By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
1. SMALL BALL
VCU went to the last two NCAA Tournaments by playing a smaller lineup with four perimeter players that accelerated the pace of the game on both sides of the floor — and that should continue again this season, even though the Rams are going from the CAA to the Atlantic 10. Many assumed VCU would alter their style jumping up a level in conference but that’s not necessarily going to be the case. Last year, Shaka Smart would routinely go from a traditional to non-traditional lineup three minutes into each half and we expect more of the same to continue this season. Four-guard alignments will again be the norm in Richmond.
2. GRAHAM’S GROWTH
Treveon Graham is like a volcano — he’s just waiting to erupt. With the graduation of Bradford Burgess, the 6-5 Graham is the sure-fire candidate to slide down to power forward when the Rams go small. More minutes should mean more production for Graham, who as a sophomore should have a legitimate chance of leading VCU in scoring.
3. REDDIC READY TO GO
The time is now for Juvonte Reddic. VCU’s best pro prospect, the 6-9 Reddic will log more minutes on the interior this season than any other player on the Rams roster and he looks more than ready to trade blows with the best big men in the Atlantic 10. Often inconsistent last year as a sophomore, Reddic appears to be more reliable than he was all of last season. Pencil him in for 13 points and seven boards a game.
4. MELVIN THE MICROWAVE
Melvin Johnson was a late addition to VCU’s program over the summer and he should fit seamlessly into the Rams system. A high volume shooter who should benefit from the Rams knack for taking quick three-pointers early in the shot clock, the 6-3 Johnson figures to be a “Vinnie Johnson” type substitute for VCU, who has exceptional depth in the back court.
5. SOMETHING TO PROVE
VCU may have reached the Final Four in 2011 and advanced to the last two NCAA Tournaments but you get the feeling that this group has an extra edge since they’re about to join the Atlantic 10. Many don’t believe the Rams front court will be able to take the beating they’re about to encounter on the baseline — but that’s something Smart and his team will have to adjust to as they compete against squads that are bigger and more physical than they’re used to in the CAA. Reaching the field of 68 is always a goal at VCU, but now there’s another thing to shoot for — winning the Atlantic 10.
There’s not that much of a difference from this Rams team and the one we saw push Indiana to the brink in the third round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. VCU looks ready to again push the pace as often as possible and should be deeper at all spots on the floor. Briante Weber should be one of the better defensive guards in the country and will be a key reserve for the Rams as they look to attack the other team’s point guard defensively. The style will stay the same for the VCU but the competition level will definitely rise. We think they’re more than ready to embrace that concept, but whether or not they can win a league in which they’ve never played in is yet to be determined.
What’s your prediction for VCU? Let us know in the comments below!