As they prepare for a tough road test against conference foe Charlotte this weekend, the VCU men’s basketball team can find comfort in the fact that they have experienced tremendous success while playing away from the Siegel Center this year.
In fact, through 23 games thus far, the Jan. 24 overtime loss at Richmond stands as the single true road loss for the Rams this season.
Upcoming games at Xavier and Temple will undoubtedly threaten VCU’s impressive road resume.
But first the Rams must focus on the immediate future, which begins with a trip to Charlotte (17-4, 5-2) this Saturday.
Just one year after finishing 13-17 overall, the 49ers have rebounded in 2012-13 to put themselves in contention for a conference championship.
And with just one home loss to Florida State on their resume, Charlotte could potentially pose problems for the first place Rams.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart hopes that isn’t the case when his team begins the second-half of their conference schedule this coming weekend.
However, even Smart can’t help but acknowledge the difficulty of winning away from home.
“I know in college basketball it’s the hardest sport and the hardest level to win on the road,” Smart said. “We’re coaching 18, 19, 20 and 21 year-olds that can be affected by hostile environments or by being away from their normal routine.”
That hasn’t been the case so far for the Rams who feature just two seniors in their regular rotation.
Though experience certainly plays a vital role in road success, the VCU head coach points to a secret “formula” for his team’s winning ways.
“For us we’ve got to make sure that we’re aggressive,” Smart said without exposing any details to his plan. “It is easier being aggressive at home because you have all this energy feeding into what you do. But we need to bring our own energy and be extremely aggressive.”
Energy hasn’t been much of a problem to this point for a VCU squad that leads the entire nation in both steals per game (12.1) and turnover margin (8.0).
The term “havoc” has spread rapidly across the VCU community, representing the team’s up-tempo play and high endurance.
But VCU fans won’t be around to fuel the fire for four of the team’s final eight games. And maybe the Rams’ seven-day layoff between contests has come at the most opportune time as they prepare for the strenuous final stretch.
Junior forward Juvonte Reddic insists that the team is going about business as usual during the long week, claiming that the Rams are merely “focused on us.”
The same notion that Shaka Smart reiterated in Wednesday’s press conference might be the key to VCU’s success.
“It comes down to responding to adversity, focusing on what you can control and letting go of what you don’t control,” Smart said on playing away from home.
Now they need to control Charlotte this Saturday. And with a half-game lead atop the conference and just eight games left to play, VCU is in the driver’s seat.