Analysts can dissect win-loss records, prior history and betting odds all they want.
But in March, everyone’s record is 0-0. And in March, any team can be upset.
On Friday night, the VCU Rams men’s basketball team (21-9, 14-5 A-10) suffered such a fate, as the #3 Rams fell to the #6 Richmond Spiders (21-12, 12-8 A-10) 75-64 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals.
The loss ends VCU’s season for now, as the program now awaits Selection Sunday to see where – if anywhere – the Rams are playing next week.
Richmond was led to victory on the strength of fifth-year senior Jacob Gilyard, who went nuclear throughout the game. Gilyard scored a career-high 32 points, including seven made 3-pointers, to help put the game away for the Spiders. Aside from a brief moment early in the half where the game was tied, Richmond never trailed throughout the second half and maintained a lead of approximately seven points throughout the final stretch run.
Gilyard, the NCAA Division I career steals leader, added four more to his career total on Friday. In all, four Spiders scored in double-figures, including Tyler Burton (14), Nathan Cayo (11) and Andre Gustavson (10).
VCU seniors Vince Williams and KeShawn Curry led the Rams offense with 18 and 14 points respectively. Williams also led all players with nine rebounds. Williams and Curry both fouled out late as the game was slipping out of reach and fouling became necessary. Sophomore guard Ace Baldwin scored 12 points despite a poor shooting night and led VCU with seven assists.
Friday’s game marks the first time Richmond has beat VCU in postseason play, having lost three prior times in the A-10 Tournament and once before in the CAA Tournament. Richmond’s win sets up a showdown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against #2 Dayton in the A-10 semifinals.
The loss by VCU snapped a three-game win streak in the Capital City Classic, including a sweep of Richmond in the regular season this year. VCU still leads the all-time series 57-32.
Apart from Gilyard, Richmond played incredible interior defense, making it near impossible for slashers like Curry or interior scorers like Levi Stockard and Hason Ward to set up their offense. Despite this “eye-test” observation, VCU lead Richmond in points in the paint, 30-20.
In all the years of this current Richmond group, I don’t remember better interior D than the 2nd half last night and the 2nd half tonight
— 3 Bid League (@3BidLeaguePod) March 12, 2022
In fact, the largest discrepancy in Richmond’s favor came via free throws. Richmond scored 35% of their points from the charity stripe; VCU just 9%. The game was tightly called, especially in the second half, and fouls remained even until late in the game when VCU began intentionally fouling. VCU was whistled for 25 fouls in the game, while Richmond was whistled for 18.
Stats and trends for VCU
Since the A-10 Tournament adopted the 14-team format, VCU has been eliminated in the quarterfinals three times, twice as the team that earned the double-bye. In the other three years that the A-10 tournament was completed, VCU played in the conference championship game.
The loss drops VCU to 3-4 in A-10 Tournament games under head coach Mike Rhoades, including two one-and-done appearances. After an eight-game win streak late in the year, VCU fell flat in a key Quadrant 1 road game against Saint Louis and again in the tournament against Richmond.
VCU has made March Madness twice under Rhoades, losing in 2019 to UCF and forcing to withdraw against Oregon in 2021 due to COVID issues. The prospects of a third appearance this year seem bleak: VCU’s NET ranking has fallen to 56 and they are on the wrong side of the bubble by most bracketologists. Entering Saturday, T-Ranketology has VCU as the fifth team out of the tournament and gives the Rams a 21.8% chance of earning an at-large bid.
Should VCU miss March Madness, the Rams will likely earn a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The last time VCU appeared in the NIT was 2008, the most recent of five appearances in program history.
Around the league
Rhoades’ predecessor at VCU, Will Wade, is no longer the head coach at LSU. Jon Rothstein reported Saturday that Wade and the university had “parted ways.” In two seasons at VCU, Wade went 51-20 and earned VCU’s most recent NCAA Tournament victory in 2016.
Sources: LSU has parted ways with Will Wade.
Kevin Nickelberry will be the interim head coach.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 12, 2022
Whatever postseason game VCU plays in could mark the end of the careers of a trio of Rams. Seniors KeShawn Curry and Vince Williams have not announced whether they will use their extra year of eligibility given to players due to COVID-19, although the Richmond Times-Dispatch previously reported that Curry likely would not use his while Williams is undecided. Fifth-year senior Levi Stockard has no remaining eligibility following this season.
The VCU baseball team won 9-6 on Friday night against North Carolina A&T, improving their season-long record to 4-8. VCU’s next scheduled games are a doubleheader on Sunday against Monmouth.