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Game Week…

Yes it’s an exhibition, but we’re all headed to the Siegel Center on
Thursday to see the Rams play a team who will wear road jerseys. There
are officials to boo and starting lineups announced and media timeouts.
The Peppas will be in full force. We keep score. It begins right here ————>

Many
of you are wondering what occurred during Saturday’s scrimmage against
Virginia. Here’s what I was told: nobody was hurt, and ”      .” It
seems those who attended the scimmage turned into Teller for the
weekend. Oh well.

That got me to thinking…this year’s VCU team is a lot
like last year’s team. Brad Burgess is an important loss, but he’s one
guy. I’m not trying to minimize what Burgess meant to this team and to
this program. Rather, focus on one guy.

The Freight Train
has been rightfully tabbed to replace Burgess at the four. They are
different players–Tre is more aggressive and drives to the lane while
Brad was the far better shooter–but really they are the same player.
Each is an undersized four who is a matchup problem on offense, and the
lack of size is somewhat mitigated by the VCU havoc style of play.

So
what may be more important to this team is not replacing Brad Burgess,
but replacing Treveon Graham’s role from last year. Jarrod Guest comes
to mind, as does Justin Tuoyo. Heck Rob Brandenberg could slide down in
spot situations, and we could always go with the big lineup a few extra
minutes.

The gist is simple: my concern is replacing Graham’s 17
minutes and seven points, which includes being a part of the opposition
scouting report. “Being reckoned with” is not an official stat but it
matters.

But that’s it. That isn’t much upheaval. Darius: same
role. Briante: same role. Juvonte, DJ, Rob, Troy: same, same, same,
same. My hunch is that the UVa scrimmage looked a lot like most any game
from last year so it’s really a pointless recap. The team took a
natural season preparation step. We always want to be moving forward.

Continuity matters in college basketball, and that’s one aspect to this year’s team that should not go overlooked.

“I think anytime you have experience, you have advantages early in
the year,” said Shaka Smart at media day. “We’re a better team (now) than we were at this point
last year. Last year’s team got better and better each week, each month
and was playing terrific basketball in the last month of the season.”

In short, VCU has a head start. And that brings me to today’s stat geek
moment: goals, and what matters. How points are scored matters greatly.

A typical game last season had VCU hit 23-57 from the field (41%). The Rams were 7-22 from three and 16-35 from two, on average.

VCU
scored 32.7% of its points on threes last year. That was 53rd
nationally–very good, and made more impressive because we hit just
33.4% of our threes–211th nationally. The downside is that the
three-point shooting was highly inefficient. VCU saw stat lines of 5-23,
4-15, and 2-22 alongside 12-24, 11-25, and 8-20.

Efficient three point shooting is going to be very important this season. VCU needs Daniels and
Branderberg to get a little better, and both need to get some help from Melvin
Johnson to offset the loss of Burgess. Swishes allow the press to set up and loosens up the interior.

Efficiency in havoc breeds the kind of exictement from fans that creates spittle. Make-steal-make changes games.

Back
to statistics, let’s get that three-pointers made number to a more
respectable 37%. That number last season would have placed VCU about
60th nationally. We can easily get there  by taking two fewer
threes per game and making the same 7 or 8 (7.4 was the actual average)
each game.

That’s doable–in 25 of 36 games VCU made either 6, 7, 8
or 9 three-pointers. The difference comes in shot selection and
offensive patterns. So seven or eight makes in 20 attempts is a
reasonable goal and a good number for offensive balance.

Conversely, 46.6% of our points were made via two-point field goals
(306th). The 16-35 on two pointers is 45.7% and 254th nationally.  This
needs to improve, which won’t be helped by the new conference.

The
A10 is going to offer bigger players and more dynamic inside presences.
Simply put, we have to get better inside. Post touches will be
critical. As Shaka said “the better (Juvonte Reddic) plays the more he
is going to get the ball.”

So let’s use those two shots we didn’t
miss from behind the arc and give them both to the paint. Juvonte and DJ
Haley get a dunk each. That changes the two-point number to 18-37, a
more average 48.6%. That’s about 120th nationally.

Here’s the
summary of all that math. Nobody worries about the defense, but the
offense has become teeth-grindingly difficult at times. VCU avoids
taking two bad threes per game, turning them into two made two-pointers,
and it wholly changes the offensive aptitude and results of this team.

It’s neither insurmountable nor crazy talk: turn two bad threes into two good twos.

Remember, there’s only one player role changing as well–continuity
makes change like this much easier.

That’s four more points
per game, and here’s why that seemingly miniscule improvement is
important. Last season VCU lost four times from November 30 until the
end of the season (26-4). Three of those four losses were by one or two
points.

Or use the words of Smart to explain it: “When we
play well we create offense from our defense and pushing the ball. But in the last
six minutes of games most of the possessions are half court, so we need to focus
on that, to execute and score in the end game situation.”

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