RICHMOND, Va. – Duke, Louisville, Minnesota, Memphis, Missouri, Stanford, Northern Iowa. Coach K, Tubby, Frank Haith, Josh Pastner. That’s the lineup and the names of some of the marquee coaches in the Battle 4 Atlantis field, in which VCU will participate Nov. 22-24 in the Bahamas. This is big-boy basketball.
The Rams (2-1) will open with 19th-ranked Memphis on Thursday. After that, it’s fifth-ranked Duke or Minnesota, which is lurking just outside the top 25. Then, take your pick of second-ranked Louisville, or perhaps, 13th-ranked Missouri. Usually these tournaments have a punching bag, a Chaminade (too soon, Texas?), if you will. Not here. VCU will play three games, and there’s no such thing as a day off or an easy road.
It looks and feels a lot like the postseason, and more specifically, the NCAA Tournament, and the experience could pay dividends for the Rams down the road. VCU will play three NCAA-Tournament quality teams regardless of how the brackets shake out. You can’t simulate that elsewhere. It’s like a March Madness primer on steroids. It’s like Chuck Yeager’s Flight Simulator for championship basketball. A win, or two, or three would not only bolster VCU’s NCAA resume, it could also prepare the Rams to make another tournament run.