Wednesday, February 4, 2015

VCU, meet Richmond. Richmond, VCU. Now let's get it on!

Like superheroes, rivalry games deserve theme songs. With that in mind, this N'Sync classic - a bit of an oxymoron, sure, but bear with us - is as good as any for Wednesday night's VCU-Richmond showdown (7 p.m., Robins Center).

As we hit the halfway point in the Atlantic 10 schedule, both the fifth-place Spiders (13-8, 5-3) and sixth-place Rams (14-8, 5-4) are in hot pursuit of byes in next month's Atlantic 10 tournament, conveniently held once again at the Richmond Coliseum. The top four seeds begin tournament play in the quarterfinals, three games away from the title. Seeds 5-10 start out four games from glory while seeds 11-14 face an unlikely five-game trek.

Now, it's going to be tough to catch current league-leaders George Washington (19-2, 8-0) and Dayton (16-4, 7-1). But the Spiders and Rams don't have to. Securing Top-4 seeds would put them on equal tournament footing with the A-10 powers - with the bonus of hometown advantage - in the chase for A-10 supremacy and an NCAA tournament bid.

The hunt for a prime tournament spot continues tonight, and neither team has much margin for error. Tonight's game is particularly important to the home team Spiders as most realistic scenarios for success involve protecting home court and "stealing" a few on the road. Richmond has already lost one conference home game (a week ago vs. Dayton). A second conference home loss would be tough to overcome in the Top-4 race.

That said, VCU already has four conference losses so the Rams need this one badly, too.

Historical numbers often have little to do with the game in front of us. But these are kinda cool:

- The teams have met 70 times previously, with each team winning 35;

- Last year the teams played three times in three different venues (Robins Center, Siegel Center, Richmond Coliseum), with the Rams taking two of the three;

- As best we can determine, VCU's last victory in this series at the Robins Center came on Jan. 7, 2000.

And of course, intra-city bragging rights are on the line - at least until the teams meet again on March 1 at VCU.

Now if any of these subplots gives the players extra motivation - or teases fans to check this one out - great. But in terms of the prime importance of tonight's contest, well, take another look at the video above.

Justin Timberlake says it best.

Players to watch

RICHMOND: Janelle Hubbard is averaging a team-best 14.9 ppg while shooting 40.5 percent from 3 and knocking down nearly 90 percent of her free throws...A-10 Most Improved Player Award candidate Lauren Tolson may be averaging "only" 13.3 ppg, but every time we watch the Spiders she strokes it like Steph Curry...Liz ("Dirk") Brown can be a difference-making caliber shooter - when she remembers to pull the trigger. Let it fly, Liz!

VCU: Nice feature story in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch on homegirl Ashley Pegram on her convoluted-yet-rewarding journey to becoming a Ram...In addition to having one of the sport's most charming names, Adaeze "Dukes" Alaeze also has a major impact on winning - the Rams are 12-2 when she scores in double figures...Chadarryl Clay, a transfer from Auburn, is coming off a career-high 19-point effort in Saturday's 74-65 loss to La Salle.

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