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.