VCU has a distinct advantage this weekend that is not being discussed, at least not enough for my taste. I call it The Blammo Effect.
You see, teams who have little knowledge of VCU or have not actually played against the Rams are prone to being horse-whipped at a certain point during games. We've seen it in both halves, but primarily in the second half. It's the big run that is havoc at its finest, deflections and steals and layups and threes, an open court basketball bacchanalia.
It's worth noting that in 14 of VCUs 26 wins, the Rams either trailed at the half or were leading by four or fewer points.
Here's the thing: you can practice with six or seven guys. You can practice with five guys and perfect reads. You can watch tape from sunup to sunup. You can rent Inspector Gadget and his gogoarms to try to replicate the Turbocharged Octopus and his nation's leading steals total.
None of that matters until the ball is tipped and the blender is set to puree. It's one thing to talk about havoc. It's quite another play against havoc. And here's where I want to draw a thin line about havoc: the cumulative effect may or may not make you tired, but it most definitely makes you error-prone.
We've all seen teams get tired, but St. Joseph's was not tired on Sunday. I don't feel like St. Louis and its short bench was ever tired. The Blammo Effect occurs when opponents may be a little bit tired or a lot tired, but certainly mistake-prone because they are mentally sick of seeing VCU uniforms everywhere and don't possess the practical experience of what to do next.
And that seems to show up most often in second halves of games when opponents have simply worn down spiritually from facing the constant wave of pressure on both offense and defense. (Remember, VCU attacking its offensive end on the opposition is a key facet of havoc.)
Honestly, I'm starting to believe havoc is more mentally taxing than physically taxing. No matter which half, opposing players begin snapping and grousing at each other. That isn't physical. Coaches tend to get that "uh, oh" look in their eyes and call quick timeouts. They see it coming; it's just sometimes they are powerless to stop it. That is controlled by VCUs players and the answer to Shaka Smart's "are you ready to press?" question in the locker room.
None of that is manifested in the physical. That's between the ears.
Virginia Tech was at the wrong end of a 31-0 run. Illinois State a 26-4 spree. Belmont blitzed to a 22-2 tune. Stony Brook gave up 19 straight. Rhode Island gave up 13 straight. Dayton, Duquesne, GW, Richmond, and Fordham were all on the single-digit end of double-digit, second half, havoc-fueled runs.
Poor Old Dominion. The Monarchs were helpless amidst a 20-4 first half blammo and a 26-4 second half blammo.
My point to all this? SFA, and perhaps then UCLA or Tulsa, have not actually stepped on the floor against VCU and faced the turning-dead-leaves-to-oil pressure of havoc. It's new and different for them. They don't have the advantage of tweaking what they actually did against VCU.
That matters because a lack of familiarity and lack of recency opens up teams to The Blammo Effect, which changes games.
This is also a disadvantage of sorts, as teams who have taken the floor against VCU have a better idea of how to attack it.
GW had 21 turnovers in the first meeting against VCU and 15 turnovers in the third. Fordham had 18 turnovers and then 14 turnovers. Richmond went from 15 turnovers to 14 turnovers. St. Joseph's and St. Louis both had the same number of turnovers in the first and second games.
But guess what? Those are all A10 teams during the conference season. SFA, UCLA, and Tulsa are not in the A10. They have not faced VCU when the clock is running and they have to make plays.