Virginia Commonwealth Rams: NCAA Tournament Team Preview

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (5 Seed, South Bracket)

Record: 26-8 (12-4 Atlantic 10)

Coach: Shaka Smart

Tournament Birth: At-Large Bid

Big Wins: Virginia, St. Louis, Dayton, George Washington, Winthrop, Belmont

Big Losses: UMass, St. Joe’s (3), Florida State, St. Louis, George Washington

Virginia Commonwealth University has been dominant in its march to the Atlantic 10 conference tournament championship. Early season successes over No. 6 Virginia, Winthrop and Belmont catapulted the Rams into a successful run through the Atlantic 10. Coach Shaka Smart’s program has shown poise in navigating through the rigorous A-10 schedule, which the Rams successfully did with only four defeats and a second-place finish in the competitive league.

In mid-February there was talk of VCU being on the tournament at-large bubble, when they lost successive games to Atlantic 10 front runners St. Louis and UMass. All the Rams have done since falling to UMass on Feb. 21, however, is win its way all the way to the conference championship. VCU had posted five straight victories before falling to St. Joe’s for the A10 championship. Those wins included a regular season contest against St. Louis and back-to-back victories against Richmond and George Washington to advance it to the championship against St. Joe’s. In the March 1 game against the Billikens, VCU handed the No. 18 team in the nation its first road defeat by a count of 67-56. Shaka Smart’s club has also posted the Atlantic 10 conference’s lone unblemished home mark at 15-0.

                    Top Players

POINTS

PPG

FG%

FT%

3PT%

Treveon Graham

15.7

.436

.690

.344

Juvonte Reddic

12.0

.511

.556

.333

REBOUNDS

REB

OFF

DEF

BPG

Juvonte Reddic

8.5

3.6

4.4

1.1

Treveon Graham

6.9

2.0

4.9

0.2

ASSISTS

APG

SPG

TO

AST/TO

Briante Webber

3.8

3.5

1.9

2.0

Treveon Graham

2.1

0.9

1.8

1.2

Starting Five

F –   Juvonte Reddic

G –  Jordan Burgess

G –  Briante Weber

G – Treveon Graham

G – Rob Brandenberg

Who’s Hot: Briante Weber, VCU team defense. Weber, the two-time defensive player of the year has brought his offense along with his D to New Jersey for the Atlantic 10 tournament. Against Richmond and George Washington, the junior guard had averaged 17 points on 13-21 shooting.  The 6’2″ Weber averaged just over nine points per game during the regular season. He also contributed 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the two tournament games, spring-boarding the Rams to the tournament championship.

Once again, the main thing that this Shaka Smart coached club is know for is defense. Smart’s “havoc” full-court press style has been disastrous for opponents all season, but especially over the last three weeks. Including Virginia Commonwealth University’s victory over Fordham on Feb. 27, the Rams have held opponents to 58.8 points to finish the regular season and through the Atlantic 10 conference tournament.

Who’s Not: Jordan Burgess. The freshman guard has struggled to score the basketball, especially during the post-season. In the A-10 tourney he averaged 3.3 points on 4-15 shooting, including being shut out in the championship game against St.Joe’s.

Outlook: If Virginia Commonwealth University can avoid St. Joe’s in the NCAA tournament, their chances of advancing deep into the  dance are good. Including the Atlantic 10 conference championship, the Hawks have beaten the Rams three straight times this season. VCU has only five other losses the entire year. Still, Shaka Smart’s swarming, aggressive press defense translates well into NCAA tournament action. The Rams, who should have a favorable seed after their run in the A10 tourney, should make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.

Commentary by Jeremy Mika

Sources:

CBS Sports

Basketball State

ESPN 

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