VCU AND A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

Leave a comment

Barclays-Center

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also home to the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in March.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – When is a game more than a game? For VCU, it’s usually when the game is in New York.

On Saturday, another opportunity for the game within the game presented itself. VCU beat back ACC foe Boston College 69-50 at Barclays Center with an outstanding defensive performance. That’s an effort worthy of its own discussion, but that’s not what’s being discussed here. What was significant about VCU’s appearance at the Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival is how the Rams, and the program as a whole, benefit from even playing that game to begin with.

If you’re a casual fan, or just someone that wants to focus on the happenings on the court, there was plenty to enjoy in VCU’s win. But if you’re interested in all facets of the program, then it’s a worthwhile venture to consider the value of events like this one.

Let’s deal with the obvious first. Saturday’s game was a chance for VCU to play a neutral site game against an ACC opponent. The Rams have experienced difficulty scheduling home-and-home series with schools from conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, SEC and the like. Rather than accept an inequitable 2-for-1 split – or worse – the next best thing has been to play teams on neutral floors. This is fast becoming a staple of the Rams’ non-conference schedule.

Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart said VCU learned of the Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival through organizer Chris Spencer of Basketball Tournaments, Inc., who is one of the men behind the Las Vegas Invitational and other similar college basketball events. Assistant Coach Mike Morrell is in charge of scheduling for VCU, and looks for opportunities just like this one to give the Rams both balance and NCAA-resume building opportunities.

But there’s more to consider; everything from recruiting to media exposure to the Atlantic 10 Championship in March.

More

Advertisements

HAVOC HUMMING AT NEAR-HISTORIC LEVEL

Leave a comment

VCU has limited ACC opponents Virginia Tech and Boston College to 52 and 50 points, respectively, in back-to-back games.

VCU has limited ACC opponents Virginia Tech and Boston College to 52 and 50 points, respectively, in back-to-back games.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Watch out, folks. Havoc is humming. VCU’s signature full court pressure is starting to squeeze opponents with the strength of a boa constrictor, and the results are getting more impressive with each passing game.

Saturday night, Boston College felt the Rams tighten their grip until all the life had been choked out of the Eagles’ previously notable offense. VCU beat Boston College 69-50 Saturday at Barclays Center, but it wasn’t even that close. If not for a handful of meaningless buckets in the waning moments, it would have looked much worse. Even so, it was BC’s lowest offensive output in nearly a year. For a while, it looked like the Eagles might not reach 40 points, let alone 50.

When the wreckage was cleared away, all Boston College Coach Steve Donohue could do was shake his head at a season-high 23 turnovers, a season-low three 3-pointers and 39 percent (17-of-44) shooting overall. Boston College scored just 17 points in the first half and finished the game 25 points under its season average. During one particular stretch, BC recorded one field goal in 14 minutes. The Eagles entered the game ranked 63rd nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rating – better than nearly 300 other Division I teams – and left with a duffel bag full of questions.

More

RAMS MASTERFUL IN WIN, FLASH POTENTIAL

4 Comments

Melvin Johnson hit 8-of-11 three-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points Saturday.

Melvin Johnson hit 8-of-11 three-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart is about as cerebral a coach as there is in college basketball, one who can effortlessly quote Mark Twain, Maya Angelou and John Keats in the same conversation. But Saturday, following VCU’s 82-52 victory over Virginia Tech at the Richmond Coliseum, he was, but for a moment, reduced to something more along the lines of Bill S. Preston, Esquire.

When asked to elaborate on how it felt to watch his team stage an is-this-really-happening 37-2 blitzkreig that blew the game wide open in the first half, Smart pondered, grinned and leaned into the microphone.

“It was fun,” he mused.

Sometimes less is more. What Smart’s taut assessment revealed was both his delight in the Rams’ success, as well as the sheer magnitude of the performance. In one 11-minute segment, VCU turned a 6-0 deficit into a 37-8 blowout. It wasn’t so much basketball as art. In the Havoc genre, this was the Mona Lisa, painted in less time than it takes to make a meatloaf.

That run, which VCU finished with 31 straight points, keyed the Rams’ most dominant performance of the season, one which saw sophomore Melvin Johnson explode for a career-high 27 points and eight 3-pointers.

More

RAM SEEKS NEW ENDING FOR OLD STORY

Leave a comment

Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon scored 14 points in his VCU debut versus Illinois State.

Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon scored 14 points in his VCU debut versus Illinois State.

RICHMOND, Va. – Although Terrance Shannon shared the Alamodome court with Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic that night in San Antonio, he does not share their cheerful recollection of the evening’s events.

It was March 25, 2011. Brandenberg and Reddic were freshmen on a VCU team in the midst of one of the NCAA Tournament’s most memorable Cinderella romps to the Final Four. Shannon, meanwhile, was on the opposing sideline of that Sweet 16 matchup as a member of a favored Florida State team. Those final moments are permanently pressed into the psyches of all three players; the Joey Rodriguez-to-Bradford Burgess inbounds play for the winning score in overtime, the Brandenberg blocked shot at the final horn that clinched a 72-71 VCU win and set Rams’ play-by-play broadcaster Robby Robinson on hyperbolic repeat.

Although it was nearly three years ago, Shannon hasn’t shaken the feeling.

“Here I don’t talk much about it because still to this day, I get mad every time I see a Final Four shirt or the picture of the 72-71 score in the coaches’ office,” he says through a disarming grin.

More

CALIFORNIA (PA.) EXHIBITION NOTEBOOK

1 Comment

Despite the offseason chatter, fouls slid into the background of VCU's 92-54 win.

Despite a lot of offseason chatter fouls slid into the background of VCU’s 92-54 win.

BOX SCORE

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a bit of a fishing expedition to find a reasonable narrative in these mismatched Division I-Division II exhibition games.  There’s a desire to look at the scoreboard, which showed that VCU earned a 92-54 win over California (Pa.) Saturday night, and extrapolate 100 superlatives from the wreckage of the box score. More often than not, it’s fool’s gold.

But Saturday, even as I waded through some impressive, if not gaudy, statistics, I was still struck by the depth of talent on this VCU team. If Shaka Smart truly desires a 10 or 11-man rotation, it sure looks like he’s got the horses to do it.

Smart essentially rotated 11 players in the first half and 10 in the second after Rob Brandenberg exited with back spasms. While there were moments of youthful frustration, there was hardly a dramatic drop-off in ability.

Freshman Doug Brooks led VCU in scoring with 14 points in 13 minutes of play. For most of those 13 minutes, he looked like Briante Weber with a better jumper and a disinterested barber.

More

MEN’S HOOPS PRESSER (OCT. 31)

Leave a comment

It’s not spooky or Halloween-themed or anything. It’s just a press conference. But it’s fun anyway. Terrance Shannon, Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic address the media prior to VCU’s Nov. 2 exhibition game with California (Pa.).

BLACK AND GOLD GAME SCRIBBLES AND OBSERVATIONS

Leave a comment

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.

More

MEN’S BASKETBALL PHOTO DAY

1 Comment

I dropped in on men’s basketball photo day earlier and snapped a few photos with my iPhone. They’re obviously phone quality, but at least you guys get a peek at the new uniforms and some of the guys.

Rob Brandenberg

Rob Brandenberg

More Brandenberg

More Brandenberg

More

POINT OF CONTENTION…AND OTHER TIDBITS

1 Comment

Excitable and always entertaining, Briante Weber may be also be VCU's solution at point guard.

Excitable and always entertaining, Briante Weber may be also be VCU’s solution at point guard.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart got to the point Wednesday.

In a meeting with members of the local media, the VCU coach provided insight into the Rams’ point guard situation for the upcoming season. Following the departure of senior Darius Theus (graduation) and Teddy Okereafor (transfer), the most logical choice to trigger the offense is rising junior and Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber.

It’s sound reasoning. Weber showed considerable improvement from his freshman season when backing up Theus last year. He started in place of an injured Theus in a win at Old Dominion on Dec. 7 and provided an 8-point, 9-rebound, 10 assist, 5-steal performance. He turned the ball over just once in that game. Weber averaged 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals per game last season and posted a point-guard friendly 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But Weber hasn’t played the position in college for any extended period of time. The excitable ballhawk has been something of a hybrid in college, a defensive disruptor with opportunistic tendencies on offense.

The only “true” scholarship point guard on the roster will be well-regarded incoming freshman JeQuan Lewis from Tennessee. Classmate Jairus Lyles played a fair amount of point guard in high school, and Smart says he’ll also be in the mix.

More

BRANDENBERG, GUEST HOPE EUROPE TRIP IS A PASSPORT TO SUCCESS

Leave a comment

Rising senior Rob Brandenberg averaged 10.4 points per game and sank 49 three-pointers last season.

Rising senior Rob Brandenberg averaged 10.4 points per game and sank 49 three-pointers last season.

RICHMOND, Va. – The passports of Rob Brandenberg and Jarred Guest will pick up a couple more stamps this summer, but they hope that’s not all they bring home with them.

The VCU duo is set to participate in a nine-day exhibition tour of Germany and the Czech Republic Aug. 11-19 with the Global Sports Academy (GSA). The team will be coached by Bill Brown of California (Pa.), a mentor of VCU’s Shaka Smart. For Brandenberg and Guest, it’ll be their second straight summer abroad. Both players were members of the Rams’ exhibition tour of Italy last August.

While there will be plenty of sights along the way, Brandenberg and Guest won’t exactly be singing “Holiday Road”. They say their primary focus is the same as every offseason, to become better players.

“Jarred and I have been working real hard, extremely hard for the season, so I think it’s going to be a chance for us to assert ourselves and show what we’ve been practicing and work on it in game form,” Brandenberg said.

Each player will have his own goals, his own checklist things to work on during the tour. For Brandenberg, who started 28 of 35 games last year and averaged 10.4 points, it means a focus on the intangibles. A rising senior, he’s aware that his teammates will look to him during the 2013-14 season for more than just his blazing speed or scoring punch.

More

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: