It's easy to have a strong reaction to a team's first loss of the year, especially if it's a Top 25 team that falls by nearly 25 points in a highly anticipated match up. Thus was the case for #14 VCU tonight falling to #12 Villanova 77-53. It's easy to fall into the hyperbole trap for the Rams but this is a talented team that will be fine in the long run.
Simply put, Jay Wright out-coached Shaka Smart tonight in Brooklyn. Villanova looked confident in what they were doing in the first half which is a characteristic you don't usually see out of opponents going head to head with HAVOC. The Wildcats, who were favored by 1.5 points, took a halftime lead of 32-30 and that's when Wright's adjustments really shined. Nova was a aggressive and played with a sense of urgency in the second half that VCU just didn't have.
One place where VCU really seemed to struggle was in halfcourt defensive sets. Villanova was able to score from inside and outside shooting 50% for the night and nearly 40% from three. JayVaughn Pinkston posted 15 points and 7 boards for the Wildcats while Darrun Hilliard II added 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
The big question right now is where does VCU's struggle stem from? Mo Alie-Cox has not been the presence in the post that he was expected to be this season averaging just over 3 rebounds per game in his last three outings. More or less he's been a non-factor on the defensive end and has even looked a bit slow at times. Do the Rams miss the inside presence of a Juvonte Reddic or are they missing their defensive mastermind Mike Rhoades?
There is no answer right now and we're just going to have to see how things play out. Perhaps the Rams were just an over-confident, young team that needed a wake up call? We'll find out tomorrow when they'll face either Oregon or Michigan in the consolation game of the Legends Classic.
One thing that is for sure is Treveon Graham will have a very different game tomorrow. Graham, who may be college basketball's most consistent player, only posted 4 points and 2 rebounds tonight as he battled through foul trouble. Graham failed to post double-digit scoring just three times yesterday with his season low of 4 points coming February 27 against Fordham. Graham responded with 17 points and 8 rebounds against Saint Louis.
The next four games might be gut check time for Shaka Smart now that he's without his right hand man Mike Rhoades, who is now the head coach at Rice. The Rams will face a high caliber team tomorrow before a pair of road match ups against a surging Old Dominion and Illinois State team. VCU will then return home for a highly anticipated match up against #9 Virginia.