VCU already went through the emotions on Saturday against Old Dominion. Tuesday evening at the Siegel Center will involve a full case of emotion as the Rams welcome back former head coach Shaka Smart alongside a team of Longhorns from Texas.
Smart Returns Home
Things have changed a bit since Smart departed for Texas. At first, the news was an open wound that constantly was in need of treatment with the Longhorns acquiring Coach Smart. The man that was heavily involved with CAA championship reigns, VCU’s first Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball title, multiple NCAA tournament bids and one that took the Rams from the First Four to the Final Four.
The Smart Era also gave birth to HAVOC. From a building basketball experiment than turned into a following and transformed into a national playstyle. At first, the idea seemed completely unrealistic for players to follow in theory. 40 minutes of constant defensive pressure mixed with traps and an intense man on man.
This man, in reality, brought VCU to national level status on the court that only seemed realistic in Black & Gold dreams. However, when that dream turned into a nightmare, the love soon withered into hate and backlash. Time appeared to have healed this gushing wound with the messy departure of Coach Will Wade to LSU. Now it appears that Smart turned from the villain into the unsung hero thanks to that Louisiana Purchase.
A War Between Pals
Emotions for VCU will be at a fever pitch for the fans but for the players and Coach Mike Rhoades, it’s another night in the office. Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams gave their praises to what Shaka Smart did to bring them to VCU. Each player has respect for one of their former coaches but made it clear that once the game begins that they will be dialed in on taking on Texas valiantly.
Coach Rhoades was a former assistant coach under Smart and still keeps in touch today. Rhoades has tremendous respect for Smart and thinks VCU will show that before the game gets underway. He also thinks the Animal will amplify the noise level as the season continues.
“I hope every game gets louder and louder. I think when Shaka Smart steps on the court we should give him a standing ovation. Once the ball goes up…IT’S ON!” –Coach Rhoades
Why So Serious?
One of the main takeaways from VCU vs. Old Dominion involved the seriousness of the game exhibited by the players. Coach Rhoades wants the best out of his players however he sees that some of his players put way too much pressure on themselves.
Winning is everything in the sport of college basketball but Rhoades wants his players to have fun while playing the game. “It’s not life and death” as a fired up Coach Rhoades explained further that showcasing emotion during battle is not a bad thing and wants them to tone down the pressure they put on themselves every game.
De’Riante Jenkins felt the pressure with Old Dominion and exploded with a self-made 8-0 scoring run to put VCU back into the contest. He stated that Rhoades was far from happy with how they were playing and wanted them to fight with everything they had.
Show Respect, Fight Hard
In the case of VCU vs. Texas, the Rams, in reality, should not have that much pressure on their backs. On paper and according to the experts, VCU is the underdog at home against a national powerhouse in the form of Texas. A win would be the icing on the cake if VCU can pull it off but no one would honestly be surprised if the Rams came up short.
This will be the third meeting between Texas and VCU. The Rams won the last meeting back on February 16, 1993 66-60 in Austin, Texas. So needless to the say that the upset is possible.
Personally, I want to see VCU build off their third straight win over the Monarchs and enjoy playing the game while getting better. Tuesday night will be a test on both sides of the ball as the Longhorns have length, width, and speed. Emotion will be in effect and should make for one hell of a contest especially if the Animal has its way.
I will be one of the many that will show my respect to Coach Shaka Smart for what he’s done for our VCU Men’s Basketball program. He put in six years for the Rams and it was everything and more. While the pain of him leaving and what could have been still lingers, I appreciate what Smart was able to accomplish and wish him more in the future.
That’s until the opening buzzer. After the starting lineup introductions and the lights fade from black, war will ensue. Shaka already knows that you don’t want to go to war. With The Rams.