When it gets to February in college basketball, if you’re not a team projected as a No. 7 seed or better in the NCAA Tournament, there are two rules you should abide be, lest you start to flirt with fire.
No. 1: Win all your home games.
No. 2: Win all your road games against teams at the bottom of your conference.
VCU has now gone 0-2 in this regard in the past five days. If the Rams’ loss at home to George Washington on Saturday was a slice to VCU’s arm, Thursday night’s 69-63 loss at 10-13 Massachusetts is a gash to the face. What a rough result for Will Wade’s team, which is now 17-7 and anything but a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
In the course of five days, VCU has gone from the undefeated kings of the A-10 to a tie for second place in the league, and now behind Dayton. This loss could be the deciding factor in handing the regular-season conference crown to the Flyers.
The Rams were beat, really, because UMass was solid from deep. The Minutemen — who had lost eight of nine games coming in — went 10 for 19 from 3-point range. VCU wasn’t exactly outplayed, but any Rams fan watching could tell this was one of the strangest and more frustrating performances this season by Wade’s group.
Now VCU has three straight home games, all of them must-win if VCU is to remain an at-large contender. Next up is Saint Louis on Saturday, then Rhode Island and Richmond.
If Rams fans want a silver lining, perhaps this is it: VCU’s seven losses this season have come in bunches. The first two were back-to-back in November, to Duke and Wisconsin. Then a three-game losing skid hit in December against Florida State, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati. The Rams went from Dec. 20 until Feb. 5 without a loss. If this is the last stumble until the A-10 tournament, then VCU will almost definitely be in the Big Dance.