Assistant Sports Editor
This one hurts, badly. Following last night’s defeat to George Mason, the VCU men’s basketball team now has had four separate four-game winning streaks halted by a CAA foe. Twice it was to the unreachable-at-this-point Northeastern Huskies, and once to a William & Mary team that VCU annihilated two weeks later. Yet in GMU, VCU had found a bit more relevant of a measuring stick.
Out of the past six CAA championships, four had involved either VCU or GMU if not both. VCU has reached the championship five times in the last eight years. In all five of those instances, the Rams defeated the Patriots at least once in the regular season that season—a feat now unattainable this year.
I don’t want to look too far into one game, nor sensationalize a situation that VCU can still potentially remedy by taking care of their business while receiving help elsewhere. But with the conference standings jam-packed toward the top, there’s standing room only for the league’s elite. Not only did VCU lose to a conference game against an I-95 nemesis, they did so to a team that was a mere game ahead in the standings going into the game. All of that is on top of the fact that VCU spurned a 13-point halftime lead, the final possession of regulation, and a golden opportunity in overtime to still pull out what would have been a miraculous and needed win.
With a win, VCU goes into no worse than a three-way deadlock for third—still solid footing in their quest for a first round bye in the CAA tournament. As it is, VCU slips into fifth place, just a game ahead of William & Mary, who played the game in hand they have on the Rams against Delaware Wednesday. With seventh-placed Hofstra a comfortable three games back with only four games remaining, VCU shouldn’t finish lower than sixth. Out of the Rams’ remaining four conference games, two are against James Madison—a team VCU has beaten in eight of their last 10 attempts. VCU’s fate may well have to be decided on the final day of the season, when the Rams go to none other than Norfolk to try and steal what would be their fifth victory at ODU in the last 10 years. A resurgence is still more then possible, but whether VCU needs more help from others or more help from themselves is the question. There were more than enough bright spots in Wednesday’s game (most notably from 5’10” juggernaut Joey Rodriguez); they were just merely outdone by missed free-throws (11 in total) and a momentum-driven Mason. Yet for the third time this season, VCU gave up a double-digit lead away from home, this is for a team that gets away with its away form because of such an unblemished home record. Out of all the should-haves, could-haves and would-haves that sprung from VCU’s heartbreaking loss to George Mason, one thing’s for sure: The Rams let a hell of a chance slip away.