RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A year after losing to the Richmond Spiders in the 2022 Atlantic 10 Tournament and watching them pull off the upset of the year against the 5-seed Iowa Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams have the opportunity to do the same thing in this year’s big dance.
Fresh off a dramatic comeback win against the Dayton Flyers to win the 2023 A-10 title Sunday, the Rams Men’s Basketball team are looking ahead to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, in which they’ll face off against Saint Mary’s College of California, a Catholic college about 25 miles east of San Francisco.
On Sunday, the Rams went into the locker room at halftime having been down by as many as 11 points against the Flyers. They came back onto the court in the second half reenergized and went on a 19-6 run to retake the lead, followed by an 8-0 run to close out the game, winning it by 14 points.
Led by junior point guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, Jr.’s 16 points and seven assists, as well as sophomore forward Jalen DeLoach’s 13 points and ten rebounds, it was the Rams’ ninth win in a row and 28th of the season.
Having lost just seven games in the 2022-2023 regular season, the Rams had their best record since 2012, when they made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament under head coach Shaka Smart.
Baldwin led the team in points, assists and steals per game this year with 12.7, 5.9 and 2.2 respectively, emerging as a leader on both sides of the ball and becoming just the fourth player in the A-10’s history to earn the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
The decorated Rams now look forward to facing off against the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who have earned a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, the first true mid-major program to earn two consecutive top-5 seeds.
The Gaels have lost just seven games this year, the most recent of which was against Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference title. They rank sixth in the nation in opposing points per game, 16th in scoring margin and 30th in fewest turnovers per game.
The Gaels play well on both sides and take good care of the ball, but those notions will be tested against the Rams, who rank tenth in the nation in steals per game, 15th in turnovers forced per game, 24th opposing points per game, 28th in turnover margin, 43rd in blocks per game and 48th in scoring margin.
Friday’s game will be the second all-time matchup between the Rams and Gaels. The first time the two teams faced off was in 2017 — also in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — during which the 10-seed Rams came up short against the 7-seed Gaels, 85-77.
Friday’s game will tip off at 2 p.m. at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.