TOP-SHELF FISHER, REDDIC IN ITALY

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A couple of weekend videos worthy of sharing. The first comes from VCU Men’s Soccer’s win over Northeastern on Friday, in which Devon Fisher buries a perfectly placed shot from 35 yards out. This goal is pretty awesome.

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Today’s second video, and congrats to those Internet sleuths monitoring Italian basketball airspace, is Juvonte Reddic’s introductory presser with Victoria Libertas. Most of this 38 minute video is in Italian, but it does include Reddic, who presumably does not speak Italian, responding to questions in English.

NEW LOGO IS A GO

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The new VCU logo has been chiseled into center court at the Siegel Center by the nocturnal leprechauns we keep around just for these types of jobs. Out with the old, in with the new. Meanwhile, the new corner suites should be nearing completion. Next up is the center-hung scoreboard.

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EVERYBODY IN THE POOL, SUMMER’S GONE

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Summer’s gone. I’m not concerned with the technical definition of the season. We’ve all been conditioned to mentally terminate the summer once school resumes. I still do that today because when fall sports kick back online every August, it’s go time in the office. That day is today. We got a little preview last week with women’s soccer’s early start at Virginia Tech and Marshall, but Friday and Saturday, field hockey, volleyball and men’s soccer will also begin their 2014 campaigns.

Our first order of business today is to present our next fall sports preview, field hockey. Although this sport willfully chooses to water artificial grass, we still love them. The Rams were 10-10 a year ago under former player and first-year Coach Laura Baker. This year’s squad is channeling its inner Queen Latifah, with more than a little conversation given to unity.

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VCU Volleyball is in Fort Collins, Colorado this weekend, where all they’ll do is play a road match against the No. 18 team in the country (Colorado State), then two other teams that are receiving votes (Marquette and UC Santa Barbara). This year’s roster features more freshmen (8) than upperclassmen combined (7), so the kids will get an idea about the top end of Division I volleyball pretty quickly. Second-year Coach Jody Rogers, who punts excuses into the rafters for fun, doesn’t sound concerned.

“Age is just a number, and I always tell them that. I don’t want to have an excuse, everybody else sees a young team, I don’t care. They’re ready. I want them to be ready.”

The Rams were 26-8 last year in Rogers’ first season.

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TROPHY CHASING TAKES ON GREATER IMPORTANCE FOR VCU SOCCER IN ’14

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In four seasons under the guidance of Coach Dave Giffard, the VCU Men’s Soccer program has transformed from an also-ran into a juggernaut. For all the progress made, there are a couple of levels of success that have been elusive. Following an 11-8-2 mark in 2013, the Rams aim to take the next step as a program.

THE RISE OF SHAKAVISION: VCU BASKETBALL SCHEDULE RELEASED

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tumblr_mt9eusr6Tn1ryw6edo1_500Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” is must-see TV. That’s what the networks are saying, it seems.

The full VCU Men’s Basketball schedule was released Wednesday. We’ve known the non-conference slate for weeks and the home/away A-10 match-ups for months, so this was really about filling dates and setting DVRs.

In case you were stuck in a mid-afternoon meeting, here it is:

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Really, today’s news is really all about what we didn’t know before, television. Seventeen of VCU’s 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be nationally televised, seven by ESPN networks, including four in a row at one stretch. As of today, and there’s still time for the network to add games, VCU will appear on an ESPN network – not including ESPN3 – 11 times. I’m not even go to bother to look this up, but I’m going to say with a degree of certainty, that’s a program record. In all, 23 of VCU’s 31 regular season games are currently scheduled on a national carrier (ESPN2/U: 11, CBS Sports: 9, NBC Sports: 2). That surpasses the program mark of 21 national broadcasts, set last year.

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COME TOGETHER; RAMS AIM TO CHALLENGE A-10 AGAIN WITH OLD AND NEW

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Year One of Jody Rogers’ tenure as VCU Volleyball coach was wildly successful, as the Rams finished 26-8 and reached the Atlantic 10 Conference title match. But that’s not to say the Rams are satisfied. VCU is still chasing its first conference crown and NCAA bid since 2005, and this year, the Rams will do it behind five returning starters and eight freshmen.

DETAILS AND DIRTY WORK; RAMS AIM TO BUILD ON 2013 CAMPAIGN

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In many ways, the 2013 season was a “getting-to-know-you” kind of campaign for the VCU Women’s Soccer team. After an 8-8-3 season under first-year Coach Lindsay Vanderspiegel, the Rams now have a clear understanding of where they’re headed. This season, led by All-Conference players Emma Kruse and Casey Boyer, VCU wants everybody else to know what they’re all about as well.

WE WERE MERELY FRESHMEN…AN OPEN LETTER

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Warning-FreshmanHey freshmen,

We’ve probably never met, but I hope you’ll soon recount to me how you learned to play the bassoon or that time you saved a gaggle of puppies from a burning building.

For lack of a better term, I’m the features writer here. For the last five years, I’ve been scribbling stories about student-athletes like you. I’ll happily write about how many goals you want to score this year, but I’d rather tell people why “Hannah Montana” inspired you practice your jump serve.

You’re more than a number on a field. That’s what I want people to know when I write about you, but more importantly, you should know it as well. I write because people are a collection of layers, not just a surface coat of athletic mastery.

I’ve never been a Division I student-athlete, unless we’re counting my MVP performance in the annual basketball game between Ohio University’s student TV station and school paper. It was my magnum opus, a display of shot-making and stunningly average defense I’ve failed to replicate in the years since. I could never hit a curveball…or much of anything else, for that matter, and my high school cross country career fizzled out in about the fourth grade.

So I’m not going to tell you how to split a double-team, unless it’s at the soft-serve ice cream machine. What I can tell you is what years of perspective have taught me, something you’d probably refer to as, “being old”.

You’ve got plenty of coaches to help you shine championship trophies. I just want to make sure the next four years are unforgettable. You’re all student-athletes, but a student-athlete is not all that you are. You’re going to do (if you’re doing it right) a lot of growing up while you’re here. Welcome it.

When I took this job at VCU, I told my wife we’d probably be here three years. This fall will mark my 10th year with this department. What began as a just a paycheck has become a life. I’m not saying you need to spent the rest of your life here, but for the next four years, embrace VCU and Richmond. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I can tell you that Richmond is a pretty cool town. See the city. Catch a show at The National, eat somewhere other than the 10 chain restaurants on campus, spend a day at the river, whatever. Just go. There’s a whole city out there that doesn’t play college field hockey, and that’s okay. Go find it.

DISCLAIMER: Make sure you go to class and practice first.

Second, this town and this school love a winner, but they love class, dignity and grace even more. Work hard, keep your chin up and your eyes open, and you’re going to be fine, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

Third, more people than you can count are going to tell you that these are going to be the best four years of your life. They’re not wrong, but they’re not right, either. The next four years will be the best four years of your life, if you let them be. So will the four after that and the four after that. But these four years will be unique. For most of you, it’s your first time out on your own, and you get to learn how to become an adult around a bunch of people, your teammates, who know exactly what you’re going through. Lean on them, and listen to them when they need an ear.

Finally, my words are just a guidebook, suggestions, really. At a distance, my college career is a hilarious dustbin collection of earnest missteps, awkward moments and well-intentioned bad ideas. I’m thankful everyday that my college career predates social media. But I also (allegedly) learned a ton, made friends for a lifetime, met my future wife and found some direction.

I sincerely hope you win a bunch of championships while you’re here. That said, championships and victories on the field can shape your college experience, but they don’t have to define it. In four years, if you emerge with a degree, seasoned and ready for the next best four years of your life, then you’re doing it right. Good luck, and here’s to the next four years.

P.S.: If you make ice sculptures with chainsaws as a hobby, come see me immediately.

QUICK SCHEDULE METRICS THAT I BORROWED

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VCU released its full non-conference schedule this morning and it’s as we suspected, it’s pretty darn loaded. Games with Tennessee, Villanova, Cincinnati, Virginia, as well as some other under-the-radar giant killers like Belmont, Toledo and Cleveland State line line a really solid slate:

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Thanks to the Internet and the number of VCU fans who love to crunch schedule metrics, I’m going to borrow the following cheat sheet. This comes to us via a poster on VCURamNation.com by the screen name of ShootTheJay. Jay, I appreciate your homework. I was going to do something similar, but now I don’t have to.

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Of course, some teams will be better than last year and others will fall off some, but overall, you can see that there are a ton of quality teams on here. VCU will have every opportunity to build an NCAA resume. Of this group of 14 teams, nine finished last year in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100. Just one team posted a losing record, and eight played in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. Also, you may notice his postseason notes on Old Dominion. Those are his words, not mine, but as you can see, the spirit of the rivalry lives.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, but this has got to be one of the best non-conference schedules in school history, does it not?

LEGENDS OF THE FALL; SCHEDULE TAKES SHAPE AS VILLANOVA DATE REVEALED

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legendsThe full Legends Classic bracket was released this morning, revealing a VCU-Villanova matchup on Nov. 24 at Barclays Center. From there, it’s either Oregon or Michigan on Nov. 25. No matter what, VCU was going to get two great, tough games out of this trio, but Villanova might represent the biggest challenge in the field. The Wildcats were 29-5 last season, and although they lose leading scorer James Bell to graduation, they return a ton of talent, as well as Jay Wright’s impressive wardrobe.

You’ll also notice a date with Maryland-Eastern Shore in the bracket, which gives additional clarity to VCU’s 2014-15 schedule. Here’s what we have so far, and I’m told the rest will be released soon:

Nov. 14 vs. Tennessee (at Annapolis, Md.) – Veterans Classic
Nov. 18 – Toledo (Home Opener)
Nov. 20 – Maryland-Eastern Shore
Nov. 24 vs. Villanova (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – Legends Classic
Nov. 25 vs. Michigan or Oregon (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – Legends Classic

This does not include known dates with Virginia, Cincinnati and Old Dominion, as well as others. As it stands, the Rams are already slated to meet teams from the SEC, [New] Big East, [Old Big East] American Athletic, ACC and Big Ten/Pac-12. Plus, Toledo was arguably the best team in the MAC last year.

There will not be a lack of potential RPI boosters in this year’s schedule. If the Rams play well, they’ll have every opportunity to earn a high NCAA Tournament seed. Of VCU’s known potential opponents for next season, 10 – Villanova (8), Virginia (10), Michigan (11), Cincinnati (22), Saint Louis (24), UMass (26), Oregon (27), Dayton (33), Tennessee (37) and Toledo (43) – were ranked inside the RPI top 50 last year. That doesn’t guarantee those teams will enjoy the same success in 2014-15, but it does speak, in a general sense, of the competition VCU has assembled in this year’s schedule.

Also, four out of VCU’s first five games will be televised on national TV, with more on the way. These are the salad days, folks.

2014 LEGENDS CLASSIC BRACKET

2014 Legends Bracket.xls

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