VIDEO: VCU ROUTS ILLINOIS STATE

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VCU-ILLINOIS STATE HIGHLIGHTS

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POSTGAME: VCU PLAYERS (Terrance Shannon, Briante Weber, Juvonte Reddic)

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POSTGAME: Shaka Smart

ROUT DELIVERED WITHOUT VICTORY LAP

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VCU junior Treveon Graham supplied 14 points and six rebounds in VCU's season-opening victory.

VCU junior Treveon Graham supplied 14 points and six rebounds in VCU’s season-opening victory.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart blew into his postgame press conference like the cool November breeze. He was, as always, polite, but curt. He was also direct. When asked if any of his players had turned in an “exceptional” performance Friday night, he barely entertained the thought.

“No,” he said, flatly.

He didn’t look like a guy who just watched his team open its season by thrashing Illinois State 96-58. He wasn’t so much upset as he was unsatisfied. He wasn’t angry, just pragmatic. Not that Smart would ever accept the first game of the season as anything but the maiden voyage of a five-month odyssey, but things have clearly changed. The Rams are the 14th-ranked team in the country. Smart’s personal Overton Window has shifted in step with the momentum of the program. His tone acknowledged that there was no value in a victory lap in November, especially not for a team with this kind of potential.

“It was our first game and the guys did a lot of good things, but we obviously have a lot to get better at,” Smart said.

It wasn’t obvious to everybody. A few minutes earlier, beleaguered Illinois State Coach Dan Muller capped his press conference by telling the assembled media: “Thanks guys. Sorry the game was so bad.”

To put that in perspective, after watching his squad get throttled for 40 minutes by the 14th-ranked team in the country, Muller felt compelled to apologize for the beating that he’d just received.

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VCU HOOPS OPENER OFFERS A TOUCH OF MYSTERY THEATER

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VCU Coach Shaka Smart says Illinois State has been more challenging to scout because of roster turnover.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart says Illinois State has been more challenging to scout because of roster turnover.

RICHMOND, Va. – The first game of every season presents a little bit of the unknown, but this VCU opener may offer a little more mystery than usual.

The Rams tip off their anticipated 2013-14 season on Friday (7 p.m.) against Illinois State at the Verizon Wireless Arena. While the Redbirds were an 18-15 team a year ago, that information is essentially, uh, for the birds. This year’s Illinois State team features 10 newcomers. The Redbirds return a grand total of eight percent of their scoring from last year. ISU’s leading returning scorer is sophomore guard Nick Zeisloft, who averaged 4.5 points per game last year.

So, this is essentially a brand new team for second-year Redbirds Coach Dan Muller. While that presents a unique set of challenges for Muller, it will also give VCU Coach Shaka Smart a few headaches.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we don’t know a whole lot about them because they’ve got so many new players from a personnel standpoint,” Smart admitted Monday at his weekly press conference.

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