There’s an old saying with shooters that they are either hot or due. Shots didn’t always fall for VCU last season after losing four players from a Final 4 squad, a team loaded with guys who could hit from deep, but there was one constant: a chaotic pressure defense.
I’m still of the opinion that we’ve got a lot of “due” guys this coming hoops season, but odds are VCU’s success or failure in their first season of the A-10 will be based on their ability to turn teams over.
The CAA was home to some miserable ball handlers, with one of the nation’s worst teams in Towson turning it over 18.1 times per contest. Even one of the league’s top teams, George Mason, gave it up over 15 possessions a night.
But even with three 15+ turnover teams (Northeastern rounding out the list), the CAA average (13.62) is just around a half a TO a game more than the A-10 as a whole (13.07).
The Rams 11.4 turnover avg. in the CAA last season would have ranked 2nd to just St. Louis in the A-10. Their +6.47 turnover margin, one of the best in the country, would have been tops in the league.
VCU will hope to raise that St. Louis average, as the Billikens will be one of the picks to win the Atlantic 10 after stringing together 26 wins before falling to top-seeded Michigan State by four points in last season’s NCAA tournament.
Roster turnover doesn’t always dictate ability to handle pressure, but several top Atlantic 10 teams will have some major pieces to replace, that, in their first year of handling the unfamiliar pressure of VCU’s havoc brand of defense, may bode well for the black-and-gold Rams on their quest to return to the NCAA tournament.
A look at how some of the A-10’s top teams faired last season, and who they’ll look to replace as potential targets of VCU’s defensive attack:
Temple (24-8, 12.5 turnovers/game): Juan Fernandez (3.9 assists to 2.3 turnovers), Ramone Moore (3.5 assists to 2.6 turnovers), 29.1 pts/game to replace.
St. Louis (26-8, 11.2 turnovers/game): No major losses at guard.
Xavier (23-13, 12.6 turnovers/game): Tu Holloway (5.1 assists to 3 turnovers), 17 pts/game to replace from the talented guard.
St. Bonaventure (20-12, 14.2 turnovers/game): No major losses at guard for the 2012 A-10 champs, but have to replace do-it-all forward Andrew Nicholson, first round draft pick of the Orlando Magic.
UMass (25-12, 14.8 turnovers/game): No major losses at guard. VCU will get reaquainted with former Hofstra guard and breakout UMass player, Chaz Williams (16.4 pts, 6.4 asts, but does turn the ball over 3.4 times per game). Williams did not play in his only meeting with VCU during his time at Hofstra.
La Salle (21-13, 13 turnovers/game): Earl Pettis (2.2 assists to 1.6 turnovers). The Explorers must replace 15.3 points from the 6’5 graduated guard.
Dayton (20-12, 13 turnovers/game): Paul Williams, senior guard averaging 9.1 points in 30 minutes per game. Josh Parker, another senior guard who posted 8.7 points in 23 minutes/contest for the Flyers.
St. Joseph’s (20-14, 12.6 turnovers/game): No major losses at guard.
Guard play of course isn’t the only factor with VCU’s defensive system. Junior big Juvonte Reddic ranked third for VCU last season in steals at 1.3/game. Reddic scored a number of points off steals and fast breaks for a team that often plays small to force teams into an uncomfortable tempo.
Every Ram who averaged 20+ minutes had at least one steal per contest last season. Freshman Briante Weber lead the team in steals at 2.1/game in only 18.7 minutes a night, a steal % that lead the nation.
Fellow freshman Treveon Graham checked in at just under a steal a night (0.8) in just 16.8 minutes of play.