*TCU, W, 91-78 (12/21/02)
7-Mississippi, L, 62-63 (12/29/04)
8-#17 Oklahoma, W, 82-69 (11/21/09)
9-South Florida, W, 69-46 (11/30/11)

* – Louisville was a member of Conference USA in 1999, as was TCU in 2002.

VCU REVEALS UPDATED COURT DESIGN

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In case you eschew all the other forms of social networking we employ, here’s the updated Siegel Center floor design. Now all we need is a ball, 10 players, 7,600 screaming fans, one Shaka and a Rodney. We’ll be playing basketball on this puppy on Nov. 1

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