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Basketball
  
Thursday, 26 February 2015

Kris Mason (VCU): As a VCU fan, this was a crushing loss for the Rams. This game featured so many ups and downs, but let’s take a look back at some key moments. Let’s start with the Spiders having a commanding 16 point lead in the 2nd half. What was the thought process on the Spiders’ fans perspective at the point? 

Greg Caple (UR): We were thinking that we had the game in the bag. I think confidence might have gotten to our players as well. Our defense was on fire and Shawn'Dre was shooting the lights out. What started your comeback? 

KM: The people I was watching with had started discussing what food we were gonna get after the game because we assumed the game was over. But VCU slowly chipped away, partially because UR's offense went cold as well. Treveon was obviously key, scoring 17 points in the second half, making buckets as well as getting to the foul line. Then Melvin Johnson finally made a 3 point shot all a sudden UR lead cut to 52-49 with 36 seconds left. What was the atmosphere in the stadium like at that point?  PART_1424911214069_IMG_1941

GC: Well we have lost so many games this year by such small margins that we were thinking that we were about to do it again. It was looking bad and we were praying that we could just hang on. It made the game much more intense though. 

KM: Ok VCU is gonna foul UR as soon as the inbound- wait MO ALIE COX with the interception-like steal!! Looking like the NFL tight end that every TV announcer is obligated to mention once a game. Graham for 3 to tie... and it’s an air ball. Game over right? Kendall Anthony on the line, he’s automatic.  Were people heading out of the Robin’s center at that point? 

GC: Absolutely not. We wait every year for this game and we were holding our breath until that clock ran out. No one left. The screams were deafening. It was a looking great. We had Graham pushed back to about 30 feet away with around seven seconds left. Then you know what happened. 

KM: Treveon with another clutch 3! Another one to add to his legendary performance one against UVA, SLU earlier this year. While he won’t break the school’s all-time scoring record, he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. Just when you think we are safe Richmond throws up a wild, off balance shot that bounces on the rim three times before falling off. Heart stopping play. Did you think that was in from your view in the student section? 

GC: Let’s go to the end of the first OT now: 

Well now we are purposely fouled and down by 3 are thinking that it's all over. We managed to blow the halftime lead and now we are down in OT. Shawn'Dre is on the line shooting two but we need three points. He has had such a great game that we hope he doesn't accidentally make the second basket. Well Shawn'Dre made the first so people weren't ready to leave just yet. We knew that we needed something crazy to happen. He purposefully missed the second and VCU knocked it out of bounds. Suddenly we had a chance. We inbounded the ball on the baseline and somehow T.J. Cline was left open right under the basket. Tie game. The place went absolutely insane. 

KM: Unbelievable. Jarred Guest should have grabbed that rebound after the intentional miss and it would have been game over. But on the inbound Jordan Burgess did the one thing u want to deny, a layup at the basket. In that situation at least make them shoot a contested jumper. With two of our big men out in Justin Tillman and Mike Gilmore, our bench is shorter than normal and the rams are exhausted. Not feeling great about double OT. 

GC: Finally everything started looking up. We had momentum back on our side and the second Overtime went by with us in a commanding lead. The foul game started and it was becoming clear as the clock ticked down that we had were going to win. When the clock hit zero, we stormed the court having beat our A10, and RVA rivals! 

KM: Fitting that there was a jump ball at the end after Richmond missed a free throw. Game wouldn’t end in a normal way. Had everything we could ask for; chance to tie or take lead with Graham with the ball in his hands. VCU fans wanted a foul call but it’s too close to call in that situation. Classic game but you guys shouldn’t swarm the court if you wanna consider us your rivals and equals, makes you guys look like it was a miracle win when you guys clearly are a good program. Instead of taking outright lead of first place rams are now in four way tie for first. The end of the game made people forget how horrendous VCU was offensively for the first 30 minutes of the game. Hope to play you guys again in Brooklyn.

 

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Basketball
  
Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Kris Mason: The last meeting for the battle of The River City seems like ages ago to VCU fans. The Spiders defeated the Rams 64-55 in the first meeting on January 31st, but the primary take away from the game from VCU's standpoint is that it was the final game of Briante Weber’s career, who tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus during the game. It took a while for the Rams to recover, both on the court,  where the Rams dropped 3 of 4, and off the court from an emotional standpoint after losing the heart and soul of team. However, VCU is currently on a three game winning streak, helped by the return of leading scorer Treveon Graham. Have the Spiders been able to carry the momentum from winning that game into more wins?

DAVID_and_GOLIATH

Greg Caple: After the defeat of the Rams, we had a tough time carrying any sort of momentum. We lost three out of our last six games but we are coming off of two straight wins. That comes from our team being a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Consistency from one game to another is not exactly our strong-suit, but when we are hot during a single game, we are very hard to beat. Our defense was absolutely suffocation during our win against GW on Saturday, even without Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. 

KM: What been the biggest problems in your losses or differences game to game that don’t allow you to string together wins?

GC: Well first of all, the recent losses have been by very few points so it could be argued that we are getting more consistent in that we don't get blown out. As for why we lose, we are not very good on the boards and our two best guards are shooters and slashers that are under six feet tall. Kendall Anthony and ShawnDre’ Jones need to get hot for us to do well. We also tend to miss a lot of free throws down the stretch. Our defense has been looking great though. T.J. Cline is also a key piece to us doing well. The stretch 4 has an extremely fundamentally sound game, with a great shot from three. If he plays with confidence and tenacity we have a shot at winning again. How has the Briante Weber injury hurt the team in both tangible and intangible ways? 

KM: The team and coaches were noticeably shaken by the injury so it took them a few games to fully recover emotionally. Ramnation was mourning his career for a week after the injury and the team was somewhat traumatized. On the court it took a while for all players to adjust to thier post-Weber roles . However, now the whole team seems to have fully adjusted , especially two sophomores in JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox. Lewis has taken over as the PG and has provided strong leadership as well as more of a scoring threat than Briante did. He is averaging 13.7 PPG and 4.3 assists in the six games since Weber's injury. Alie-Cox has also stepped up his scoring level since the injury, and performed phenomenally overall. While scoring double figures in the past two of three games may not seem like a big deal, he has proven to be an efficient offensive threat while still being a terrorizing shot blocker on the defense. What do the Spiders need to replicate from their win in our first meeting, to win the second matchup at home? 

GC: Well we have already won against VCU once, it can be done again, especially at home in The Robins Center where we have a spectacular record of 12-3. If we can keep the pace slow while you are on offense then we should be fine. I’m gonna guess that Kendall will be putting on quite the spectacular show for his last game against VCU. What do the Rams need to do to avoid being swept?

KM: For VCU to get a victory at the Robins Center they will need to shoot the 3 better than they did the last matchup in January. In that game the rams shot an abysmal 3-20 from deep. VCU was also outrebounded 39-27 and only had eight steals, below their season average of 10. Slowing down Kevin Hart’s twin Kendall Anthony would also help. 

GC: Hey, first of all, Kevin Hart is a four-time celebrity game MVP. Second of all Kendall's height has seemed to be pretty irrelevant given what he is able to do with his shot selection and creativity. He took over the game last time and he can do it again. 

KM: No argument there, he's one of the best players in the A10. It seems like the Spiders only get up for games when they are playing VCU, so I guess your confidence is understandable since that’s the matchup. What’s your prediction? 

GC: I'm gonna say we win 60 to 56. What about you? 

KM: The Rams will be looking for revenge. A loss to their crosstown rival to end a long home winning streak is still fresh in their minds. The Rams are beginning to find their stride, and although the Robins Center is a tough place to play, I think VCU will win a tight game 64-61.

Game at 7:00PM on 2/25 in Robins Center

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Basketball
  
Sunday, 22 February 2015

With the NFL season over and college basketball season not quite to its apex of March Madness, NBA should be the king of the sports world in February . Instead, the league is currently in the midst of its long, uninteresting grind of a season in which half the teams will be maneuvering for lottery balls for the remainder of the season. On a typical weeknight game in February, sold outs arenas are a rarity for most franchises  unless one of the handful of elite teams is in town. There is no atmosphere in the stadium, only sounds of blaring music and prerecorded chants echoing throughout the mostly empty arena while half-asleep fans stare lifelessly at the court.


To fix this problem NBA commissioner Adam Silver should change the location of some regular season NBA games from their current arenas to regional stadiums that don’t currently host NBA team. Even if only five home games a year were moved per team, it would still be an exciting change of pace for everyone involved. This would lead to fans of the NBA who live

far from NBA arenas having a rare opportunity to see star players in person without having to travel hours away. The owners would end up making more money due to the probable sellouts in the new host cities, while the fans in the base market would still be able to see the majority of games at home.


For example, the Washington Wizards could play games in cities like Baltimore, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. For a town like RVA  that doesn’t have any professional teams, the idea of having a pro basketball game in town would have the city buzzing with excitement. With all due respect to local college basketball, it would most likely be the towns biggest event since the Virginia Squires of the ABA played at the Coliseum in the 1970s.


The Wizards could protect their big home games against teams such as the Cavs and Thunder to ensure they would be played in D.C. to ensure season ticket holders got thier money’s worth. However for a town like Richmond, a chance to see the Wiz play a game against any NBA team would be a spectacle.


A similar concept has been introduced in the preseason. The Charlotte Bobcats have played preseason matchups in the Greensboro Coliseum and the RBC center in Raleigh, NC. This same concept could be implemented in the regular season. While travel costs would increase slightly, the games would still be in the same general region. This is an electric, vibrant playoff-like atmosphere would be created for a regular season game, which would be beneficial to the NBA.

 

Kris Mason is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also is a staff writer for VCU's student paper, The Commonwealth Times.


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Latest
  
Sunday, 15 February 2015

 

It doesn’t matter what the rodent in Punxsutawney says, baseball fans know that spring officially begins when pitchers and catchers report to training camp.  The group of Washington Nationals pitchers reporting to camp in Viera, Florida next week has to be considered one of the best in all of major league baseball.

In the offseason, the Nats landed the most talented pitcher available in free agency, former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.  Scherzer followed his 2013 Cy Young season with a stellar 18 win, 252 strikeout, 3.15 ERA 2014 season.  Mad Max will be the ace of an unbelievable starting rotation that includes, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez.  You can’t help but feel sorry for Tanner Roark.  In a rock-solid 2014 season, Roark had more wins (15) than Strasburg and Zimmerman, a better ERA (2.85) than Strasburg and Gonzalez (and Scherzer for that matter), and more strikeouts (138) than Fister.   However, in this group Roark is expected to be the odd man out, and relegated to the bullpen. Max_Scherzer_15422356621

With Roark coming out of the pen, the Nats will have one of the strongest long relievers in baseball.  Offseason turnover in the bullpen included a trade that sent Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A’s, and the release of Rafael Soriano.  To bolster the pen, the Nats signed long-time Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen, who will be used as a set-up man for closer Drew Storen.

The Nationals’ hitters are going to have a difficult time performing at the same level as their outstanding pitching staff.  If the Nats are going to take it to another level and compete for a World Series title, the position players will have to step it up a notch, and most-importantly, stay healthy.  Over the past three seasons, the Nats’ most productive power hitter was Adam LaRoche.  In the offseason, LaRoche was signed by the Chicago White Sox, paving the way for Ryan Zimmerman to take over at first base.  Due to injury, Zimmerman only played in 61 games last season.  The move to first is hoped to keep Zimmerman heathier this year.

The left side of the Nats’ infield is among the best, with Anthony Rendon at third, and Ian Desmond at shortstop.  In 2014, the pair combined for 45 home runs, 174 RBI, 65 doubles, and 41 stolen bases.  Newcomer Yunel Escobar, who was acquired in the Tyler Clippard trade, is slated to start at second base.  Danny Espinosa, who manned second for most of 2014, finished with rather lackluster offensive statistics.  The Nats have convinced Espinosa to convert from a switch-hitter, to only batting right-handed.  The move will allow him to focus on improving from his more productive side of the plate, but it will also limit his opportunities to bat against right-handed pitching.

All three starting outfielders return from last season.  Jayson Werth has paid his debt to society and should be ready to continue earning his generous salary.  Over the past three years, Werth’s batting average is .303.  You’re not going to want to miss the Werth Chia Pet promotion that is scheduled for this season.  The Nationals would be thrilled with a repeat performance from centerfielder Denard Span.  Span’s 2014 stats included a .302 batting average, 39 doubles, and 31 steals. 

Bryce_HarperThe player everyone will be watching is leftfielder Bryce Harper.  It’s hard to believe that he’s only 22.  Plagued with nagging injuries, Harper really hasn’t had the breakout season that all Nats fans are anxiously waiting to see.  Last season, Harper was only able to appear in 100 games.  If Bryce can stay healthy, bump his average up above the .270’s, and add a few more stolen bases, he could approach his potential and start to resemble the reincarnation of Mickey Mantle.  Nats fans are expecting nothing less.  The starting lineup is rounded out with returning catcher Wilson Ramos, whose offensive stats slipped last season from 2013.

Spring training is an exciting time for all baseball fans.  Every team looks like a contender on paper, and everyone has high hopes that their favorite team will still be playing in October.  Again this year, with arguably the best starting rotation in baseball, Washington Nationals fans can make a convincing and realistic case that their team might very well be the last one standing.


By George Henry, a red-shirted freshman attending the Richmond Barber College

 

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Football
  
Tuesday, 10 February 2015

This was clearly not the Redskins' year. They were mired in controversy because of their name, they started what felt like 20 different Quarterbacks, and they finished with a losing record of 4-12. It really isn’t fair to blame all of this on Robert Griffin III, but as their team’s supposed leader and starting QB, he has managed to be neither the former or the latter since his amazing rookie season. A lot of the performance issues can be sourced from his myriad of injuries sustained through the years, but despite mediocre play, he remains one of the league’s most prolific and controversial figures.

One of the more recent occurrences that involves RGIII, or rather the absence of him, is a letter from the Skins to their premium club fans reading: 

 

“Head Coach Jay Gruden, new General Manager Scot McCloughan, and Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry will lead a nucleus of Ryan Kerrigan, DeSean Jackson, plus Pro Bowlers Trent Williams and Alfred Morris. The Redskins are poised to rebound next season!” GriffinArm

 

It seems bizarre to not mention the franchise quarterback as one of these players doesn’t it? That has been the focus of discussion and speculation over the past week. RGIII was extremely costly to acquire for the Redskins several years ago and has still remained a fan favorite to the optimistic half of the polarized Redskin’s Nation. His jersey is still the most sold in the state of Virginia, where the majority of Skins fans live. This comes after the 2013 season, when his jersey was the number one seller overall, and all-time record setter for annual sales. This was over big name players, the likes of Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson (I don’t need to list more, obviously number 1 means everyone else sold less). He also continues to be at the forefront of many corporations’ sponsorship deals. Just today I saw his poster trying to hand me a 5-dollar-footlong at Subway.

So what’s up? Why didn’t he get mentioned in the letter? Why is he responding to fan criticism on twitter? My personal opinion is that the honey-moon period of RGIII is finally over for the Skins, their fans, and the media in general. Griffin has been about as marketable and likable as Apple and a puppy combined for the past three years because the dude won rookie of the year, and looked like the savior that the Skins so badly needed. Fans of RGIII, including myself, may have been too eager to keep the rose-shade-glasses on, even though his two years of injury and poor performance should have served as the metaphorical Lasik surgery needed to toss the spectacles aside.

Well everyone can see clearly now, and what we see is lost potential. He is more injury prone than a Fabergé statue of Derrick Rose, he hasn’t produced even when healthy, and he seems to care more about his image than his play. As a result, Griffin’s national jersey sales this year have plummeted to below the top 25 listed. Well, maybe the Redskins’ front office is finally looking in a different direction too. Unfortunately for fans, this may mean that rebuilding mode is back in full effect, and that, barring some crazy offseason action, another dismal season may be expectable. Let’s just hope that “McCoy’s Our Boy!” isn’t their best plan B.

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