VCU Rams looking for A-10 tourney win

3/11/2016, 12:33 p.m.
Virginia Commonwealth University is trekking to Brooklyn, N.Y., this weekend with mostly fond memories of the sprawling New York City ...

Virginia Commonwealth University is trekking to Brooklyn, N.Y., this weekend with mostly fond memories of the sprawling New York City borough.

The vast Barclays Center, site of the Atlantic 10 Conference basketball tournament, has been like Siegel Center North for the Rams and their fanatical fans.

VCU won the Atlantic 10 Tournament last year, posting four straight victories as the fifth seed. The Rams were runner-up the two previous seasons in the five-day, 14-school event.

Overall, VCU is an impressive 8-2 in three trips to the Barclays Center, advancing to the NCAA Tournament each time. It helps that the Black & Gold enjoys by far the largest, loudest (some say rowdiest) cheering section of the competing schools.

VCU, as the No. 2 seed this week, will open Friday, March 11, with a 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal game against the winner of Thursday’s University of Rhode Island vs. University of Massachusetts play-in.

If form holds, the Rams (22-9) would face either No. 3 St. Bonaventure University or No. 4 St. Joseph’s University in the semifinals 4 p.m. Saturday, March 12.

The University of Dayton, after defeating the Rams 68-67 in overtime March 5 in Ohio, is the No. 1 seed. The regional championship game is slated for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 13, with the winner getting an automatic NCAA bid.

If unable to successfully defend its Atlantic 10 title, VCU has a dicey chance of going to the NCAA Tournament.

Entering this week, the Rams have the fourth best RPI (a power formula used by NCAA to determine at-large selections) in the A-10.

Of 351 Division I schools, the Rams are ranked No. 44 behind the University of Dayton (No. 22), St. Joseph’s University (No. 27) and St. Bonaventure (No. 29).

Other A-10 contenders are George Washington University (No. 60), Davidson College (No. 68), University of Rhode Island (No. 103) and the University of Richmond (No. 120).

If VCU doesn’t make the NCAA, it surely would be a top seed in the NIT, with perhaps as many as three home games.

A rising Ram, literally and figuratively, is 6-foot-7 Justin Tillman. The sophomore from Detroit had 12 points and a whopping 21 rebounds in the loss to the University of Dayton.

That’s the most by any Ram since Larry Sanders snatched 21 rebounds in 2009 against George Mason University. The VCU record for most rebounds in a game is 28, set by Jabo Wilkins against the former Southeastern University in Washington in 1970.

Tillman is VCU’s rebounding leader (6.1 rebounds per game) despite playing just 17 minutes per game. 

The 342-mile Richmond to Brooklyn haul has done little, if anything, to trip up the Rams.

From 1996 to 2012, VCU had a clear hometown advantage, but so-so results at its conference tournament.

In 17 tries at the Richmond Coliseum, the Rams won five Colonial Athletic Association tournaments, twice under Coach Anthony Grant (2007 and 2009) and once each under Coach Sonny Smith (1996), Coach Jeff Capel III (2004) and Coach Shaka Smart (2012).