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Current VCU players and alumni pose prior to Saturday’s Black and Gold Game.

RICHMOND, Va. – Justin Tillman repeatedly dunked at Saturday night’s Black and Gold Game like a man trying to scare the 2015-16 season to life. Mission accomplished.

Tillman provided one of the most powerful performances in VCU’s annual intrasquad scrimmage with 20 points, including six dunks, and 10 rebounds to lead the Black team to an 85-76 win before 5,223 at the Siegel Center.

It can be difficult to assess the value of players’ performances in games like this one, but Tillman dared people to notice with a series of vicious slams. The sophomore forward averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season, but new VCU Coach Will Wade can probably envision an uptick in Tillman’s numbers if he continues with such high-voltage efforts.

“I thought Tillman was great. He’s been phenomenal in practice,” Wade said. “His activity level was through the roof. He was tremendous, and he’s been that way in practice. He’s been an energy guy, an activity guy and that certainly showed today.”

Tillman’s presence has always been a flashy one, with his tall, dyed afro and his highlight reel dunks.

“He dunks everything, and I love that,” Wade said. “I worry about the backboards in the Development Center sometimes. He dunks everything. I love it, though. He’s a player.”

Tillman should figure prominently in Wade’s rotation, given the departure of Treveon Graham – who garnered the bulk of VCU’s minutes at power forward last season – and the coach’s emphasis on post play. You can expect to see more traditional lineups featuring two post players this season under Wade than in recent years.

Tillman played the 4-spot Saturday alongside center Mo Alie-Cox, and the two combined for 35 points and 18 rebounds. One could certainly imagine Wade pairing those two together down low on a regular basis.



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Sophomore Melvin Johnson led all players with 25 points Sunday.

Sophomore Melvin Johnson led all players with 25 points Sunday.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU held an intra-squad exhibition Sunday night before 3,187 excited souls at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. It was many people’s, myself included, first chance to get a look at the 2013-14 Rams. While the Gold team came away with a 72-56 win, the score was little more than a matter of academics.

Here are some observations from courtside.

1-Guards, guards, guards and guards
To any fan who has followed this team of late, this is no surprise. VCU was expected to be deep in the backcourt this year. But until we got a chance to see a Jairus Lyles no-look pass or one of Doug Brooks’ four steals, it was hard to know how deep. If Sunday is any indication, uh, the Rams are insanely deep at the wings.

Returnees Rob Brandenberg, Briante Weber, Melvin Johnson and (if we’re calling him a guard today) Treveon Graham were pretty much the guys we knew they were. But JeQuan Lewis, Lyles, Doug Brooks and Jordan Burgess all had moments and illustrated how difficult a choice Shaka Smart will have when doling out minutes.

Lyles was magnetic for long stretches of the second half and he might end up being the Rams’ fourth option at point guard. Think about that. Lyles finished with eight points, six assists (two turnovers) and three steals.



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Two days until basketball.

Two days until basketball.

The Black and Gold Game is bearing down on us. If you’ve been hitchhiking across Siberia, let me catch you up. On Sunday, Oct. 13, VCU Basketball will hold an intra-squad game at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart. C. Siegel Center at 6 p.m. Admission is FREE. Seating is general admission.

I was going to write up a quick preview, but a couple of outlets did a nice job producing their own, so I’ll lead you towards their quality work and go back to making widgets over here at VCU HQ.

Nice job by RVANews, which lays out a list of things to look for Sunday.  You can click HERE for the full article, but here’s a sample:

Are you the type of fan that will be upset on Sunday because VCU has to lose, or are you the type of fan that sees this as a win-win? Let’s be honest, when HAVOC! plays HAVOC!, everyone’s a winner.

Recently, Coach Smart has talked about having a nine to eleven man rotation this season. With Guest sidelined, that leaves each team with seven players. How will the full-court pressure and high octane offense look with such a short bench? How will VCU’s guards handle the full-court pressure?

The piece also includes a list of match-ups to watch. I’m going to add one they didn’t include. I’d love to see Briante Weber matched up on Melvin Johnson. I know Weber’s going to get plenty of burn at the point this year, but historically he’s played a lot of two-guard. I’d love to see VCU’s best on-ball defender checking the Rams’ top dribble-drive-floater guy. Wouldn’t you? I don’t know how the teams will be constructed, so the point might be moot, but I can dream.

VCU Ram Nation also waded into the Black and Gold Game mix:

The other familiar face with an unfamiliar game comes in the form of a 6’6 260lb physical machine, Mo Alie-Cox. Cox’s size alone (including a 7’1 wingspan) make him an intriguing front court option for the Rams. Take it for what it’s worth, but one VCU insider I spoke with said Cox isn’t just size, but can really play as well (drooling yet?).

We’re all looking forward to Sunday. We hope to see you and about 7,000 other friends there. In the meantime, here’s a great Tumblr of brides throwing cats.

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