Category Archives: Sports

Bowden’s (non-conference) Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

As we say goodbye to one year, and bring in another one we also say farewell to the strongest out of conference schedule VCU has played under Coach Smart’s tenure. VCU’s strength of schedule as of January 4th was ranked eighth in the country, and second among mid majors. Going into the season the Rams schedule was headlined by a neutral site game against Villanova, and a home rematch against Virginia. Along the way VCU faced some stiff competition, Toledo in their home opener, a double overtime thriller against Northern Iowa, and a closer than expected win over Illinois State.

The low point of the OOC schedule was the close lost to in state rival Old Dominion. The Rams met expectations in terms of wins, and growth. They finished non-conference play with a record of 10-3, and two of the losses for sure (Villanova, and UVA) won’t be frowned upon by the NCAA selection committee come March.

VCU also was able to get four of the five freshmen into the rotation at different times for them to be able to make mistakes, learn, and mature for when they’ll be called upon later on in the season. Freshman Terry Larrier saw the most playing time among the freshmen and showed glimpses of the prolific scorer he could become. Jonathan Williams struggled in the beginning of the season but has recently picked up his play and is learning from veteran guards Briante Weber, and Jequan Lewis. Justin Tillman appears to have become comfortable with his role quicker than all the freshmen. Every minute Tillman’s on the floor he brings energy to the game. He’s shown the ability to attack the glass on both ends of the floor, and does a tremendous job at running the lanes on fast breaks which has, and will continue to result in highlight fast break dunks. Michael Gilmore is also becoming accustomed to being a high energy guy at all times. Unfortunately redshirt freshmen Antravious Simmons felt it was best for him to transfer out and play closer to home at Florida Gulf Coast.

  As far as the returning players are concerned Briante, and Jequan have shown improved point guard play. Melvin Johnson has been shooting lights out, and is better at making plays off the bounce. Jordan Burgess has been injury free so far, and is providing VCU with an added outside threat, and on ball defender. Mo is becoming a better rim protector by the game, and VCU should look to him more during conference play as a low post threat. Doug Brooks is becoming comfortable with his increase in minutes this year from his freshmen season. Jarred Guest is bringing senior leadership, and has been a model for what Michael Gilmore, and Justin Tillman can become. Another bright spot is that Torrey Burston was able to score his first points as a VCU ram against Belmont during the holiday break. 

VCU is more than prepared to compete in the A-10, and win a conference championship. They’ll have to go through Dayton, George Washington, Davidson, and Rhode Island who all have competitive teams and on any night can beat VCU. For the Rams to succeed they’ll need to make sure they  defend without fouling excessively, rebound on both ends of the floor, and find some type of low post presence when their outside shot isn’t falling. If VCU can do these things Ram Nation should expect an Automatic NCAA berth, and their first Atlantic 10 conference tournament championship.

Bowden’s Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

In the past week, Ram Nation saw their team go 1-1 with a nail biting win over Illinois State, and another loss to a ranked opponent in the Virginia Cavaliers.

In the first game of the week, the Rams went on the road in the second year of their home-and-home series with the Illinois State Red Birds of the Missouri Valley Conference.  Initially the game appeared to be a game where the Rams were flat, like the ODU game. The Rams found themselves facing a 16 point deficit early in the game. The slow start could be attributed to Shaka not starting senior guard Briante Weber for reasons undisclosed reasons. At halftime the Rams cut Illinois State’s lead to two points, and would continue to enforce their style of play throughout the second half. When Melvin Johnson began to cool down in the second half, senior wing Treveon Graham picked up the scoring with some crucial buckets when attacking the Red Birds 2-3 zone. The Rams forced over 20 turnovers, and made it difficult at times for Illinois State to even bring the ball up before being called for a 10-second violation. VCU was able to use their mixture of experience and talent to overwhelm Illinois State, and come out with the victory 66-62.  Melvin finished with 19 points, Treveon finished with 17 points, and Jordan Burgess finished with 10 points. After this game, myself and Ram Nation felt confident in VCU going into Saturday’s game against UVA which would have a lot riding on this game based off of last year’s thriller.

Prior to tip off, Saturday’s game had all the hype that was expected. SHAKAVILLE was present outside the stadium as fans waited for the opportunity to get the best seats for a game that had ticket sold out weeks before the season had even begun. When you walked into the arena white shirts were placed on every seat as the fans successfully pulled off a white out in the Siegel Center. As the game started, VCU scored on their first few possessions with UVA matching them with their future NBA wing player, Justin Anderson. UVA then went on to take a 10-point halftime lead. The second half started off the same way with the Cavaliers keeping a minimum eight point lead on the Rams. The Rams were down 13, Treveon Graham scored nine straight points on three consecutive three-pointers, which cut the UVA lead to nine. UVA called a time out to stop the bleeding as it appeared the Rams had momentum, and the Stu was filled with the chant of the VCU War Song. After the timeout, UVA answered VCU’s run with their own 15-0 run which put the game out of reach, and lead to UVA closing out the game 74-57. It was a well-played game by both teams. Hopefully, the Rams don’t dread on this loss as they face the 23rd ranked University of Northern Iowa this Saturday in Richmond.

Bowden’s Breakdown

Malik Bowden’s Men’s Basketball Blog

VCU has finally begun their 2014-2015 basketball season. As of December 1st, the Rams are 4-2 with a competitive home win over Toledo, two blowout wins over Tennessee, and Maryland-Eastern Shore, and a 3rd place win in the Progressive Legends Classic over Oregon. Their losses are at the hands national powerhouse Villanova, and most recently a painful loss to longtime rival Old Dominion University. I expect to see VCU drop in the polls. Because the Rams already has the mid-major label, with two early losses (one reasonable loss, and one unacceptable loss) and the Associated Press prefers to give the top 25 spots to high major teams.

Regardless of the ranking the Rams can’t dread about last week’s performance and prepare for one of their biggest games of the year. On Tuesday, December 2 the Rams will travel to Illinois State, a team they defeated by 38 points last year in the Siegel Center. Illinois St. should be taken seriously just like the other non-conference opponents VCU will face this year. They’re currently 3-2 on the year, return three of their top five scorers and defeated ODU by 19 points at home.

The Rams can’t afford to look past the Redbirds in anticipation of what appears to be the Virginia college state championship game between VCU, and number seven ranked Virginia Cavilers. When the Rams take on the Cavs this Saturday in the “Stu” any true basketball fan that resides in the Commonwealth will want to tune in. Last year, VCU went to Charlottesville and defeated a UVA team that won the ACC conference regular season title, the ACC Conference Tournament, and made it to the Sweet 16. UVA also returns three of their top five scorers, and still excel in their half court, possession by possession style. These two Virginia teams play styles that are found on two different ends of the spectrum. In order for VCU to beat the Cavs they’ll need to make sure they dictate the tempo of the game. Although it’s easier said than done, the Rams need to make UVA run their offense at a much faster, and frantic pace. Naturally, UVA uses almost the entire shot clock when they have the ball. This means VCU must defend aggressively without fouling too much, and take some calculated risks, and go for steals which could lead to some rushed decisions by the UVA guards or bad shots that lead to long rebounds, and fast break run outs for VCU.

On the offensive end, if the rams can’t find Melvin Johnson or Jordan Burgess spotting up for three, and Briante doesn’t have a straight line to the basket, they need to make sure the offense starts, and ends with Treveon “ the Freight Train” Graham. No matter what the stats say the rams need him to be the leading scorer every game unless it’s a blowout or if another player is just unconscious from the field. He’s the best on the team right now at creating his own shot, and has the most experience on the team. If the Rams make sure those things occur they have a very strong chance of winning against Illinois St., and UVA, and climbing back up the rankings.