2014-15 A-10 PAIRINGS RELEASED

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Here are VCU Men’s Basketball’s Atlantic 10 pairings for the 2014-15 season. The Rams will play home-and-home series with Davidson, George Mason, George Washington, Saint Louis and Richmond. I love that the league appears to have taken geography into account. VCU already enjoys a fantastic rivalry with Richmond, while the Rams also have strong recent history with Saint Louis and (as of last year) George Washington, and George Mason. Given Davidson’s history and location, VCU could have another budding rivalry on its hands there as well.

You will notice the league has officially shifted from a 16-game conference slate to an 18-game schedule. Given the 14-team makeup of the league, it was probably inevitable.

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Fans should really enjoy (at least) the names coming to the Siegel Center in 2015. On paper, the Rams will have a really strong A-10 home schedule, not that VCU was having trouble moving tickets.

For league-wide pairings for next season, click here.

SO THIS IS TERRY LARRIER…

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I don’t post a lot of mix tapes and dunk videos because they’re so overblown and generally of little use in actually evaluating a player’s on-court ability. You may have noticed that there are more than a few Division I basketball players that can dunk.

With all that get-off-my-lawn bluster aside, it’s hard not to enjoy watching this dunk from incoming four-star recruit Terry Larrier. Don’t project a career arc when you watch this. Just enjoy it for what it is. That doesn’t mean you should refrain from cooking up Terry Larrier nicknames. The season will be here before you know it.

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In other news, it is now completely impossible to dislike Kevin Durant. Last night, Durant gave probably the best MVP award acceptance speech ever. The best part is when Durant addresses his mom directly (about 2:55 mark). Watch it.

TROY DANIELS IS RIDICULOUS

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Here’s Troy Daniels, you know, the former Ram, undrafted free agent rookie, scoring 17 points in the second NBA Playoff game of his life. I’m not going to say much more because I’m running out of superlatives for Daniels, other than to add, rather obviously, that he’s perhaps the best story of the first round of the playoffs. Houston’s down 3-1 in the series to Portland, so hopefully Daniels has a few heroics left in the holster so we can KEEP WATCHING TROY DANIELS BURY THREES FOR DAYS.

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VIDEO: HERE’S 15 MINUTES OF KENDRICK WARREN DUNKING IN PEOPLE’S FACES

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Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

VCU fans, this is going to be akin to a fireside chat with your grandfather. You know the one, where he tells you about the old days and seems to speak in tongues, talking about sock hops and soda jerks.

The march of time and the recent success of VCU Basketball have given berth to brand new generations of Rams fans, ones who know little of the names Duncan, Henderson, Lamb, Watson and Hopkins. I urge you to learn them, know them and speak them often.

Which brings me to Kendrick Warren. There are many fans who don’t know the singular brilliance of Warren, an explosive forward who was a walking mixtape before mixtapes. Many longtime VCU fans would argue – and they’d have a really good argument – that Warren was the best or the most talented player ever to play for the Rams.

A former McDonald’s All-American in high school, Warren dunked his way to a then VCU-record 1,858 points, 1,049 rebounds and 43 double-doubles from 1990-94. He ranks second in VCU history in all of those categories. When people discuss VCU Basketball history, they often do so in these terms: J.D. Barnett’s teams from 1979-85, Kendrick Warren and then this new “golden age” since 2004. That’s because from 1986-2003, Kendrick Warren was the one shred of national relevance for a program stuck in neutral. It’s also the reason why Warren’s greatness is sometimes overlooked. While Calvin Duncan, Eric Maynor and even Gerald Henderson, to some degree, were the stars of successful VCU teams, Warren’s era was symptomatic of the program’s two-decade malaise. VCU was 62-55 and made one NIT appearance during Warren’s career.

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TROY DANIELS IS A ROCKET, MAN

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Troy Daniels was recalled from the NBA D-League Wednesday. So the former VCU 3-point gunner hopped on a plane and met the Houston Rockets in Denver and started bombing threes from the airport terminal. Well, almost.

The Rockets trailed by 17 heading into the fourth quarter, so they unloaded their bench of D-League All-Stars, including Daniels. It took Daniels about .7 seconds to start firing away. In all, the former Ram hit 4-of-6 triples to help the Rockets rally to within six. Prior to Wednesday, Daniels had played a grand total of eight NBA minutes. After this 12-point, 11-minute performance, you’ve got to think Rockets’ Coach Kevin McHale (responsible for one of the greatest episodes of “Cheers” in history) will consider getting his rookie shooting guard a little more burn the last four games of the regular season.

And look, we have highlights! Thanks Internets!

MOONEY PIES? SHAKA SMARTFOOD?

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Ewoks love BBQ.

Ewoks love BBQ.

On April 17 at 6 p.m., Shaka Smart and Chris Mooney will start their ovens and square off in what can only be billed as the most important basketball-themed culinary showdown in Richmond this spring, the 2014 Coaches’ Cook-Off, which will be held at the Science Museum of Richmond.

So as not to bury the lede, the competition will benefit Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe, a terrific organization which trains people with disabilities to work in the food service industry. So if you have an opportunity to attend this great event, please consider it. Find out more, including how to purchase tickets, here.

I’ve got to give Mooney credit. Shaka Smart already owns three wins over the Richmond coach this year, but he’s back for more. Despite his track record, don’t expect Smart to take this match-up lightly. I know for a fact he’s been dissecting film of “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen” this entire week.

VCU Video Coordinator Dwight Perry says Smart has been working around the clock to prepare for the kitchen showdown.

“I spent all of last night cutting risotto clips. Today, it’s chutney. I didn’t even know what chutney was until yesterday,” said Perry, clutching a 64-ounce espresso. “Two days ago, he kept screaming ‘Havoc!’ throughout an entire episode of ‘Barefoot Contessa’. He’s totally dialed in right now.”

As of press time, rumors that Guy Fieri interviewed this week for the open position on Smart’s staff, vacated when Mike Rhoades accepted the job at Rice (coincidence? I think not), remain unconfirmed.

In the competition, Smart and Mooney will each team with a chef to create dishes that will be rated by a panel of judges. Mooney edged Smart last year in this competition, but I love Shaka’s squad this time around. He’s teaming up with Buz Grossberg of Buz and Ned’s BBQ. Seriously. Just call it off now. Shaka is nearly unbeatable when paired with BBQ. I checked with men’s basketball SID Scott Day for Smart’s record when barbequing.

“What is wrong with you,” Day replied via a tersely worded text message.

It should be fun. I’m expecting laughter, tears, joy, exasperation, triumph and cole slaw. I hope you can make it.

2013 COACHES’ COOK-OFF

COMMON THREADS; UNIFORM UNITES TWO FAMILIES, EASES ONE’S PAIN

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Mike Schlegel, pictured during the 1984-85 season, scored 1,173 points as a Ram. He died in 2009.

Mike Schlegel, pictured during the 1984-85 season, scored 1,173 points as a Ram. He died in 2009.

While the wound still ached, Leslie Schlegel-Danowski was accommodating when a reporter called recently to talk about her late brother, Mike Schlegel. She dusted off memories of tagging along with her big brother to neighborhood sandlot games and of the family’s basketball hoop at the end of the driveway that her dad built. She was happy to reminisce, but afterwards, Leslie had a request.

She’d been alerted to an online post by a man claiming to own a game-worn Mike Schlegel uniform. She wanted to find out if the post was legitimate, and she wanted to talk to him. The family didn’t own many reminders of Mike’s playing career, and Leslie wanted to know what it would take for the man to part with the uniform.

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The son of a construction worker, Bay Shore, N.Y. native Mike Schlegel was a quiet, blue-collar presence on three VCU NCAA Tournament teams at VCU from 1981-85.

A rugged rebounder with a soft shooter’s touch, Schlegel scored 1,173 points and grabbed 743 boards in four seasons. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds on VCU’s 1984-85 team that finished the year ranked 11th nationally and was MVP of the Sun Belt Championship. In the Sun Belt semifinals that year, Schlegel tied a school record by connecting on all 10 of his field goal attempts in a win over Jacksonville.

“Mike wasn’t scared of nobody,” said former teammate Calvin Duncan.” Mike set picks to get you open. Mike would hit the 15-footer, the jump hook. Mike was awesome.”

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VCU BASKETBALL: TOP PLAYS

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Briante Weber’s sliding steal? Got that. Melvin Johnson’s 3-point barrage? That too. Treveon Graham’s Cavalier-crushing 3-point bomb? Yeah, it’s in there. Dunks, steals, threes, plenty of fun in this highlight video.

EVEN IN DISTRESS, WE MUST MOVE FORWARD. WE MUST RESOLVE…

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Junior Treveon Graham scored a team-high 19 points in Friday's NCAA Tournament loss to Stephen F. Austin.

Junior Treveon Graham scored a team-high 19 points in Friday’s NCAA Tournament loss to Stephen F. Austin.

By Mike Litos

Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it. –Descartes

Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve. –Robert Burns

When time and space and change converge, we find place. We arrive in Place when we resolve things. Place is peace of mind and understanding. Place is knowledge of self. Place is resolution. –Abdullah Ibrahim

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At some point, this moment had to come. I would have to open the laptop and relive Friday’s painful loss to SFA in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. (I will not abide by the NCAAs foolish round nomenclature. It isn’t my problem they cannot count.) Even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.

You see, the way this normally works is that I pop open the laptop on the plane ride home and write out thoughts and notes from the game VCU just played. I match those thoughts to stats and the boxscore, and turn them into sentences the next day. I do this even after losses.

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END OF THE INNOCENCE…

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I can't really argue, this Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack mascot is pretty cool.

I can’t really argue, this Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack mascot is pretty cool.

By Mike Litos

SAN DIEGO – I’m going to be honest with you: I like this matchup for VCU. I really do. Now we can hedge and hem and haw all we want about The Fates, karma, and not overlooking our opponent. We can imbue our discussion with tales of upperclassmen and team basketball and 28-game winning streaks. Fine.

But I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent hours on angles and talked to coaches who don’t wear VCU on their chests and the simple fact is that this is a good draw for VCU. The Rams have a physical advantage at every position, in both height and thickness. VCU is a stout team in comparison to its axe-wielding opponents.

VCU can run a lineup onto the floor in which four Rams are bigger than the Lumberjacks biggest notable player. Think about the devastation of a lineup of Reddic, Alie-Cox, Graham, Burgess, and Weber.

That’s why if I’m Shaka Smart–and we can all thank the heavens I am not–I’m playing a constant loop of the running of the bulls in Pamplona in the locker room. That’s what VCU has to do–play aggressive, downhill basketball.

What’s more, SFA is small and scrappy and tough and crash the boards hard, but that diminuitive size crashing the boards leaves breakouts wide open.

Yes SFA turns teams over at a rate of 24.4%, third nationally. But the Southland Conference is 27th overall, with a turnover rate of 19.3% for all teams. Everybody turns it over. SFA is known to be aggressive and gamble, which leads to open lanes when exploited by bigger, longer players. It’s worth noting that teams shoot 45% against SFA.

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

And so we are clear, I am not being overconfident nor taking them lightly. Not at all. VCU will have to go out and win a basketball game against a team that has not lost since November 23, 2013. That matters. What’s more, this VCU team is prone to shooting droughts.

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