VCUs modus operandi played out once again last night, with havoc providing the Rams an early cushion to work with for most of its 59-56 CAA championship victory over Drexel. In the 120 minutes of basketball over the weekend, VCU trailed for just 1:44.

“It took a whole team effort to do what we did tonight,” said Shaka Smart. “Drexel is a phenomenal team. Give Drexel credit. We certainly weren’t considered an NCAA caliber team in November, but we got better collectively, individually, and as a group.”

VCU forced 12 turnovers in the first half, including eight steals, and blocked four shots. The Rams consistently foiled Drexel’s high ball screens and never let the Dragons settle into an offensive rhythm.

The first two VCU baskets of the game were generated by steals resulting from blowing up that handoff. Drexel went nearly seven minutes without a field goal during one stretch, missing nine consecutive shots and committing four turnovers. The blitz allowed VCU to jump out to its second straight 16-point halftime lead.

“All year long, we talked about how it’s going to come down to defense and that’s what got us to this point,” said Brad Burgess. “It doesn’t matter if we’re making shots or not, if we’re focused on the defensive end, we’re going to have a chance to win every game.”

VCU, which entered the contest leading the nation in steals per game (10.7), finished the game with 10 steals, its school-record ninth-straight game with double-digit thefts. The night extended VCUs conference record number of steals to 363 for the season.

The second half belonged to Drexel, who chipped away at the VCU lead. Freshman Damion Lee scored a game-high 20 points for the Dragons and ignited a late rally with his fourth three-pointer. Lee’s baseline lay-up with 1:56 remaining cut the deficit to 54-50 and his steal on an inbounds play on the next possession set up a Samme Givens’ free throw that made it 54-51.

“I thought we didn’t play with toughnes in the first half, so I said (at halftime) okay we’re going to play with some toughness,” said Bruiser Flint. “In the second half we played with toughness, like we usually play. We came up with some balls. We didn’t have guys knock us down and steal the ball from us. We made it our type of game. They actually played our style of game in the second half.”

VCU had 16 fast break points in the first half, but only two in the second half.

After Treveon Graham hit 1-2 at the line for VCU, Massenat knocked down a pair of free throws to pull Drexel within 55-53. Daniels answered with a pair of free throws at the other end to push the advantage to four with 19 seconds to go. Chris Fouch then drilled a long three from the right wing to pull Drexel within a single point, 57-56.

“You play in the conference finals or semifinals, a team is going to make a run,” said Smart. “We did a great job spurting into halftime, but Drexel did a great job buckling down on defense. They hit some big shots, Damion Lee hit some big threes, Chris Fouch. It isn’t like we weren’t guarding them. They hit some big shots.”

Daniels was fouled and once again stepped to the line and converted twice with 12 seconds to go for what proved to be the final margin. Frantz Massenat had a look at a three to tie in the final seconds. His shot was on target, bounding high off the back rim and remaining midair for what felt like an eternity, mometarily sucking all the oxygen out of the Richmond Coliseum.

But the ball fell harmeless away, and VCU secured the victory.

“I wanted to take that shot,” said Massenat. “I thought it was going in. I just missed it.”

Lee agreed with his teammate on the podium in postgame: “I thought it was good, just like everyone else in the gym. But it wasn’t and here we are.”

It’s fitting that Massenat’s shot fell into the hands of Theus, whose 16 points, five assists, and five steals paced the VCU attack and earned him Most Outstanding Player honors.

“He’s an amazing floor general,” said Brad Burgess of Theus. “He was under Joey (Rodriguez), who got guidance from Eric (Maynor). The things he’s doing he’s been capable of his whole career.”

Said Theus: ”I’m just happy for Bradford to finish his senior year with a championship. The confidence my team has in me to make plays is a blessing.”

10 Responses to “You Don’t Want To Go To War…”

  1. Ed Says:

    Hi Michael,

    I think you’re one the of the best writers we have covering the CAA, and I’d really like to read your thoughts on the following argument. Apologies if you’ve already discussed this in detail and I missed it.

    As you know, and are likely tired of hearing, fans from schools other than VCU are so frustrated with the Richmond location that we’ve simply takent to calling the CAA tournament the VCU Invitational. A commentor on a college basketball thread made the following salient point:

    “The home court advantage is huge. Drexel doesn’t lose at home, Mason doesn’t lose at home, vcu doesn’t lose at home except to Georgia State. To give a team home court advantage for the tournament is wrong. Burgess even said it was a home game…This year Drexel was the best team in the CAA, they unfortunately had to play at vcu for the NCAA berth. That’s not fair.”

    This is not to take anything away from VCU’s terrific tournament performance. They likely would have won this year’s conference tournament regardless of the location. But there is simply no way anyone can honestly claim that VCU (or ODU, for that matter) do not benefit from this home court advantage. Is there anything that fans can do to impress upon the CAA that the tournament should be moved, or rotated to different locations?

    Our collective disgust at this situation has grown to the point where we’re ready to rally. We just need a direction.

  2. Greg Says:

    As a VCU alumni, I don’t dispute the benefit to the Rams in having this tournament so close to home. I believe tournament location will always come down to a few key factors- revenue stream, marketing potential, and size of facility. Quite frankly, the CAA is doing well financially keeping it in Richmond. Every year ticket sales seem to grow (including this year’s amazing quarterfinal session sell-out!). My question would be how interested are other cities with comparable facilities (and yes I know the Coliseum is a dump) in hosting this tournament and making the concesssions/guarantee’s necessary for the CAA to break from the norm.

    If it stays in Virginia, you’re likely to always face a large fanbase from one of the big 3 schools (VCU, ODU, GMU- plus the other 2). Will this tournament play in Philly? Boston? Atlantic City? Or will attendance suffer due to geography? Try to market this in Philly in any other larger city along the eastern seaboard, will it work? Certainly the Comcast/NBC package helps these markets- but will it just get lost in the shuffle?

    I look at the A-10 tournament and many other mid-major tournament locations and I just don’t see the passion or the intensity that you get in the CAA. I understand that it doesn’t seem fair when that intensity is 8k screaming VCU fans in a 11k seat facility.

    Regardless, I believe it’s locked into Richmond for 2 more years before the bid goes back out (Mike would know for sure).

    In any event (or location) Ram Nation will go wherever CAA basketball exists!

  3. Chris K Says:

    Just move it to Iowa so that it’s equally inconvenient for everybody.

  4. mlitos Says:

    Is this heaven?

    Ed–we will get into this in depth later this week. Step one: get in front of your AD and president. They are the ones that vote.

    The only thing you’ll get ranting on message boards about it is carpel tunnel.

  5. Pav Says:

    Wait, internet users want to move the tournament? That’s new. Haven’t heard that one before.

  6. Rosenpenis Says:

    Stunning. The only fans who get snarky and annoyed about a new tourney location are VCU fans. Wonder why?

  7. K Says:

    Homecourt advantage is usually considered to be a 3-4 point advantage (according to Vegas lines).

    VCU won by 3…

  8. Paul Says:

    It’s a business decision. The CAA could care less about any home court advantage that is gained or lost – they don’t do it because they are biased towards VCU, Virginia schools, Richmond, or anything else. They do it, like most everything else in our society, because of money. So unless you can present the CAA with a realistic and lucrative bid to move the tournament (and you can’t, at least during the present – I think the last time they took bids the RC was the only one worth considering), then you will keep complaining and everyone else will keep not caring.

  9. joe Says:

    Brad is being mi quoted. He said that since we didnt get a home game with drexel this would be the home game. VCU didnt get a home game against drexel How unfair is that. No one should ever get a conference schedule as easy as drexels. They won the top seed but not a championship.

  10. Mat Says:

    The CAA tournament may be a home court advantage to VCU fans, but so far it hasn’t been to VCU’s team. The Rams have won the tournament five times…they have also been the top seed five times. This is the first year the Rams have won when they weren’t the regular season champ, but the No.2 seed, just a game behind a Drexel team that didn’t have to play at Mason or at VCU this year.

    Fact is the tournament has actually been MORE beneficial to ODU, Mason and even UNCW. ODU has one more tourny title than year finished as the top seed. Mason has the same amount of titles as regular season titles (four), but TEN finals appearances. VCU has appeared in the finals eight times, but finished the season as regular season champ five times, so advantage Mason on that one as well.

    Going outside of Virginia, UNCW also won four championships…and perhaps not surprisingly…four regular season crowns. And guess how many finals appearances they have? That’s right, eight…the same as VCU, and ODU, and two less than Mason. So a team from North Carolina was able to reach the tournament finals the same amount of times as the home team…VCU, while finishing the regular season as champ or co-champ one less time.

    Fact is the best teams/programs have been winning this thing…and usually they are lead by a guy like Brett Blizzard, George Evans, Eric Maynor, or Frank Hassell.

    Heading into this year’s title, bracketologists thought VCU had the better at large chance than Drexel as well (better wins, higher RPI), so even if the Dragons came to the Coliseum with the better record, that may have been more of an indication of the strength of their conference schedule than their talent level.

    My $.02

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