I heard someone before the game say that VCU is the 10th youngest team in college hoops — and I assume my source, well…checked his sources. Either way, what I do know is VCU is coming off a Final 4 season that graduated four seniors who absolutely lit up the 2011 Southwest Regional bracket — there’s a lot of fresh faces replacing a lot of reliable scoring.
What I’ve seen so far is roughly what we all expected: a young team struggling to find out exactly where everyone fits in.
With that said, I was still somewhat stunned watching the Rams play at such a level against a very beatable Seton Hall team, falling 69-54 in the first round of the Charleston Classic.
A couple of stats that stuck out from tonight’s action:
-Burgess goes 4-10. The senior who absolutely lit up last year’s Southwest Regional bracket has clearly had a hard time adjusting to his new role as go-to guy. Bradfords’ first field goal came with 15:42 left in the game, giving him three halves without a made field goal to start the season. I have to imagine that gets turned around fast, but heading into tonight’s game, I admit I thought the same thing.
-8 assists: That’s 11 less than Joey Rodriguez dropped by himself in VCU’s home opener last season. Clearly that number has a lot to do with the amount of new faces operating in this offense, and I have to believe we won’t see many of these kinds of nights once guys gain confidence and experience in the offense. Hitting shots also helps. Darius Theus has the skill set to be a tough point guard for the Rams, but he may have to establish himself as more of a scorer before he can open up some of his teammates, just as Joey Rodriguez and Eric Maynor were able to do before him.
-Havoc 3.0/opponents points in the paint: Usually it’s the power conference manning up, and the so called “mid-major” throwing a slew of zone looks at the big boys to try and make up for an athletic disadvantage. Tonight however it was the Big East’s Seton Hall that dared VCU to hit the difficult shots, watching the Rams go a cold 6-21 from long range against the Pirates zone looks, while Seton Hall attacked VCU’s man defense.
After opening the contest with a 3-pointer, Seton Hall went the next 21 minutes without hitting a jump shot. The Pirates next nine baskets were either layups or dunks. Seton Hall came into this game having escaped a St. Francis (NY) team in overtime, hitting a sub-pedestrian 1-of-13 shots from long range. In my opinion, the Rams played to Seton Hall’s strength, in allowing their two best players, Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope, the opportunity to do what they do best.
In a preseason conversation with the Richmond Time’s Dispatch, Coach Smart commented on his increased use of zone defense during last year’s successful tournament run, “Hopefully, I’ve learned from last year’s experience and I’ll mix it up more.”
Clearly, there’s a lot of learning left to do for this year’s VCU squad.
The Rams have a quick turnaround as they take on Georgia Tech tomorrow night at 8:30 on CSS/ESPN3 in the tournament’s consolation bracket.