The loss to Temple on Sunday was like leaving a piece of luggage at the arena. You're charged up to get home, but two miles into the drive you realize your mistake and double back to the starting point. It's a total pain in the backside, but once you have everything packed away and you're back on the road, life is again good.
And so it was on Sunday afternoon. As Chris Kowalczyk discussed, there was basketball banter following the regular season-ending loss to the Owls. It was a toughie, for sure, but after the simplistic but accurate "we just got our butts kicked"–and there may be a word in there that was changed–the floodgates opened a torrent of VCU basketball conversation.
The loss to Temple stung, but once we cleared the city limits and found our way past Wilmington, DE, it was over. The baseline emotion lingered: I let the Temple loss
go almost immediately.
The discussion turned big picture–ideal as we move into the 2013 postseason. I want you to think about this before getting neck-deep in Xavier or St. Joseph's, a possible Temple rematch, and plans for Sunday afternoon.
- VCU finished 12-4, second, in a league that churned out 10 top 100 teams. We played a game on national television that could've given us a share of the conference title. In any other year, how devastated would we feel if we lost a
game in early March to a team behind us in the conference standings?
- That we
played the third weekend in February at Xavier, a conference game,
against a team ranked higher than anyone we'd face in a trumped up
Bracketbusters event, a phony dog-and-pony show. This was real.
- That we played at least nine conference games that had "big game feel," as opposed to maybe two or three in our previous conference.
- That eight of VCUs final nine games were played against teams with an RPI of 82 or better. The Rams were 7-2 in those nine games.
- That the country can think enough of us to have us lose a game as the #22 ranked team and stay in the rankings. That (as Chris so smartly pointed out) Kentucky beating Florida or any bubble team winning or bid stealers just don't matter in the grand scheme.
- That we did enough work in the nonconference season–12-3 with wins over Memphis, Alabama, and Belmont–that a 12-4 mark in conference was enough to warrant that last paragraph being written.
- That VCU had features written in ESPN: the Magazine and Sports Illustrated, and raised $7 million for a basketball practice facility.
And while all of that is good and well, to me this is the hammer: VCU is now listed as a "good win" on the resumes of bubble teams.
Think about all of that as you prepare for Brooklyn. The A10 tournament is going to be a doozie. Consider:
- Last year's champions, St. Bonaventure, didn't make the field.
- Butler, once ranked eighth in the nation, is the five seed.
- VCU plays the winner of Xavier (four Sweet 16s in the last five years) and St.
Joseph's (preseason #1, finished 10th). The Rams had to rally from 17 down to win
one game, and play a perfect 14 seconds to win the other.
- There are four and perhaps five NCAA tournament teams in the 12-team field.
- I couldn't write this any better than Chris, who said: The best RPI – THE BEST – in the CAA right now is Delaware’s 132, so you
tell me. Eleven of the 12 teams that qualified for the A-10 tournament
have a better RPI than 132. VCU won six top 100 games in conference play
this season. Even if the Rams had finished 18-0 in the CAA, it wouldn’t
be anywhere near as valuable as those six A-10 wins.
So my point is this. I don't care if we lose on Friday or win the whole shooting match. We've arrived as a nationally-relevant basketball program. Chew on that over the next few days, and as you make you way up 95 North.
Okay I lied. I care. Deeply. I want to win this shooting match. We've arrived, but we have to continue winning to stay. I love this neighborhood.
And you can keep that old school Beastie Boys anthem. We're going Avett Brothers as the theme. (Thanks Rob!):