Recon: Virginia Commonwealth University

Recon: Virginia Commonwealth University

NCAA VCU Kansas

Virginia Commonwealth’s basketball program is both a cruel reminder and beacon of hope for all other respectable mid-major programs in college basketball. VCU’s success over the past few seasons raises two immediate thoughts for a program akin to Dayton’s: (1) If VCU can do it, so can we! (Smiley face) or, (2) If VCU can do it, why can’t we? (Frowny face)

VCU’s advances have put all like-minded athletic departments on notice. Gonzaga, Butler, and VCU (George Mason to a lesser extent) have proven that lesser resources don’t necessarily mean lesser results. The gap between programs like Butler/VCU/Gonzaga and the Dayton’s of the world is solidified by their stability and the ability to develop players. (And yes, obviously success does breed success).

There have been plenty of programs that have had their profiles temporarily enhanced by NCAA tournament runs — Valpo, Kent State, Southern Illinois, Nevada, Davidson, Wichita State just to name a few — but they’ve lacked the long-term success to permanently maintain their status on a higher level. The key is to seize the opportunity you’ve been given and run with it. Butler, Gonzaga and VCU have succeeded where so many others have failed.

shakasmart2

The essential building block for these programs is their coaches, who have remained at their respective schools in spite of numerous opportunities to leave for greener pa$ture$.

The reasons seem apparent:

  • Job security: Unless Smart, Stevens or Mark Few get pulled over with a dead boy’s body in their trunks, they aren’t in any danger of losing their jobs. I’m almost positive Stevens would aw-shucks his way out of a mass murder at this point. Shaka Smart could be caught masturbating outside of an elementary school and the local police would probably help finish him off. That’s stability, folks.
  • Reinvestment: Schools like Gonzaga, VCU and Butler have realized that having a consistently strong basketball program pays dividends elsewhere. It’s great exposure for the school and, as UD’s higher-ups could tell you, can become a very nice cash cow from which to suckle from maniacally. Most importantly, these schools haven’t shied away from rewarding their coaches financially, making their decision to leave that much more difficult. (Smart is making around $1.2 million, Few and Stevens are rumored to earn around a million per year)
  • Grass isn’t necessary greener: These coaches have seen their mid-major colleagues jump ship to big conference jobs only to be back on the pavement in a few seasons (I’m looking at you, Brian Gregory). I’m not saying coaches like Stevens or Smart are risk-adverse, but there is a certain amount of comfort knowing that the challenges of playing in the West Coast or A10 are less than that of the Big Ten or ACC. At this point Mark Few could coach via Skype and still crank out a 20 win season.

So what does that mean for Dayton? It means we need to find the right man for the job, someone who won’t see UD as a stepping stone to a higher-profile gig. Realizing it’s impossible to identify a mans intention’s during the vetting process, Dayton needs to turn to alternative tactics. Blackmail? Yes. Physical threats? Possibly.

I want Dayton to hire a coach that will stay here TOO LONG. A coach that will eventually slip into dementia and need to be driven to the Arena each day because he’s no longer legally allowed to operate a vehicle. A coach that will miss games due to complications from bed sores. Is that too much to ask?

Anyway, kudos to VCU. They have found their man and managed to hold onto him for the foreseeable future.

Overview

 24, 24, 27, 28, 29 – those are the win totals for VCU over the past five seasons. I’m not going to do the research, still don’t really understand how to use the Google, but let’s just assume that’s one of better track records in the nation over that time frame. Even with the ninth-youngest team in the nation last season, VCU was a shot away from beating Indiana and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. That’s consistency.

The current Rams come into the UD game with a 12-3 record. Although VCU lacks a defining non-conference win, a nineteen-point shellacking of Alabama notwithstanding, the Rams can play with anyone, anytime, any place.

The Rams return 84 percent of their minutes played, 80 percent of their scoring and 85 percent of their rebounding from last season. Shaka Smart’s club returns four starters from last year’s 29-7 club. Even so, VCU is still a rather young team, with only two seniors playing significant minutes. It’s clear that like herpes, the Rams aren’t going away.

cbssports_shakecrouching

Virginia Commonwealth is a very balanced team, with four players averaging double-digits in scoring and not a player logging more than 27 minutes per game. The Rams are deep too, Octomom deep. Expect Smart to call no less than ten players into duty during Wednesday night’s matchup. VCU’s depth allows the Rams to play up-tempo and aggressive on both sides of the floor. We are talking hands-in-pants defense.

The Rams are currently the top scoring offense (78.5 ppg) and defense (59.3 ppg) in the Atlantic Ten. Not only does VCU like to get shots up, they do so efficiently. The Rams average 1.11 points per possession, best in the conference, and only allow just .84 per opponent possession, again — best in the goddamn league. The icing on the cake, the Rams lead the nation in turnovers forced per game (20.7).

VCU comes into this game on a nine game winning streak.

One more thing: HAVOC!!!

troydanielsMeet and Greet

VCU doesn’t feature any superstars, it’s more like a firing squad — you never know who’s firing live rounds until it’s too late. Leading the way scoring-wise is sophomore guard Treveon Graham. Graham can hit shots from the perimeter or use his large frame to get to the rim. He is averaging just less than 15 points and is grabbing 5.4 boards per game. Senior guard Troy Daniels joins Graham in the starting backcourt and is one of the nation’s top three-point specialists. Daniels hit eleven threes in VCU’s blowout victory over East Tennessee State earlier this month, finishing with 33 points on the night. 90% of Daniels’ attempts this season have been from behind the arc, and he’s already attempted 145 three-point shots through the Rams’ first 15 games. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.9 points per contest.

Senior guard Darius Theus has come out of the game slowly over the first half of the season but is still looked upon as one of the Rams’ leaders. The senior point-guard is scoring 6.2 points per game and dishing out 4.3 assists. Briante Weber (6.0 ppg, 3.7 apg) is a high-energy sub who led the CAA in steals last season and already has 50 on the season coming into tonight’s game with UD. Swingman Rod Brandenberg has bounced back from a sophomore slump – averaging 10.7 points per game and pulling down 3.1 rebounds as well.

havoc

VCU’s big man is 6’9” forward Juvonte Reddic, a post player who can score in a number of ways. He’s a matchup problem due to his athleticism and versatility. Reddic is the Rams’ third-leading scorer, 13.6 per game, and leading rebounder (7.1 rpg). Seven-footer DJ Haley will give Reddic some relief in the frontcourt and do the dirty work when he is on the court.

Numbers Game

“Pick a number between one to ten. Now, pick the number that you think I picked you to pick.
”

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Prediction

UD’s turnover rate is going to be uncharacteristically high, just know that now. Dayton comes into the game averaging 13.8 turnovers per game, slightly above the national average. I expect the Flyers to turn the ball over 20+ times and get dominated on the boards. Between you and me, that’s a recipe for disaster. Throw in the fact that this is a roadie, VCU’s first home conference game, and I have to believe that UD will be lucky just to leave Richmond with their pants and wallets. VCU humbles the Flyers, 78-67. UD is going to need a W this weekend against Butler, the Cagers can’t afford to start off conference play 0-2.

DDVCU

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Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.
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