(You Gotta') Fight, For Your Right...
Across seven days last week, VCU hung Treveon Graham’s jersey in the Siegel Center rafters prior to a blowout win over St. Joseph’s. Then went on the road to beat first-place and 25th-ranked Davidson. Then zipped over to the Robins Center and took down archrival Richmond (again). The troika positioned the Rams for a top four seed in the A10 tournament.
That’s a healthy seven days. So healthy it sent me into the record books. Have we enjoyed a better seven days in the month of January before?
The 2009 team sandwiched late January home wins over George Mason and Old Dominion—both rivals who finished second and third in the CAA that year—around a trap-game-avoiding win at Georgia State. That got VCU to 8-1 in the CAA on its way to 14-4 and a championship, before losing to UCLA in the NCAA tournament. Pretty good.
The 2007 team beat ODU at home, then won back-to-back roadies at George Mason and at Drexel to get to 10-0 in the CAA. Those three teams finished second, fourth, and fifth that year. (Hofstra finished third.) VCU would win the CAA title and beat Duke in the NCAA tournament. Even better.
The 2004 team ran a similar January race: a home win over Mason followed by road wins at ODU and at Drexel. Those three teams finished second, third, and fourth in the CAA in 2004. VCU won the CAA that year, losing to Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament. That one might be the best January week—it at least rivals what we just saw.
By now you see where we’re going: the three best one-week performances in January from VCU prior to this season ended in the NCAA tournament. The next six weeks are going to be tons of fun. It starts with Dayton.
THE LAST GAME, IN BRIEF (THANKS, JERRY)
Vincent Williams kicked Richmond’s ass. That’s kind of the summary. Williams scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out eight assists and blocked two shots in the game. He drew two charges. On VCUs last seven made baskets, Williams made three and assisted on three others. (Thanks, John O’Connor.) Williams tracked down a deflected pass before hitting the gamewinner. Hason Ward also posted a 14/10 double-double.
VCU twice had a 10-point lead that evaporated. That's going to happen in a road game against a good team. (I threw up in my mouth saying that, but it's true.) Good teams make plays late, winning plays. That's exactly what Williams did.
VCU topped the Flyers 53-52 in Dayton to open A10 play on January 5. Kenpom has VCU winning this battle 59-55. Last time out, the Flyers won a defensive war over Rhode Island, 53-51. Toumani Camara had his third double-double of the season (18/10). DaRon Holmes had 12 points and six blocks. Holmes is a major dude, a shot-blocking/dunking machine. The VCU interior players are going to have to show up with some rattlesnake in them.
Dayton is very balanced, with three guys averaging in double figures. Kobe Elvis is their best three-point shooter (25-58, 43%) and Koby Brea has made the most (33-87, 38%). Freshman Malachi Smith has 103 assists and only 51 turnovers.
DO YOU REMEMBER?
January 9, 2013: In VCUs first-ever A10 game, the Rams beat Dayton 74-62 behind 24 points from Treveon Graham. Briante Weber had five assists, one turnover and NINE steals. Dayton never led in the game but trailed 49-48 when Graham hit a tough leaner. It seems like forever ago, but I still have, and use, the golf towel.
January 17, 2019: Marcus Evans bombed in a three with 33 seconds to play and VCU topped the Flyers 76-71. Evans scored VCUs last seven points and the Rams finished the game on an 11-2 run, giving Dayton it's first A10 loss.
THIS IS THE LAST SECTION
The 2004 team came out of its week and whipped a bad Towson team 101-76. The 2007 team beat William & Mary but then lost at Hofstra. And the 2009 team lost at home to Northeastern in the Jamie Luckie Game. History tells us nothing in the short term.
This game might be a race to 50. It features the top two defensive teams in the conference. Dayton is giving up 0.86 points per possession and VCU yields 0.92 points per trip. The two teams are seventh and eighth on the offensive end. Hell, this might be a race to 40.
In the macro, if Bonnies can hold serve at home against Davidson, five A10 teams will have two losses. Two of those are VCU and Dayton. Yeah, this is a biggie.
Tough to pinpoint what to watch in a game that’s going to be a rock fight. I imagine we should just all enjoy it, in all its ugly splendor. Maybe the three-point line? VCU is tops in the A10 in making them (41%), and tops in defending them (28.5%). Seems like that matters, but honestly I feel like I’m making that up.
Possibly what matters is the Robinson Vortex, which is a real thing. There is an official score and the whistle blows with about five minutes to play. You enter the vortex. In the blink of an eye there’s 1:42 on the clock and there’s a different score and the teams react, desperate or stressed or feeling their oats. Those three minutes in the Robinson Vortex will tell the tale.
Or maybe this is an analysis-free game. It’s a grimy slugfest where you channel William Wallace and somebody’s coming out the winner.
I like my guys in that scenario.