After entering the season as the nation’s 14th-ranked team, it’s easy for some to say that the VCU men’s basketball team (21-7) has disappointed so far this year. But even in fourth place in the Atlantic 10, the unranked Rams may be underrated approaching postseason play.
A quick look at VCU’s schedule will help explain — but compare the Rams’ schedule to that of conference foes and you’ll see the whole picture.
The Rams have seven losses to date. Only one of those has come against an opponent outside of the top-65 teams in terms of RPI. Yes, the loss at the University of Northern Iowa (112 RPI) back on Dec. 14 is a blemish on VCU’s resume; however, it’s arguably the single soft spot.
VCU is undefeated in its last 18 games at the Siegel Center dating back to 2012-13, and all seven of the team’s losses this season have come away from home. Aside from the aforementioned defeat at UNI, each of the Rams’ six road losses is understandable.
Florida State University (54 RPI) and Georgetown University (65 RPI) topped VCU at a neutral site in Puerto Rico, but that was in November. The Rams’ other four losses have come on the road against A-10 opponents, all of which rank in the top five of the conference standings and the top 35 teams in RPI.
The conference’s top-ranked team is No. 10 Saint Louis, who bested VCU by just two points at home on Feb. 15 despite an abysmal offensive showing by the Rams. But the Billikens, who rank 15th nationally in RPI, boast the A-10’s weakest conference schedule, which could help explain its 12-1 conference record.
Second-ranked Saint Joseph’s University (20-7, 10-3 A-10) beat VCU at home on Feb. 8 and is the only squad that sports a tougher conference slate than the Rams. The University of Massachusetts claims the A-10’s highest RPI ranking (12), but slots just above Saint Louis in terms of conference schedule difficulty.
Even George Washington University, which beat the Rams at home on Jan. 14 have had an easier conference slate than VCU. Still, the Colonials struggled to hang with Smart’s team when they lost by 17 at the Siegel Center Feb. 12.
All the matchups may make for a confusing explanation, but the point is that VCU’s road woes may not be as bad as they seem. Six of the seven teams who have successfully defended home court against the Rams could be NCAA tournament teams, and nobody has a home-court advantage in March.
VCU fans travel as well as any in the country, and neutral sites come tournament time may turn into friendly environments for the Rams.
Road victories against Belmont University (60 RPI), University of Virginia (13 RPI) and Dayton University (55 RPI) help to bolster a resume that figures to slot VCU as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, according to ESPN’s bracketology expert Joe Lunardi.
But I don’t think anyone wants to see VCU in March.