RICHMOND, Va. – College basketball is broken? Scoring is down? The game is boring? Soft bubble? Too many upsets? I think some of these stodgy columnists need some Havoc therapy.
This year, more than any in recent memory, college basketball has faced parroted calls for a fix.
“Make this game more fun! Entertain us! Too many upsets. Too many guys leaving college early.”
Maybe I’m not qualified to assess the state of Division I basketball. I drive a Pontiac – a car brand which no longer exists – and own a total of two suit jackets, so, probably not. Maybe hoops is “broken”, maybe it’s not. I’m just wondering if these guys are watching what I’m watching. Have you seen VCU? Have you sampled the fruit of the breakneck, devil-may-care style of play that is only churning out turnovers and entertainment value at a faster rate than it is producing victories?
From where I’m sitting, college hoops looks better than ever.
I hope these guys set their DVRs on Wednesday’s VCU-Richmond game, a heart-pounding, 93-82 donnybrook that saw the Rams eek at their 24th victory and gave statisticians carpal tunnel. It was a rivalry game that had all the sizzle of the best of them. Bitter rivals, revenge, physicality and thrills-o-plenty. What’s to fix?
Lamenting slumping scores in college hoops? The Rams topped 90 for the eighth time this season Wednesday. That’s just days after dropping 84 on Butler. Yeah, that Butler.
Want more star power? Don’t mope. How about bulldozing forward Treveon Graham, who is as clutch as he is unstoppable with a head of steam? Graham, who is just a sophomore, plowed his way into the heart of the Richmond defense repeatedly in the second half and scored 15 of his 21 points after intermission.
What about range-free sniper Troy Daniels, who has 105 three-pointers this year, or Tazmanian devil guard Briante Weber, or electric Coach Shaka Smart, or gazelle-like dunker de jour forward Juvonte Reddic, or drag racer Rob Brandenberg, or guard Melvin Johnson, a throwback to the days of 70s New York flash? Get the point? We have what you need.
Watch all you like, but proceed with caution. Not everybody can play this way. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also a path to destruction, or was it disruption? Doesn’t matter.
Richmond, a team rated in the bottom third of the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo, tried to match VCU’s Havoc Wednesday. With a stable of talented guards, the Spiders are better equipped than most, and for about 37 minutes, acquitted themselves well. But with the score tied at 79-all with 3:13 left, VCU launched a game-deciding 11-0 run. VCU had the legs. They do this for a living.
First, Graham powered his way to the rim. After Richmond’s Cedrick Lindsay missed a layup, Reddic fielded an offensive rebound and slammed it home. Then, Havoc’s full-court press produced a steal and another Reddic layup. The sequence was the final blow that brought VCU’s 35th straight sellout to its feet and felled Richmond. To boot, it the game was so fun, so wild, it would make your Aunt Millie with a mohawk look pedestrian.
“It’s real fun,” VCU senior Darius Theus said of the Rams’ style of play. “Especially when a team wants to do it with us. We could see that they were getting tired. You know, that style of play is always to our advantage, and we’re going to keep doing it.”
I don’t know if Havoc can “save” college basketball. I don’t really think it needs saving. Rock and Roll might need to be saved, so does my waistline and “30 Rock” (one more year!). But college basketball? Not from my point of view. But I do think it’s time you get on board, grumpy columnists from across the land, just in case you’re not convinced. Don’t like the channel? Change it. Turn the dial to Havoc TV. The view from here is terrific. It’s normally headquartered at 1200 West Broad Street, but you’re going to have to catch Shaka Smart and the Rams on the road from here on out. Viewing options still available for Philadelphia (Sunday), Brooklyn (March 14-17) and the NCAA Tournament.