The last time VCU lost three out of four games, Coach Smart burned a calendar and went to the Final Four. While the Rams are in the midst of a similar skid, it’s nowhere near time to bust out the Zippo.
- What: VCU (20-7, 8-4) vs. Fordham (9-16, 2-10)
- Where: Rose Hill Gym
- When: Thursday, February 15th at 7:00 PM
- Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
- Listen: Rams Radio
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After losing three of the last four games, Virginia Commonwealth University travels to the Bronx to rematch Fordham University on Thursday.
It’s one of many anecdotes remembered from one of the greatest runs in college basketball: Coach Shaka Smart burning the February 2011 calendar before the Rams’ unforgettable run to the Final Four. Smart made his team watch their 3-5 February record burn, their quantifiable underperformance capped off by a home loss to James Madison on senior day, turn to ashes.
The Rams have lost three of four games for the first time since that forgettable February that preceded an unforgettable March. This time it’s different. It’s not time to panic. This is not 2011. This is not the CAA.
Two major things have changes since Coach Smart’s second campaign at the helm of the Rams: 1) VCU has moved up a weight class, and 2) VCU will not only not be harassed for making the 2014 NCAA Tournament, they are comfortably predicted to go dancing. Losing three of four is never fun, but the A-10 is a slug fest, and the Rams have been on the wrong side of a few close games in an almost unprecedented four game stretch:
3-Point Field Goals
|@ Saint Joseph’s||L · 62-69||#41||#58|
|vs. George Washington||W · 92-75||#38||#41|
|@ Saint Louis||L · 62-64||#9||#19|
|@ Massachusetts||L · 75-80||#32||#45|
That isn’t to knock the 2011 CAA. That frustratingly strong 2011 ODU team won’t be remembered because of a heroic Matt Howard layup, and that extremely skilled 2011 GMU team won’t be remembered because of an unfortunate matchup with Ohio State, but the 2011 Rams had other issues. Issues that have almost been forgotten by Smart taking steal, flint, and butane to paper.
Coach Smart has his finger on the pulse of this sometimes temperamental team. On Monday, he calmly explained why some coaches like adversity. Some teams thrive after some crisis time. Hasn’t VCU in the past? He explained, “for us, especially these last few days coming off of the UMass game, there has been a lot of self reflection.”
I don’t think it’s a situation where we need to rewrite our entire plan and rewrite everything we do. I think it’s a situation where we need to do certain things that we do, better–and particularly on the defensive end. Coach Smart
With only one more truly difficult road test (don’t sleep on Richmond in the Robins Center), the Rams are in take-care-of-business mode. March starts on Saturday, and the Rams are a force that can strike fear in the hearts of the most veteran coaches on a neutral court during the greatest month of the year.
Turning the corner starts Thursday at Fordham. It isn’t the dramatic BracketBusters game at Wichita State. It isn’t a chance to pummel Butler in the Siegel Center or to exact revenge against Saint Louis in RVA (the players aren’t supposed to be looking forward to Saturday, but that doesn’t mean you can’t). It’s an opportunity for the Rams to remember what they are capable of doing. This year, priming HAVOC! for March shouldn’t take spontaneous combustion–only an efficient and confidence boosting win in the Bronx.
Like many teams in the A-10 basement, Fordham has a solid offense and talented guards. Two teams have scored more than 67 points in regulation against Syracuse this season: California (81) and Fordham (74). They aren’t shooting the ball well, but they rank 68th in offensive turnover percentage and 46th in offensive rebounding percentage. The backcourt tandem of Branden Frazier and Jon Severe is equipped to handle HAVOC!, but Fordham’s two leading scorers weren’t very effective against VCU in the Rams’ 60-76 loss to VCU on 2/15.
Fordham ranks 341st in effective height which is abysmal for a prestigious conference like the Atlantic 10. Recently they’ve been starting a lineup with players that are: 5-foot-9, 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-3, and 6-foot-8. Their lack of size forces them to play a 2-3 zone, and they struggle keeping teams out of the lane.
Fordham will be at home in the Bronx, but VCU should enter Thursday’s game even more motivated than the first meeting. Expect it to show on the court and on the scoreboard.
The Star: #10 Jon Severe
34 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 71-217 2PFG, 72-196 3PFG
Severe has basically locked up Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, and he was more of less the best player on Fordham from day one this season. He’s a volume shooter, and he’s the focus of every defense so his percentages aren’t jaw dropping, but he can put the ball in the hoop with the best of them.
He’s lightning quick, and he can get to the rim but he scores most of his points on 3-pointers and free-throws. He came off the bench and played a season low 21 minutes in his first game against VCU on a tough 3-of-13 shooting night. He had 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting against Richmond on February 15th, but the Rams are better equipped to defend him than the Cedrick Lindsay-less Spiders.
#0 Branden Frazier (PG, Senior) • Frazier is another great point guard on a struggling team in the Atlantic 10. He is talented, and he can capitalize on some teams, but he finished 2-of-10 with 3 turnovers against VCU on 2/15.
#13 Chris Whitehead (G, Junior) • One night he starts and plays 35 minutes. Another night he plays two minutes off of the bench. Whitehead’s role has been all over the place this season, but he’ll probably be used as an extra ball-handler against the press. He’s 5-foot-9, and he finished with seven turnovers and five fouls against VCU on 2/15.
#24 Bryan Smith (G, Junior) • Smith is Forham’s 4th largest starter. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. He’s grabbing five RPG but isn’t contributing much else statistically. Fordham will stay in the zone most of the game, but if they switch to man-to-man defense, it’s tough to imagine who will guard Treveon Graham.
#30 Ryan Rhoomes (F, Sophomore) • Rhoomes won’t light up the scoreboard, but he’s the 12th most efficient offensive player in the country, and he’s Fordham’s only player taller than 6-foot-3 that plays more than 20 MPG. He’s an effective rebounder, but he should have his hands full with Juvonte Reddic.
#1 Mandell Thomas (G, Sophomore) • Thomas lit VCU up for 25 points including 5-of-10 3-point shooting before dropping 18 points on URI 2 days later including 4-of-5 3-point shooting. He has since cooled off big time. He’ll be higher on the Rams’ scouting report on Thursday so it will be interesting to see how he responds.
This should be VCU’s easiest remaining game of the season including the A-10 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. The Rams should win by double-figures. KenPom picks VCU to win 83-72 with an 84% chance of victory.
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- Location: Bronx, New York
- Enrollment: ~15,000
- Conference: A-10
- All time series: VCU leads 2-0.
- Last meeting: 1/29/2014. VCU won 76-60.
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