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Melvin Johnson addresses the audience at his VCU Criminal Justice TED Talk earlier this year.

Melvin Johnson addresses the audience at his VCU Criminal Justice TED Talk earlier this year.

We have two videos to share today, both educational, but with very different lessons. The first, the most important is Melvin Johnson’s criminal justice TED Talk from earlier this year. It’s important to remind everybody sometimes there’s more to the guys on the basketball court than just basketball. I love seeing student-athletes take part in things like this, and applaud the VCU Criminal Justice Program – which is terrific, as far as I can tell – for challenging these men and women.


Today’s second video is a little more straightforward. Mike Litos sits down with Will Wade to discuss next season’s rule changes. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Wade talk about basketball.




Junior Treveon Graham scored a team-high 19 points in Friday's NCAA Tournament loss to Stephen F. Austin.

Junior Treveon Graham scored a team-high 19 points in Friday’s NCAA Tournament loss to Stephen F. Austin.

By Mike Litos

Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it. –Descartes

Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve. –Robert Burns

When time and space and change converge, we find place. We arrive in Place when we resolve things. Place is peace of mind and understanding. Place is knowledge of self. Place is resolution. –Abdullah Ibrahim


At some point, this moment had to come. I would have to open the laptop and relive Friday’s painful loss to SFA in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. (I will not abide by the NCAAs foolish round nomenclature. It isn’t my problem they cannot count.) Even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.

You see, the way this normally works is that I pop open the laptop on the plane ride home and write out thoughts and notes from the game VCU just played. I match those thoughts to stats and the boxscore, and turn them into sentences the next day. I do this even after losses.



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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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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:


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.




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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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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It’s Senior Night, which is another great opportunity to use this video, which I think was my high school class song. That makes me some kind of super duper senior at this point. Let’s move on:


On Saturday, seniors Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic will play their final home game as Rams. Mike Litos stepped in to pen this great tribute for the game program. If you can’t make it to the game and pick up a program, make sure you put your Internet to good use and read it online.

A sample:

In every big moment over the past four years for VCU basketball, these two young men have been right there in the mix.

And while it’s important to note that the big moments in the careers of Reddic and Brandenberg came in the NCAA tournament, they both represent so much more than moments on a grand stage. Both have impressive career statistics, crossing the 1,000-points plateau, but numbers don’t represent their impact on the VCU program.

They represent the rise of VCU basketball in the national conscience. Because as much as you point to the Final Four run as a watershed two weeks–and it certainly was–the ability of the players to serve as the backbones for at least two more NCAA Tournament-winning teams cannot be underestimated.

Make sure you read. Also, Shaka Smart gave his comments on his seniors Tuesday during his radio show.


It’s appropriate that these seniors have another opportunity to do something historic tonight. VCU will be attempting to complete an undefeated season at home since the 1970-71 season. VCU is 14-0 at the Verizon Wireless Arena this season.



3777914554-1INTERSTATE 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.


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Mike Litos joins Ram Radio as color analyst for the 2012-13.

VCU alumnus, founder and bocce enthusiast Mike Litos (@VCULitos) will join the VCU Ram Radio broadcast team for the 2012-13 season as color analyst. He’ll join play-by-play voice (and former child acting star) Robby Robinson to bring VCU Men’s Basketball into your living room (and car, and mobile device, etc.).

I recently caught up with Litos to get some answers to the questions that are burning up Ram Nation right now, such as, “Would you be supportive of a Wham! reunion?”
CK: A select few get to come back to their alma mater and put in a position like this. How exciting is this opportunity for you, as a long-time fan?

ML: I’m rarely at a loss for words, lots of them, but I’m still having a difficult time articulating how exciting this opportunity is for me. I will say it’s extremely humbling to even be considered…we’ve got incredible momentum as an athletics department and a university, so to become a bigger part of that is thrilling. I very much look forward to digging in and contributing where I can.

CK: Your predecessor, Mike Ellis, was known for his knowledge of Xs and Ox, his stories and his undying devotion to officiating. What can fans expect when they turn the dial to listen to the game this year?
ML: It’s possible I’ve given aid to an official who, shall we say, may have erred in his interpretation of the rules. I’ll continue to help out the zebras. But really what people can expect is an answer to the question why. My goal is to be invisible. What I mean is that the radio audience gets a mental picture of what’s occurring on the court. Robby does a great job explaining what’s happening; my job is to depict what’s happening that impacts what Robby is describing.


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