VCU will be the team to beat when the Atlantic 10 tournament tips off at Barclays Center, this week in Brooklyn.
When its March Madness time, there’s the teams going in with momentum and the teams that can create their own momentum, once tournament-play starts, that present the most danger to the rest of the field.
VCU falls in the category of a team rolling into their conference tournament with plenty of momentum. The Rams finished their regular season with a 12-game winning streak. They’re the number one seed, won’t have to play until the third day of the five-day tournament, and are playing with a high-level of confidence.
Finishing in the top four of the conference standings gives VCU a double-bye into the quarterfinal round. They’ll face the winner of the second round matchup between No. 8 seed Rhode Island and No. 9 seed La Salle.
They’ll need to win three games in three days to secure their first A-10 tournament title since 2015. The expectations are high they’ll be the last team standing, this Sunday afternoon, when it’s time to cut down the nets.
It’s the total opposite of what the preseason polls predicted for VCU. The Rams were picked to finish seventh in the conference. Seventh.
The logic made sense for VCU’s preseason rankings, especially if based on last season’s statistics.
Last season, under first-year head coach Mike Rhoades, VCU struggled on defense. They allowed 74.8 points per game and finished 18-15 overall, 9-9 in the A-10. But this season there were major improvements on defense. They only allowed an average of 61.2 points per game, this led the A-10.
VCU’s (25-6 overall, 16-2 A-10) improved defense helped win Rhoades the Atlantic 10 coach of the year. They’ll also bring to the tournament All-Conference first team junior guard Marcus Evans. His leadership at the point are to VCU’s success.
The intensity inside Barclays Center will go up a few notches when VCU takes the court for the first time. It’ll be a familiar scene with VCU in the role of the team to beat and who everyone will want to come see.