Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
From the preseason ranking of No. 9 to the Atlantic 10 championship game, men’s basketball proved the doubters wrong over the weekend, winning two A-10 tournament games to advance to the title game next Sunday.
The Rams beat Dayton on Friday afternoon and Davidson in the semifinals on Saturday night. They will play St. Bonaventure in the A-10 championship game.
“No matter what, you never count out young people that have the same purpose and they care about each other,” coach Mike Rhoades said. “They play with a purpose, and they play with caring about each other, and you work really hard.”
Rhoades said the preseason ranking didn’t reflect the team he had but that he used it as motivation in the regular season.
VCU advanced to its sixth A-10 championship game in the last eight attempts and its first since the 2017 season.
“Two years ago, we were the top seed and got bumped in the first game — that definitely was disappointing,” senior forward Corey Douglas said. “And then last year, not getting to play. So to finish it out this way, going to the championship in my last year, it feels great.”
Douglas scored 10 points in the semifinal game, making all five of his attempts. He added 8 points against Dayton.
The Rams have battled injuries over the last two weeks of the season, including in the A-10 tournament. Sophomore guard Bones Hyland missed the last two regular season games with a sprained foot, and junior forward Vince Williams left the Dayton game with back spasms.
Both players appeared in the two postseason wins, which featured Hyland’s 30-point and 10-rebound performance against the Flyers.
The week in between semifinals and the championship will work in the Rams’ favor, giving them time to heal, Hyland said.
“These next couple of days, definitely just trying to get better and get lots of treatment as well,” Hyland said.
Williams played 27 minutes and scored 8 points against Davidson, a day after the athlete experienced back spasms.
“We’re not in this position without Vince Williams,” Rhoades said. “He’s been our X-factor, our Swiss Army knife. He’s really banged up. We’ve got to get him right.”
The team, which has eight underclassmen on the roster, has “swag,” Rhoades said.
“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder. … When it’s time to compete, I think they compete,” Rhoades said. “It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in or how old you are. If you compete, you’re going to give yourself a chance, and I think we do that.”
Hyland said he can count on his teammates to “step up and score or make winning plays.”
In the Davidson game, freshman guard Josh Banks only played three minutes, but he made an impact. He nailed a 3-pointer to give the Rams momentum in the second half.
“It shows how tight of a bond we have,” Hyland said. “Just sticking together when we face adversity — we’ve been facing adversity all season long — and just trusting each other.”
The Rams will play St. Bonaventure in the A-10 championship game at the University of Dayton on March 14 at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.