RICHMOND, Va. – Let’s take this opportunity to tip our cap to the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule-makers. Some might decry the short Thursday-Saturday turnaround, but this week the Rams will welcome the opportunity to get back to basketball.
In football, ESPN has an entire week to overanalyze why Tim Tebow didn’t run more than four snaps in the wildcat. There are six days between games to stew on a loss, eight if you live on Skip Bayless’ planet. Baseball players are pretty lucky in this respect. Whatever horror Tuesday wreaks, the sun will come up Wednesday and bring another ballgame with a chance for redemption.
That’s why VCU (16-4, 4-1 A-10) should be happy about Saturday’s game against La Salle at the Verizon Wireless Arena, which will tip less than 48 hours after the Rams heartbreaking 82-74 overtime loss to Richmond. That’s not a lot of opportunity to irrationally dissect the season. It’s human nature to act like this, but a quick turnaround affords a chance to turn the page. It’s a long season, and one loss is just that. So the Rams aren’t going to sweep the A-10 season. Other than that, what did we learn? That VCU is pretty unlucky when it comes to the opposition heaving desperation 28-foot 3-pointers with less than two seconds remaining on the road on weekdays against players whose names begin with a consonant? Terrific. Next!
“We’ve just got to move on quick and get ready for Saturday,” junior Rob Brandenberg said Thursday night. “We play in less than 48 hours. We’ll be able to do something about it then.”
In my seven previous seasons covering the Rams, six ended with some type of postseason, including four NCAA tournaments. All seven years included at least 19 wins; In essence, seven great seasons. In those seven years, I’ve seen the Rams lose at the buzzer at George Mason (on Valentine’s Day) and to a bad James Madison team (which led then-JMU Coach Dean Keener to commandeer the PA mic and blast some adrenaline-fueled plea for more fan support into the rafters — it didn’t work, by the way).
There have been head-scratching losses at Hampton, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary, East Carolina, Western Michigan and Towson. This year’s Richmond team is better than any from that quintet. Each loss caused us to obsess about basketball minutiae. We felt the same after each loss as do when we learn that Carson Daly still has a TV show: angry and disappointed, with an overriding desire to drive to Connecticut.
Look, by March, those games were long forgotten because the Rams picked themselves up and got back to work at Franklin Street Gym. They turned the page. Heck, in VCU’s Final Four season, the Rams lost at a sub-par South Florida team and were thumped at Richmond. It’s college basketball. It happens. Duke was absolutely pulverized by Miami (Fla.) the other night. And, as much as I enjoy piling on Duke (never gets old), the Blue Devils are still a very good basketball team; maybe the best team in the country. That doesn’t change.
La Salle, which just stunned ninth-ranked Butler Wednesday, doesn’t care what VCU did at Richmond Thursday, so the Rams shouldn’t either. They need to be ready to guard the peach baskets at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
The A-10 is an incredibly competitive league. The championship teams don’t always avoid a tough road loss – it happens to nearly every one – but they don’t let Wednesday’s (Thursday, in this case) loss beat them Saturday.
“We’re in good position,” VCU Coach Shaka Smart said. “We could’ve been in better position. It is what it is though. We’ve got to move on. I think emotionally, there are ups and downs, highs and lows to any season. We’ve had a lot of highs of late. The Saint Joe’s game we were on the flipside. We were down late and obviously we came back and forced overtime and won. So, it’s the maturity of the team and the guys on the team that’s going to dictate how you’re going to move on.”
Cue the Silver Bullet Band.