Happy New Year!
The road show and blues revue hits the interstate early tomorrow morning for the 7pm tip at East Tennessee State, so you get the preview a tad early.
No telling what could percolate between the ears with five hours of road. Stay tuned.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. Holiday Roads. Outside of a quick bus ride to Norfolk, VCU has not
played a road game since the three neutral games in the Bahamas. Not
surprisingly, six home wins and the beating of the Monarchs comprise the
current seven-game winning streak. In fact, the Rams win at Winthrop is
the only true getonthebusandgo road game this year. While that's a
well-constructed schedule, it also breeds a bit of newness entering the
New Year. The takeaway: between holidays and home games, will we be affected by a roadie?
Briante Weber's Hiccup Problem. We heaped praise on the sophomore after
his 10-steal performance against FGCU to open the season. Weber
followed that with a four-turnover, zero-steal, zero-point game against
Wichita State. An eight points, nine rebounds, 10 assists game against ODU
was followed by a four points, two turnover dud against Alabama. And
after 11 assists, zero turnovers and 10 steals combined against WKU and
Longwood, Weber was a five-turnover non-factor against FDU. Time for Bri
to reign free.
20 for 31. Lester Wilson (15.5ppg) and Jarvis Jones (15.2ppg) combine
to score about 31 points for ETSU and play a combined 74 of 80 minutes.
One goal every game for the Rams is to hold the opponent's best players
under their season averages. A big part of the road warrior mentality
mentioned in the first point is sticking to effort goals. If the VCU
defense can hold the duo to a total of 20 or fewer points, life will be
4. Road Warriors. It's like choosing to go to the Outer Banks for vacation
instead of Wrightsville Beach. The geography is different and takes a
little getting used to, but the scene is the same. That's what I want to
see: Juvonte Reddic on the block, paint touches, penetration and kick,
suffocating defense, relentless pressure on both offense and defense. I
want to get the feeling it's a boxing match, and from the opening bell
you know who is going to win the match. There's a first round flurry of
jabs and hooks, a stammering opponent, and the beating continues until
the referee steps in and calls the bout.
The Quiet Man Yells Loudly. We call him The Freight Train for several
reasons, but Treveon Graham's ability to continue to push onward,
seemingly without emotion nor duress, is impressive. Even when David
Robinson from Longwood popped him with a cheap shot to the chops, Graham
never seemed to change expression and dropped two free throws.
Graham is averaging 14.3ppg and 5.1rpg, shooting more than 49% from the
field. And it's the quietest stat sheet filling I can remember. I'd love to see Graham rip a 25/8 game.
We Don't Work For Free
Jones (15.2ppg, 3.2rpg) is a 6-2 senior with a very good midrange game.
The lefty plays 38 minutes and needs to be contained. Freshman Lester
Wilson (15.5ppg, 5.9rpg) is the other 135point scorer and a versatile
3/4 swingman. Wilson is their best three-point shooter (35-97, 36.1%)
and a shot-hunter–he has four total assists on the year.
three best words in the havoc lexicon: freshman point guard. That's
exactly who Petey McClain (4.0ppg, 3.6apg) is. McClain is a jet and
loves to push the ball in transition–how he handles havoc, honestly, is
heavy. Rayshawn Rembert (8.0ppg) plays the third guard role and is a
capable three-point shooter. In fact, half his attempts and makes are
from beyond the arc.
fifth starter is Hunter Harris (7.5ppg, 6.7rpg), a 6-7 post who plays
with a high motor and with great physicality. Harris is a glass crasher,
so exceeding his energy level and boxing him out are priorities. John
Walton (4.7ppg) is a less physical, but longer and more athletic version
of Harris. Walton is likely the first player off the bench.
The rest of the ETSU bench is a mish-mash of role players. Kenard Gadsden-Gilliard is a skilled 6-5, 250-pound big man in the Ray Goins (JMU) mold, meaning a powerful body with a good midrange game. Mario Stramaglia and Yunio Barrueta are aggressive freshmen that will see a decent amount of floor time.
The Bucs are shorthanded and struggling with just one win over a D1 opponent–Charleston Southern, when they rallied from a 19-point deficit to win 59-57. They did, however, beat D2 Milligan, the alma mater of VCU DOBO Mike Morrell.
We often hear Shaka Smart talk about "the process," and that is clearly the most important facet to this game. VCU should run away and hide in the actual game portion of tomorrow, but the process of how the team approaches road games–from meals to meeting to playing in a foreign environment–is critical.
It's a learning trip.