By Jon Rothstein
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1. SMALL BALL
It took VCU coach Shaka Smart all of 150 seconds to switch to a four-guard lineup in Tuesday night’s game against UAB — the result? A 68-49 win. The Rams sped up the Blazers minutes into the first half and broke the game wide open in thanks to their tantalizing pressure on defense and solid spacing on offense. If this team has a chance to win the CAA it will be because of their smaller, skilled lineup that causes mismatches on both sides of the floor.
2. JUVONTE’S JIVE
After enjoying a break out performance as a freshman during VCU’s third round NCAA Tournament win over Purdue last season, Juvonte Reddic looks primed to take a major jump as a sophomore. The 6-foot-9 power forward displayed a well versed offensive arsenal against UAB including a face up game that could have pro scouts drooling in a few seasons. The lanky big man really resembles a mid-major version of former Tennessee star Tyler Smith.
3. PAVE THE RHOADES
After being the architect of VCU’s offense during last season’s Final Four run, Rams Associate Head Coach Mike Rhoades is now in charge of this team’s defense — and it’s paying major dividends. VCU’s tenacious ball pressure is considerably improved from early in the season and the Rams are looking like they’ll be an absolute nuisance to play in the CAA.
4. BRIANTE’S BURST
The instant Briante Weber enters a game the pace immediately quickens — and that’s bad news for an opponent’s point guard. VCU’s relentless freshman is the perfect sixth man for the Rams’ frenetic pace and could become one of the nation’s leaders in steals before his career is done. Think former Seton Hall guard Keon Lawrence playing at a mid-major level.
5. SOKO’S SPIRIT
Ovie Soko and UAB don’t have the pop in the back court they did last season when the Blazers reached the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t stop the power forward from competing on every possession. A grizzled veteran, the 6-foot-8 Soko is a load in the paint and a force on the glass. It will be up to the development of this team’s inexperienced perimeter to balance out their seasoned front line.
BY THE NUMBERS
The number of turnovers committed by UAB.
What VCU sophomore power forward Juvonte Reddic shot from the floor. Reddic finished with 16 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes.
THEY SAID IT
“Defensively, he’s the definition of wreaking havoc,” – VCU coach Shaka Smart on Rams freshman guard Briante Weber
* VCU will play at Hofstra on Monday, January 2nd at 7 PM. The match up should feature a raucous pace and potentially one of the more entertaining college basketball games in the metropolitan area this season.
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