VCU has plenty to play for down the stretch of the season.
The Rams will be taking on the Atlantic 10’s other new addition on Saturday, as they host Butler at noon in the first meeting between the two teams since the 2011 Final Four, when Brad Stevens took down Shaka Smart’s club en route to their second consecutive title game.
In a vacuum, that creates quite a bit of intrigue heading into Saturday, but there’s more at stake than simple pride. VCU is currently a game up on Butler in the A-10 standings and a game behind St. Louis for first place. A loss would end any chance the Bulldogs have of winning a share of the regular season title, while VCU doesn’t want to fall two games off the pace with just two games remaining.
And given the style of play that Smart teaches — Havoc! — and the way that he always demands energy and intensity out of his team, it’s hard to believe that VCU has ever had a “quiet” practice.
But, if it’s truly possible, a VCU practice last week was even more intense than usual thanks to a special visitor. From David Teel:
Spike Lee strolled into a VCU basketball practice last week. The renowned filmmaker, hoops maven and Reggie Miller foil was speaking on campus and wanted to check out coach Shaka Smart’s Rams.
“All of a sudden, it went from a good practice to a through-the-roof practice,” Smart said Wednesday of Lee’s arrival. :I probably would have been the same way when I was 18, 19 years old. The guys were just hootin’ and hollerin’. I’ve never heard out team talk so much. I wish we could take him on the road with us.”
That’s how you know you’ve made it as a basketball program.
It’s not the Final Fours or the games on ESPN or the sold out Siegel Center.
When Spike Lee wants to watch you practice, you’ve officially hit the big-time.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)