Night Line: Rams Continue To Wreak Havoc in Basketball-Crazy RichmondPosted by BHayes on January 18th, 2013
Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
The word entered the college basketball lexicon long enough ago for it to be a household term nowadays, but there is still something very fresh about the “havoc” being created down in Richmond. Shaka Smart coined the term years ago to describe the manic brand of hoops his VCU teams employ, and Thursday night proved the catchy maxim apt once again, as St. Joseph’s couldn’t stand up to the “wide and general destruction” (the definition of havoc, per Merriam-Webster) caused by the Rams.
If havoc doesn’t do it for you, we can just go with relentless. VCU found a way to come back from four down with 15 seconds to play, tying it with seven ticks left, and then forcing Carl Jones (21 points, five assists) to cough it up on the final St. Joe’s possession. There was no doubt that momentum was on the Rams side entering the extra period, and overtime was a five-minute display of everything Shaka Smart prides himself and his players on. St. Joseph’s had more turnovers than field goals in OT and looked completely out of gas, to the point where Phil Martelli’s bunch simply stood and watched as VCU, up eight with a minute to go, dribbled out the entire shot clock. Standard game theory would have suggested an early foul in an effort to extend the game, but too many hands on knees dictated action here — the Hawks simply couldn’t stand any more of the havoc.
There are a slew of great college basketball teams across the country, but there just isn’t a team that removes opponents’ wills the way VCU does. St. Joe’s was the most recent victim (and to be fair, Martelli’s crew played a great 40 minutes to put themselves in position for a win) but far from the only one, as the Rams have now won 12 consecutive games after a 3-3 start. All of those early losses look as fine as they did at the time, as Duke, Missouri and Wichita State have all posted beginnings ranging from solid to very good. In recent years, analysts have commented that no four or five seed would want to see a team like VCU in round one, and rightfully so. This season may put a twist on that logic – would any team in the field of 68 want to see the Rams next to them come Selection Sunday? When you take the court with VCU, you will be pushed physically, mentally and emotionally for 40 minutes; it’s bound to be a brutal, comprehensive examination for even the most battle-tested of teams.
A three-year run may not be enough to immediately toss VCU into the Gonzaga stratosphere of mid-major programs, but there aren’t too many teams that rest closer to the Bulldog paradigm. Shaka Smart has ignored interest from practically every high-major school with a job opening the last two seasons, the Rams have successfully stepped into the Atlantic 10 (with Catholic Seven rumors providing potential for VCU to rise even higher in the conference hierarchy), and the Siegel Center is starting to become one of those gyms where you just aren’t going to find road wins. The 7,500 seat arena has been sold out for the past 28 games, and anyone who tuned in to CBS Sports on Thursday night can attest to the big-time atmosphere that rested as a backdrop for this game. Compelling proof that Shaka Smart hasn’t just turned his team into havoc wreakers, but that he actually has the entire city of Richmond dishing out the destruction now.