All season long, I have pegged the VCU Rams as the favorite to win the Atlantic-10 conference. After last night’s 76-62 beating at the hands of the St. Louis Billikens, I find myself scratching my head and looking for answers.
Every good team will face a few close games in a season: some they may win and others they may lose with a buzzer-beater. But last night was never close. The Rams looked tired, intimidated and confused. They were playing for sole possession of first place in the conference, but mirrored a school boy in a blacktop game against Lebron James.
At times this season, VCU has looked unstoppable. There are nights when they run Shaka Smart’s “havoc” defense to perfection and create chaos for their opponent. There are games where they look like they can easily make an NCAA tournament run similar to the magical 2011 Final Four campaign.
They have the talent, depth and coaching to hang with the nation’s best, but lack the consistency that marks a truly great team.
At (21-6, 9-3) the Rams will face a critical stretch of games heading into the A-10 tournament. They will see Xavier and Temple on the road and these two teams hold down the fifth and sixth spots in the conference. VCU has struggled in opposing arenas and will have to show that they can beat quality opponents outside of the Siegel Center.
The biggest test of the season will come on March 2, when the Rams will host No. 15 Butler. They will also see Richmond again, the team that upset them earlier this year.
This is the time of the year when college basketball teams find their identity and gain momentum heading into the month of March. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for VCU.
Make sure to follow this writer on twitter @SeanLabar