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Winning attitude (cont.)

Posted: Friday February 2, 2007 1:43PM; Updated: Friday February 2, 2007 2:27PM
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VCU started the season 2-2 after losing to Xavier and Toledo at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Since then, the Rams are 17-2, with losses to Appalachian State and Hofstra. The Rams were picked sixth in the CAA, yet have a good chance to secure the No. 1 seed for the CAA tournament in Richmond, where VCU is located.

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Grant has found success an aggressive style, which the players have embraced. "We run more and have more freedom," says Walker, who leads the team with 15.8 points per game. "As long as we take good shots, we can play more of our own game."

VCU leads the league in scoring, three-point field-goal percentage and turnover margin, all staples of Donovan's best Florida teams.

"One thing Billy's always done a great job of is giving guys freedom and allowing them to go out and play to their abilities," Grant said. "That is what we've tried to do here. But with that freedom comes certain responsibilities. We explain to them how they can be successful with that freedom. It has worked so far."

VCU will face Bradley in a televised BracketBuster game on Feb. 17, which will give the Rams a chance to solidify their resume for the NCAA tournament selection committee should they fail to win the CAA tournament. VCU's RPI is a respectable 47, but winning the regular-season race over Hofstra, Drexel and Old Dominion would register with the committee. The CAA earned an at-large bid last year, and we all remember what George Mason did with it. Not that Grant wants to be George Mason.

"We're just trying to be VCU," he says.

So far, so good.

Move Over, Iona

Iona's season of futility and heartbreak (it lost again by one at the buzzer on Thursday night) has received plenty of attention, but there is another Division I team that is also 0-for, at least when it comes to Division I competition.

North Florida is 0-20 against Division I teams this season, recording two wins against non-Division I opponents. The Ospreys, who are in their fourth year of Division I basketball, had a golden opportunity to stop the slide on Tuesday night, but Chris Timberlake missed a layup with one second left that would have forced overtime against Savannah State. North Florida fell 49-47, marking the sixth time it has lost by five points or less on the year.

As of Thursday, North Florida ranked 334th out of 335 teams in the RPI. But No. 335, Western Illinois, picked up a win over Centenary, its third D-I win of the season. That will surely drop North Florida to the bottom as it heads into February.

Cousy Nominees

Among the 13 Division I finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation's top point guard, are Marist's Jared Jordan and Cal State Fullerton's Bobby Brown. Jordan leads the nation in assists with 8.9 a game and is also averaging 18.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. Brown is averaging 19.8 points and 5.4 assists for Big West-leading Fullerton.

This is the fourth year of the award, which has gone to Dee Brown (Illinois), Raymond Felton (North Carolina) and Jameer Nelson of (Saint Joseph's) the past three years.

Tip-Ins

Oral Roberts lost its first Mid-Continent game of the season on Thursday, falling in overtime at Valparaiso. The Bulldogs remain the favorites to win the MCC tournament and reach the NCAAs... Wichita State is starting to recover from its midseason swoon and has worked itself back to .500 in the Missouri Valley Conference after a tough 67-61 win at Northern Iowa. The Shockers have five of their final seven games at home, plus a road trip to struggling Drake... Albany coach Will Brown, who has already complained about his schedule this year, and was disciplined for it, must have been dismayed when his team was given a trip to Boise, Idaho, for its BracketBusters matchup. The Great Danes have plenty of time to prepare for the Feb. 16 contest. They will face Vermont on Feb. 11 in a game that could decide the America East... Central Connecticut State, picked fourth in the Northeast Conference, moved to 10-1 in league play with a 74-62 win over Mount Saint Mary's on Thursday.

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