Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Smart's first big test

The biggest game of Shaka Smart's coaching career, so far, will take place tonight at the Siegel Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. for the rematch between longtime rivals, the William & Mary Tribe (13-3, 6-1 in CAA, No. 1 in SLANTblog VA Top Five) and the VCU Rams (12-4, 4-3 in CAA, No. 4 in SLANTblog VA Top Five).

VCU leads in the overall series between the two schools 50 miles apart, 31-12. This is Smart's first year as VCU's head coach.

On Dec. 5 VCU lost to W&M in Williamsburg, 75-74, after holding a 15-point second half lead to The Tribe. Now, with just 12 games remaining on the Rams regular season schedule this tilt represents more than just a payback opportunity. At this writing it is one of just three games left with teams rated higher than VCU, RPI-wise (CBS Sports). W&M currently sits at No. 32 and Old Dominion is at No. 43. VCU is at No. 48.

VCU's opponent in its ESPN BracketBuster game, to be played on Feb. 19th or 20th, has yet to be announced. So, winning all eight of their other games yet to be played, they are all CAA games, won't do all that much to improve VCU's RPI. Of course, from here on a bad loss is likely to be a killer to any at-large hopes the Rams might have, should they not win the CAA tournament.

Any loss at home will be a BAD loss.

Tonight Smart will show the sure-to-be sell-out crowd just how well his team has adjusted to what the coaches and players should have learned in their loss to W&M. I'll be there and will post a story on the game at the Fan District Hub after the press conference that will follow the game.

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