IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A-10 MEDIA DAY

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New VCU Women’s Basketball Coach Beth O’Boyle jumped into the fray Tuesday when she took part in the Atlantic 10 Conference’s annual media day. The Rams, picked 10th in the league following an NIT bid, will look to offset the loss of All-League performer Robyn Parks, who graduated and is playing professionally in Spain. Sophomore point guard Keira Robinson, who set a VCU freshman record for assists last season, was named to the A-10’s Preseason Third Team.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: SHAKA SMART AT A-10 MEDIA DAY

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Videographer Mike Voyack followed Shaka Smart around at Atlantic 10 Media Day in Brooklyn this week. He offers this behind the scenes report.

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Also, Shaka Smart’s knowledge of the 1986 World Series Champion New York Mets is pretty impressive.

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.

VIDEO: VCU UPENDS GEORGE MASON 71-57

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FROM THE TELLY

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FROM THE MEDIA ROOM

MEN’S HOOPS: A-10 PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

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A10Just because some of the teams have changed, due to the revolving door of conference realignment, it doesn’t mean picking the A-10 this year has gotten any easier.

Although I felt very comfortable with my picks 1-4, spots 5-9 (and possibly 5-13) are sort of shrug picks. As in, I think this team will finish here, but *shrug*, who really knows? There’s a ton of depth in the A-10 this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see teams like George Mason, Richmond or Rhode Island (to name just a few) shock some folks. I think three NCAA bids is a reasonable goal for the A-10 this year, but five is certainly attainable.

1-VCU
2012-13 Record: 27-9 (12-4 A-10)
Comments:
Although there are still questions about who will replace point guard Darius Theus, this is Shaka Smart’s deepest, most talented group in five seasons at VCU. The Rams will likely open the season ranked in the top 25 (already No. 15 in the Coaches Poll) behind potential NBA draft pick Juvonte Reddic and 2012-13 breakout star Treveon Graham. Human cannonball Briante Weber spearheads the Rams’ chaos-inducing Havoc defense that has led the country in turnover percentage two straight seasons.

And, should I bring up guys like Rob Brandenberg (a rock), Melvin Johnson (a sizzle video waiting to happen), the addition of ACC-quality big man Terrance Shannon (impressed at Black & Gold Game) or the Rams’ influx of a talent-rich freshman class. VCU fans are pretty amped about the coming season, and deservedly so.

Although the Rams have been a nearly-consensus media pick to win the A-10, and were ranked 15th nationally in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, it doesn’t appear that VCU will shy away from the high expectations.

“We’ve always had high expectations for ourselves within our program,” says VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “We want to be at a place where there are high expectations for us. That’s the way VCU is.”

2-Saint Louis
2012-13 Record: 28-7 (13-3)
Comments:
Jim Crews masterfully directed Saint Louis in 2012-13 following the death of coach Rick Majerus, and he’s got the horses to do it again this year. Bruising forward Dwayne Evans (14.0 ppg, 7.7) along with guards Mike McCall Jr. (9.3 ppg) and Jordair Jett (9.0 ppg, 3.2 apg) offer a balanced offensive attack to compliment the Billikens’ stingy defensive-minded approach.

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ICYMI: A-10 MEDIA DAY – ‘VCU IS THE PLACE TO BE’

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The Atlantic 10 Conference held its annual media day Tuesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. As we all know, media day is all about getting hard-hitting stories and really getting to the heart and soul of college basketball. Observe:

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See? Your understanding of Shaka Smart, the man, has grown exponentially through that video. You’re welcome. There were plenty of other rumblings from Barclays. He’s some of the best stuff.

VCU fans will no doubt enjoy this interview. Here, Shaka Smart says he wants to “spread the word” about VCU.

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But there’s more…

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ROUNDUP: GRAHAM, BUSY ALUMS & CANADA

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In case you missed it, Treveon Graham is going to be playing for the United States at the World University Games July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia. Only 12 players in the country can say that. It’s a big deal. The last Ram wear USA Basketball red, white and blue was Eric Maynor, who did so in 2007 at the Pan Am Games, after “The Dagger” and before his junior season. Graham will be the youngest player on this year’s squad.

VCU rising junior Treveon Graham, bottom right, wearing jersey No. 10.

VCU rising junior Treveon Graham, bottom right, wearing jersey No. 10.

Meanwhile, VCU Coach Shaka Smart has been serving as an assistant for the USA Basketball U19 squad in Prague.

More on that HERE.

ALUMNI NEWS
The NBA free agency period began Monday at midnight. It sounds like Eric Maynor will be looking for a new team.

But don’t worry, he should have suitors.

Edit, more Maynor:

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THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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AND THEN THERE WERE 14 (AGAIN)

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Davidson_Combo_LogoRICHMOND, Va. – The tectonic shifting of Division I realignment has rumbled again, and this time it shook out favorably for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The league trumpeted the addition of Davidson Wednesday for the 2014-15 season, just weeks after George Mason announced it would leave the CAA and would also join the A-10.

“Davidson is an ideal fit for the Atlantic 10 – as a nationally recognized academic Institution complimented by excellence in a broad-based athletic program — the Wildcats will be competitive immediately. Their success in men’s basketball is important, bringing another nationally recognized brand into the league,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said Wednesday in a prepared release.

George Mason will become an A-10 member this summer, restoring a strong in-state rivalry with VCU. It also means the league will operate with 13 full members in 2013-14 and then – presumably – 14 in 2014-15.

In the short and long term, this is a boon for the Newport News, Va.-based Atlantic 10. The A-10 will lose four members this summer, Temple (All-American), Charlotte (Conference USA), Butler (Big East) and Xavier (Big East), but McGlade wasted little time shoring up the league.

From a men’s basketball perspective, which, realistically, is the driver in all this, the additions of George Mason and Davidson should be well-received. Given the landscape of college athletics these days, you could make a strong argument that these were the two most attractive and realistic targets for the A-10. Actually, that’s exactly the argument I’m making. The league adds two strong basketball programs with strong history in attractive TV markets; two schools which have each established themselves on the national scene at different points in the last eight years.

It would be impossible to completely replace programs like Xavier, Temple and Butler in a single year, but these are good moves nonetheless. If you count Davidson, seven of the A-10’s 14 schools finished in the top 100 in RPI last year.

Here’s a comparison of what the A-10 will gain the next two years to the schools that will depart (click to enlarge):

A-10-realignRPIa10-realign-measurables

MY ALL ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE AWARDS

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A10PrimaryThe Atlantic 10 Conference is procedurally different from the CAA in a number of areas, including voting for All-Conference awards. Whereas the CAA used a pool of 48 media members, SIDs and coaches, the A-10 is a strictly coaches voting pool. That doesn’t mean we have to sit this one out, however. We have a blog, you know.

Also, these picks were a part of the Duquesne Sports Blog’s voting pool for their All A-10 awards, so feel free to check out how the collective A-10 blogosphere feels.

Below are what would be my All Atlantic 10 Conference picks. Feel free to discuss, but take it easy on me. I’m sensitive.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Why:
I didn’t really need further confirmation, but after Sunday’s performance against VCU, it took me all of about four seconds to write in Wyatt’s name here. The 6-foot-4 senior guard, who has five 30-point performances this season, leads the league in scoring (19.9 ppg) is seventh in assists (4.1 apg) and ninth in steals (1.6 spg). Easy pick.|
Also considered: I’m checking to see if Jameer Nelson is eligible.

First Team
Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Rotnei Clarke, Butler
Ramon Galloway, La Salle
Juvonte Reddic, VCU
Treveon Graham, VCU

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