VCU is done, but does that mean Shaka Smart is as well? Also, the under-the-microscope Caps are suddenly atop the Eastern Conference Standings, and the Nationals' season is underway without the bats.
In this week's edition of Chain Reactions, we deal with the aftermath of VCU, the area's Adopted College Hoops team, now that it lost in the Final Four. Is Shaka Smart out next? Also, the Capitals are in first place in the Eastern Conference, but Bruce Boudreau is not ready to throw a party with Haded. Is it possible the Wizards have themselves two outstanding rookie guards in John Wall and Jordan Crawford? Finally, spring is in the air, and it's a time for optimism with the Nationals, even though they showed old habits die hard in Sunday's 11-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Rams Run Over, so Will Shaka Smart Run Off?
VCU's remarkable run to the Final Four ended on Saturday night after a disappointing 70-62 loss to Butler. Now, the biggest question surrounding the programs is whether Shaka Smart will stick around to enjoy the fruits of his labor this season or bolt from greener pastures. Missouri and N.C. State were the two teams expected to be in the running, but Missouri pulled out after hiring Miami's Frank Haith on Sunday night. VCU athletic director Norwood Teague wants to keep his coach.
"He values greatly how much we support his program, and we do more than a lot of high majors," Teague said Monday morning. "We want to this to be in the same fraternity as Xavier and Dayton, in these only basketball schools. Shaka values the basketball-only experience. It's a big deal, and he understands that."
Going to a Final Four with a CAA program should be like winning a Major on the PGA Tour. It should come with a 10-year exemption from the University. However, going elsewhere for bigger bucks will mean bigger expectations. Jim Larranaga has shown you can be happy and successful without jumping to the next job just to earn a larger paycheck. Smart needs only to look at former VCU coach Jeff Capel, who took off for Oklahoma after four strong seasons at VCU. Now, he's unemployed.
Interested schools also might want to ask themselves have they seen enough from Smart in just two years at VCU to hand him the keys to their program. The Rams were the fourth-place team in the CAA regular season. He did win with someone elses players and actually has more CAA losses in two seasons (13) than previous coach Anthony Grant had in four seasons (nine).
Even if Smart bolts, Ram Nation should not panic. Just take a look at VCU's recent history of hiring coaches since 2002, when they hired the previously-unproven Capel, Grant and finally Smart. It seems like they have the formula figured out.
Caps Back Atop Eastern Conference
Thanks to a 5-4 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, the Capitals are tied atop the Eastern Conference Standings with the Philadelphia Flyers heading into the final week of the season. The fact that the Caps are in position to be the top seed is remarkable considering some of the struggles this season. It also shows how under the microscope they are from the media and the fans. However, it is not just those on the outside that have high standards for this team.
"I'm more concerned with the process of how we played and everything," said Coach Bruce Boudreauafter he was reminded that the Capitals, with 103 points, moved a point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who play Sunday. "I thought it was way too close to looking like last year. So we've got to buckle down a little bit."
Also of concern for the coach has to be the lack of healthy bodies among their blue liners. Mike Green, Tom Poti, Dennis Wideman, John Erskine, and Tyler Sloan, who left late in the second period on Saturday after getting his bell rung, are all injured. Erskine is expected to be back for Tuesday's game against Toronto.
Three Down 159 to Go for Nationals
The Nationals got creamed (sixth-grade sports saying) 11-2 in the rubber match of a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves to begin the season. However, as I point out in the headline, there is a LONG WAY to go in the season. So don't hit the panic button yet!
The teams' starters pitched well enough in all three games against the Braves. Livan Hernandez went into the sixth inning in the opener, John Lanan went five innings and even pitched after a rain/hail delay in the second game and Jordan Zimmerman went six innings and was the victim of poor defense. Now, defense is supposed to be a strong suit this season. Did I mention it is early?
The teams ability to manufacture runs is a concern going into the season, and it was too in the first series. The Nationals scored zero, six and two runs in their three-game set against Atlanta. The loss of Adam Dunn's bat certainly hurts, but the Nationals need a leadoff, and so far, Ian Desmondis 0 for 13 with three strikeouts. Again it is early, but it would help is someone sent their offense north from Spring Training.
Wizards Young Guards Shine
John Wall earned Rookie of the Month honors in March, and his teammate and fellow rookie Jordan Crawford has not been too shabby either. Crawford, after Wall's ejection against the Heat, got a chance to show off his scoring skills with a career high 39 points. Then, in the next game with Wall out, he had a triple double with 21 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Crawford is showing he is more than the guy that slammed on Lebron James and had the tape confiscated.
In Sunday nights rare road win, 97-91 over the Charlotte Bobcats, both Wall and Crawford played 42 minutes and combined for 41 points, eight assists, 10 rebounds and five steals. It is still a small sample overall this season with Crawford, but he has shown enough improvement in his short time in D.C. to be called an asset. The next step will be finding an nickname for the duo.