October 22, 2013
A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference
Just 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.
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.”
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.
October 9, 2013
A-10, A-10 Media Day, Atlantic 10 Conference, Atlantic 10 Media Day, Barclays Center, Shaka Smart
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:
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.
But there’s more…
July 1, 2013
Baseball, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Basketball
2013 World University Games, Atlantic 10 Conference, Columbus Crew, Dominic Oduro, Eric Maynor, Ian Thomas, Mississippi Braves, MLS, NBA, Portland Trailblazers, Quanitra Hollingsworth, Sean Marshall, Shaka Smart, Sherman Hamilton, Treveon Graham, Washington Wizards
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.
Meanwhile, VCU Coach Shaka Smart has been serving as an assistant for the USA Basketball U19 squad in Prague.
More on that HERE.
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:
June 26, 2013
Baseball, Cross Country, Field Hockey, Golf, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Men's Tennis, Track & Field, VCU Athletics, Volleyball, Women's Basketball, Women's Soccer, Women's Tennis
Adam Ball, Atlantic 10 Conference, Brandon Ruffin, Briante Weber, Cindy Chala, Courtney Conrad, Havoc, Hayley Moorwood, Heath Dwyer, Jaleesa Williams, Jason Johnson, Jessica Pellechio, Jessica Williams, Joey Cujas, Kelsey Scherrer, Kiara Porter, Marlene Stollings, Matt Ball, Matt Ball Jr., Matt Lees, Max Wennakoski, Paul Kostin, Quanitra Hollingsworth, Robyn Parks, Ryan Farrar, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels., Yoram Mwila
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.
May 8, 2013
A-10, A-10 Basketball, Atlantic 10 Conference, Bernadette McGlade, College Basketball Realignment, Davidson Wildcats, George Mason Patriots
RICHMOND, 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):
March 12, 2013
A-10, All A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, Briante Weber, Jim Crews, Juvonte Reddic, Khalif Wyatt, Melvin Johnson, Semaj Christon, Treveon Graham
The 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.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Rotnei Clarke, Butler
Ramon Galloway, La Salle
Juvonte Reddic, VCU
Treveon Graham, VCU
March 11, 2013
A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, Mike Litos, Temple Owls
INTERSTATE 95 – There’s plenty of road separating Philadelphia and Richmond, most of it I-95 blacktop.
I was honored to chauffeur VCU hoopologist Mike Litos yesterday. There’s plenty of opportunity during that four-hour, 250-mile drive to discuss everything from affairs on the domestic fronts, to offbeat basketball stories from yesteryear, to how much caffeine is “safe” for daily intake.
We also talked a lot of VCU hoops yesterday. On the ride home, after we licked our wounds and recalled key moments of Sunday’s 84-76 loss at Temple, we took a step back (figuratively, of course). Mike did a nice job analyzing the Xs and Os of the game in his blog post today, so there’s no need for me to play that shot.
Since yesterday marked the end of the regular season, it seemed like a logical time to survey the Rams’ body of work. The question we asked each other was, regardless of Sunday’s outcome, if on Nov. 1, 2012, if I would have offered you a 24-7 regular season finish, including 12-4 in the A-10, two top 25 wins, several weeks in the top 25 and an all-but-assured at-large berth, would you take it? Of course you would. I would knock over my own grandma to shake hands on that one.
It’s a strange feeling, Mike and I agreed. For the first time in my tenure here at VCU, I’m not white-knuckling NCAA bubble teams’ results on Sportscenter. It’s liberating, quite frankly. Two years ago, Kentucky’s upset over Florida this weekend would’ve had me kicking trash cans. Not yesterday. The only emotion I felt was, meh – which is to say, no real emotion at all. It’s a nice change.
Theoretically, if the Rams had finished 16-2 in the CAA and lost in the semifinals this weekend, would we feel the same way? The best RPI – THE BEST – in the CAA right now is Delaware’s 132, so you tell me. Eleven of the 12 teams that qualified for the A-10 tournament have a better RPI than 132. VCU won six top 100 games in conference play this season. Even if the Rams had finished 18-0 in the CAA, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as valuable as those six A-10 wins.
So, while Sunday’s loss stung, as all losses do, I’m enjoying the long view today. The regular season was incredibly successful. Now it’s time to rattle some cages in Brooklyn.
March 2, 2013
A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, Brad Stevens, Butler Bulldogs, Darius Theus, Shaka Smart
Senior Troy Daniels provided a game-high 20 points in VCU’s win over Butler Saturday.
RICHMOND, Va. – Moments before his team took the floor for Saturday’s highly anticipated game with 20th-ranked Butler, VCU Coach Shaka Smart wrote two simple words on a whiteboard in the locker room: Be VCU.
What followed was one of the most thorough dissections of a top 25 team you’ll ever see, an 84-52 browbeating that should turn heads. VCU was everything Smart wanted and more. The Rams were VCU, but they were VCU in the Hulk’s body, wearing Superman’s cape. VCU was about as good a version of itself as possible. The Rams were the Five Horsemen of Havoc, laying waste to the Bulldogs in a way not seen in Coach Brad Stevens six seasons. It was Butler’s worst loss in a conference game since the 1985-86 season.
It’s Smart’s job to find the wrong in VCU’s performance Saturday, but he’s going to dig a little deeper this time around.
“I don’t think this game went perfectly at all,” he said. “I thought our response to what happened was close to perfect…if anything was perfect, it was our guy’s commitment to our plan and our goal.”
Hey, he’s got to say things like that.