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A Guest In The House…

You know where I've totally failed
over the past two weeks? The question never entered my mind: how should
I treat post game analysis and commentary?

We
get outstanding wrap ups from Chris Kowalczyk, and there are copious
links to the media to get their views. Chris's take on last night's
blowout over Virginia Union is a bullseye, especially: "Smart’s paid to
think big picture, and big picture is March."

The
last thing I want to do is create a "me, too" column. That doesn't help
you, and I always want to be additive to the VCU basketball experience. These things usually come to me over the weekend while running errands, raking
leaves, or on a run. Fortunately, all three of
those activities are on my weekend radar. I'll be ready for the regular season. Until then, here's some random bullets on what I saw:

  • Still
    blown away by seeing a line of students–not a handful but an actual
    line–outside the Siegel Center at 5:00, for a 7:30 tipoff to an
    exhibition game. There was more energy in that student line than in most
    actual exhibition games. Ridiculous, in the good way.
  • Statistics lose meaning in a game like that. (Did I just say that?) However you have to be impressed with the 18-22 effort from the foul line.
    There may have been less pressure, but it was a game situation, there
    were tired legs, and the quality of your opponent has almost no impact
    on success rate. I know I wasn't the only one to groan when Tre Graham
    clanked those first two. Justin Tuoyo made 5-6, and five different Rams
    players hit 2-2.
  • VCU grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. That happened just once last year, in the opener against St. Francis.
  • Melvin Johnson never met a shot he didn't like.
  • From
    the standpoint of raising eyebrows, Justin Tuoyo and Jarred Guest stood
    out last night. The returning players were exactly as expected (and
    needed), but these two commanded attention. Guest snapped off two very
    comfortable and fluid 15-footers–available because of a hard cut into
    the lane to get to the spot on time. Impressive. Tuoyo has such a great
    feel for space. He knew where his feet and body needed to be for
    defense, landing after catching a pass, or going after a rebound.
  • We
    saw some interesting lineups, for sure. One had Weber, Graham, and
    Brandenberg sharing "point guard" duties. Another had Darius Theus
    essentially playing the four spot. The lineup was Reddic, Theus,
    Daniels, Weber, and Johnson. I nominate Darius as the four because he
    was the second biggest guy we had on the court. Interesting, for sure.
  • Guest
    and Tuoyo, Part 2: The most impressive part of their impact, to me, was
    their play at the front of the press. Both are big four men who are
    tough to throw around or over in the backcourt–very key to the press.
    They force passes with air under them, which allows the guards to go get
    the pass. Plus both Tuoyo and Guest are athletic and agile enough to
    get back into position when the opponent beats the press.
  • The
    two best part of finding 10 guys who can contribute every game: options
    for lineups and attacks, and more players can play very hard for short
    bursts. Shaka mentioned last night he liked that Guest is understanding
    he will play for 2-3 minutes and then come back to the bench. So may as
    well play as hard as you can, right?
  • It's
    comforting to think I don't feel like Graham (9pts/8rebs) and Reddic
    (10pts, 5rebs) played particularly well. f that's unimpressive, I can't
    wait for impressive.
  • If
    you consider Italy and this game, we have to guard against Big Head
    Syndrome. VCU has tatered teams at will, and Florida Gulf Coast is going
    to be tougher than many think. The Eagles return all five starters and
    have a big man transfer from Iowa State that's eligible. Troy Daniels
    eases the concern: "Whether we win by 50, 100, whatever. We have to continue to work and
    continue to go to practice with the intent of getting better. That's
    what it's all about, getting better every time we step on the court."
  • Briante
    Weber is (obviously) so very good with his hands. However last night he
    was so very good at not using his hands. On more than one occasion a
    Union offensive player bodied him up on a dribble drive, adn Weber was
    able to retreat his hands to avoid the reach in foul and continued
    harassing with his feet. Then, he'd get the opportunity and like a
    mongoose would flick the ball away.

Finally,
this will change, but I want to find some way to quantify each game,
and give recognition to those who earn it.  For today I have to steal
from my friend Jerry Beach and use his three-star rating system:

***
Jarrod Guest.
He was given an opportunity and he made the most of it.
Guest knocked down a couple 15-foot jumpers that were smooth, and
generally got after it. He was a giant oak tree playing in the front of
the press. Don't minimize that. Guest may be more important
non-statistically to this team.

**Briante
Weber.
Eight steals speaks for itself, but I'd wager Weber had eight
more deflections out of bounds. It's very fitting that the first
defensive possession in the press ended when Weber knocked the ball off a
Union player out of bounds.

*Justin Tuoyo. Remember, this was his first real game with the clock running and the arena full.
At no point did the freshman get all fried-egg-eyed. He made  several
plays that stood out as un-freshmanlike. The best: an awareness that
they were having trouble throwing the ball inbounds, and he zipped over
to help and receive the inbounds pass.

Honorable mention: Troy Daniels. There were three different possessions I saw in which he
would've shot a three last season. Instead, he pump faked and took the
ball to the basket. His ability to score when opponents take away the
three ball is a key to the season. Daniels was also much calmer and
patient.

A Curmudgeon's View

The
last possession the first half was awful. VCU grabbed a rebound with 35
seconds to play and held for one shot. A shot was never attempted.
Union went the other way and dropped a three at the buzzer.

It seems
like a small thing, but it isn't. Those are possessions on which you
have to score. Look at it this way: that's a five-point swing. You want
to walk into the locker room against Alabama, or St. Joseph's, up by one
or down by four?