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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BATTLE OF THE BANDS…SAN DIEGO

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I’m not going to lie, I enjoy that The Peppas just cruise around town in their Partridge Family bus, looking to get a game, seeking about bands to battle. Who wants to barnstorm across America with me, Rodney and The Peppas?

THE LAST WORTHLESS EVENING…

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I had to furrow my brow a bit when VCU came out of the locker room for its public shootaround yesterday. Normally the Rams charge onto the floor with its trademark spirit and ebullience, but this was different. It was more of a mosey.

It was atypical and a bit concerning, to be honest, but once the whistle blew and called the meeting to order, somebody turned on the wattage. It was a bouncy, loose, fun shootaround. I had someone from another university comment to me that “my God you guys are loose” and he wondered if we were always this loose.

Yes, we are. And our coach participates:

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The practice ended, somewhat perfectly, with Juvonte Reddic giving Torrey Burston a bit of help in his leap to dunk the ball.

Yeah, I”d say the team is loose.

Last night the team went to dinner but was back early to watch more basketball and take it easy. (Side note: how much fun was that?) Our hotel had a faux fire alarm while they were out that stirred up the place, but it turned out to be nothing. All in all, it was a pretty standard pregame evening. That’s exactly as we want it.

But that was yesterday.

Today, it’s a different kind of meeting, and Shaka Smart will be in suit and tie, although he won’t be wearing his jacket for very long. The guys will sleep in and then begin the gameday routine they’ve gone through 34 times already this year.

They will approach the SFA game with great seriousness but simply go play basketball, which is more fun for them than anything else.

Gameday.

ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS DANCE…

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VCU Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams spent Thursday prepping for their NCAA Tournament First Round game against Stephen F. Austin.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams spent Thursday prepping for their NCAA Tournament First Round game against Stephen F. Austin.

By Mike Litos

SAN DIEGO – Today was the beauty pageant portion of the NCAA tournament. Players and coaches from each team in San Diego went to the podium for high level, softball questions from the media. Each team also has a 40-minute practice that is really nothing more than basic drills, shooting, and some running to get used to the floor. It’s all open to the public, so it isn’t like a coach is going to run his offensive sets.

I actually like it, because it gets the smell of basketball into your system.

After sleeping in and a meal, VCU had it’s actual practice in an undisclosed location, then took it’s turn. Basketball is the talent competiton, and forutnately there is no swimsuit competition.

The best quote came froma random guy from another school who was on-hand to take in the VCU practice. I love fans who attend these shootarounds–if you’re doing this you are my kind of fan. Anyway, the guy looked to the floor, then looked at me, and remarked:

“My God you guys are loose. Do you always have this much fun?”

Yes my friend, we do.

That said, instead of creating some faraway storyline, here is a dump of the better quotes from VCU today:

Juvonte Reddic, on being without Melvin Johnson tomorrow: “…we’ve been without players in the past and some of the guys have stepped up and did a good job so I think, you know, we’re going to be all right.”

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MORE VIDEO: PEPPAS IN SAN DIEGO

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This band does not sleep. By the end of the season, people will be (hopefully) humming the “War” song all the way from Brooklyn, to Omaha to Salt Lake and San Diego.

VIDEO: VCU PRESSERS & OPEN PRACTICE

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OPEN PRACTICE

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SHAKA SMART

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VCU PLAYERS

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN COACH BRAD UNDERWOOD

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

THE HEART OF THE MATTER…

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MFF_2014_LogoBy Mike Litos

SAN DIEGO – The plane leaving Richmond for San Diego last night was delayed. Considering it was originally a 7:30pm departure that was due to land more than five hours later, that could’ve been a painful wait. You know how it goes, the feeling of it’s going to be a long night, and this makes it longer.

It turns out not so much.

Without that delay, I would not have seen Juvonte Reddic gleefully playing with assistant coach Jeremy Ballard’s son. Reddic’s wide smile matched that of the toddler’s as he flew higher and higher into the air and then settled into the 6-9 Reddic’s arms again and again.

I would not have seen a 5’2″ security agent wanding Mo Alie-Cox. Picture that for a moment. Ditto Doug Brooks, who instead of spreading his arms wide for the scan flexed his biceps. Jarred Guest was wearing a throwback VCU baseball hat, and by throwback I mean to the 1980s. Melvin Johnson was there, too, and he still has both legs intact.

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VCU BASKETBALL: GOIN’ BACK TO CALI

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Good chat with THE Stuart C. Siegel in here as the Rams prep to head to San Diego. Plus Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose as his happy-go-lucky alter ego. Just a heads up, Roose. I’m not buying it.

THE BLAMMO EFFECT…

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Is Briante Weber the leader of the "Blammo" movement?

Is Briante Weber the leader of the “Blammo” movement?

By Mike Litos

VCU has a distinct advantage this weekend that is not being discussed, at least not enough for my taste. I call it The Blammo Effect.

You see, teams who have little knowledge of VCU or have not actually played against the Rams are prone to being horse-whipped at a certain point during games. We’ve seen it in both halves, but primarily in the second half. It’s the big run that is havoc at its finest, deflections and steals and layups and threes, an open court basketball bacchanalia.

It’s worth noting that in 14 of VCUs 26 wins, the Rams either trailed at the half or were leading by four or fewer points.

Here’s the thing: you can practice with six or seven guys. You can practice with five guys and perfect reads. You can watch tape from sunup to sunup. You can rent Inspector Gadget and his gogoarms to try to replicate the Turbocharged Octopus and his nation’s leading steals total.

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