Havoc as a gimmick died last night. There was a two-hour viewing at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, followed by a three-point burial that reverberated throughout the Commonwealth and the college basketball nation. Treveon Graham's three–one part scud missile and one part middle finger–with 1.1 seconds left did the honors in VCUs 59-56 over Virginia.
That gimmick word has always been thrown out there, so maybe now it can be put to rest for good. Of all the storylines to fall out of last night's big victory, every one of which is accurate, this is the one that sticks with me.
The game was played at Virginia's pace. In Virginia's style. On Virginia's floor. Against a very good basketball team. With a smart coach. While being awful from the foul line. And making only five threes. And getting out rebounded 41-28. And scoring just three fast break points. And juggling lineups like bowling pins, necessitated by new rules that restrict aggressiveness. And to be clear, there was nothing wrong with the officiating–VCU committed most of those fouls.
Not one bit of that is havoc, and VCU won on a top-level ACC team's home floor, playing their game.
What occurred last night is what high level basketball teams do. It was the result of preparation–a plan that came to life as the players executed. There was nothing phony or trumped-up about that victory. It was an extraordinary, and at times extraordinarily ugly, basketball game played by two teams throwing haymakers.
Havoc is no gimmick. It never was. Havoc is what we do, but the country was put on notice last night: take away havoc and this team can win on the road in less than ideal circumstances against quality competition, and when VCU is not playing its A-game.
This is talented basketball players thriving in a certain system, no different than teams who play a ton of zone or shoot 30 threes. This is a team who when that system is thwarted by a quality opponent can still win games because of their basketball skill and coaching preparation. It's havoc you fear, but you don't want to go to war.
What Jumped Out At Me
You know, other than everything…
Not Filling The Boxscore. You will see four points, two assists, two turnovers, and two steals for Briante Weber last night. Those pedestrian numbers do not come close to illuminating his management of the game. Weber gutted out 38 minutes against that very tough and physical Virginia defense. I can't believe I'm writing these words, but Weber quietly impacted last night's game.
More Sneaky Effectiveness. JeQuan Lewis played nine first half minutes that can only be described as solid. With Rob Brandenberg battling a pouty back and Melvin Johnson battling fouls and ineffectiveness, VCU needed a lift. Lewis was a stabilizing force and provided a glimpse of what he can become.
We Kid Because We Care, Part 2. We can once against joke about it, but that second half sequence for Lewis and Doug Brooks was hilariously freshman. Lewis attempted a lob pass from midcourt that was closer to the cheerleaders than Mo Alie Cox. It caromed off the front rim to Brooks, who was standing in the corner. Brooks immediately jacked up a three that hit the top corner of the backboard. I'd rather have them making errors trying to do something as opposed to making errors by being passive, but that was funny.
Playmakers. How important was Brandenberg's three at the outset of the second half? Juvonte Reddic's tip-dunk? Jordan Burgess's three? Graham's steal?
Treveon Graham. The Freight Trein. Maybe now college basketball will discover what we know. That is all.
The Curmudgeon's View
For the second straight game, and for a totally different reason, VCU played sloppy. There were careless errors, such as Jarred Guest dropping a chest high pass and Reddic getting the basketball caught on his hip, but it wasn't just the turnovers. On two missed free throws, Virginia got offensive rebounds due to a lack of boxing out. There were a couple furious VCU drives into the lane with no hope of coming out alive, much less a made basket. Granted, it seemed like a strategy to break down the pack line defense via overwhelming one-on-one play, but seven assists on 24 made baskets shows a bit of a stagnant offense. And, oh, the free throw shooting. This is a team clearly in early-season mode. As Shaka Smart has said: a lot to work on, a lot to work with.
Winthrop on Saturday night. VCU overwhelmed the Eagles last year 90-54. WInthrop defeated D3 Roanoke College and plays USC-Upstate tonight. USC-Upstate defeated Virginia Tech in its opener.