VCU is going to make the NCAA Tournament this year, and it’s going to be the 7th straight season the Rams go dancing. Though VCU hasn’t had quite as much success as it did back in 2011, it’s managed to find lots of tourney success over the years. The Rams are 8-6 overall in their last 6 NCAA Tournament appearances, which isn’t too shabby for a mid-major team that hasn’t been seeded higher than 5th. So, how far will the Rams go this year? The Round of 32? The Sweet 16? The Elite 8? The sky’s the limit for this VCU team that’s really starting to get the hang of things at just the right time. Here are 5 reasons VCU could win multiple tourney games this year.
1. The Rams are getting hot at the right time
It’s all about momentum, right? The Rams had none of that back in January when they followed a road loss in Davidson with a road loss at Fordham. But VCU turned things around in a hurry and took down Dayton and Richmond to get right back on track. Now having won 8 in a row, and with an easy home game against Saint Louis looming, VCU has turned the tide and gotten itself in a much better position. Seeming like a tourney lock at this point, VCU’s playing stellar basketball heading into March, and this team’s got a legitimate shot at winning the A-10 Regular Season Title. Though the Rams have yet to face Rhode Island and Dayton on the road, recent success away from home points to VCU being competitive and possibly pulling out one or two of those wins.
2. VCU’s frontcourt has been dominant
VCU has been great on the glass this season, and it starts with Justin Tillman and Mo Alie-Cox cleaning up the boards. Tillman has to be one of the most improved players in the Atlantic 10 this season. He’s had the 2nd best offensive and defensive rebounding percentages in the conference this year, and he’s shooting better than 60% in A-10 games. Justin Tillman has scored in double digits in all games but 1 since the start of the new year. Mo Alie-Cox has the 2nd best block percentage in league play, and he’s got the best effective field goal percentage in the Atlantic 10. Not to mention that he’s also been great on the glass, especially on the offensive end. With these two in the frontcourt, VCU is going to be hard to stop in the NCAA Tournament.
3. JeQuan Lewis will want to go out with a bang
One of the more underrated point guards in the conference this year is JeQuan Lewis. His defense has been stellar as always, and he’s been passing the ball at an incredibly efficient rate. Lewis has been this team’s leader all season, and he’s been playing with the passion and intensity to will the Rams to a couple of tournament wins. Lewis hit 9 threes and dropped 34 points on Saint Joseph’s the other day. Big time players have big time performances, and that’s exactly what Lewis is capable of night-in and night-out. JeQuan Lewis has some tourney experience as well, so don’t expect him to shy away from the spotlight in the Big Dance.
4. VCU has been there and done that
The NCAA Tournament is nothing new for VCU. Having made it to the field for the last 6 seasons, I don’t think any of these guys are going to fazed by the opportunity to play in college basketball’s biggest tournament. Sure, VCU has some young talent that might feel the pressure a little bit, but this team has enough experience to handle itself and pull out some wins. We’ve seen time and time again that teams with experienced seniors tend to find more success in the tournament. VCU has a great mix of experienced leadership and raw talent, which is the perfect mix to winning tournament games. Making the NCAA Tournament at VCU is becoming a culture.
5. The Rams aren’t strangers to a little bit of March Magic
Obviously, the 2010-11 Rams had a little bit of star power in them to make it all the way to the Final Four, but you can’t deny that there’s something special about this year’s team. VCU pulled out two of the most unlikely wins of the season back-to-back (against St. Bonaventure and George Washington), and that helped propel the Rams to the position they’re in now. The Rams love to play the role of the underdogs and take down big opponents that overlook them. This is one of this program’s more talented teams, and with a very good up-and-coming coach in Will Wade, there’s no telling how far the Rams can go. You’ve gotta love the way VCU comes to play in March.