Game Preview: VCU v California U (PA) (exhibition)

6pt11shzl9tth8ogCoach Smart welcomes former mentor, Bill Brown, and his California University (PA) Vulcans back to the Siegel Center in the Rams final tuneup before tipping up the regular season. Smart played for Brown during his time at Kenyon College, then began his coaching career under Brown at Cal U as an assistant in 1999. The two teams last played in November of 2011 following the Rams magical Final 4 run, VCU winning 71-48.

A quick look at Cal U (PA): The Vulcans will once again represent the DII Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference in their second exhibition game of the year, having nearly upset Robert Morris (most famous for knocking Kentucky out of the first round of last season’s NIT in the first round) in their first exhibition before falling 64-58. The Vulcans are led by 5’10 junior, Tynell Fortune (10.7 ppg last season) and 2013 PSAC West freshman of the year, Jake Jucabec, but overall field an inexperienced group that consists of nine players with either one or no seasons of college hoops action under their belt. VCU will have a major size advantage over this group, as Cal U’s regular rotation consists of three guards 6’1 or shorter, a 6’6 195 lb forward and one 6’8 255 lb big. Cal U turned the ball over 13 times against Robert Morris. They’ll have their work cutout for them in reducing that number against VCU.

A quick look at VCU: The Rams field what’s being called VCU’s most talented team in perhaps the history of the program (I concur). VCU checks in at No.15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and have received a number of top-10 votes in the AP poll that will be officially released Oct 31. VCU brings a total of seven new faces to the court, but return the majority of production from last year’s team, including top returning scorers and rebounders Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham. Even the new VCU talent brings in experience. Terrance Shannon impressed at VCU’s recent Black & Gold scrimmage and comes to Broad St. after four years of ACC experience from Florida State. One of VCU’s two 2012 top-100 recruits, Jordan Burgess, will see game action for the first time but comes into this season with a year of practicing with the Rams under his belt. Long story short, if VCU isn’t successful this season, it won’t be for a lack of talent. The Rams are experienced, loaded and well coached, but as the A-10’s preseason favorite also come into this season with perhaps the biggest target ever placed on the back of a VCU jersey.

Likely starters:

G – Briante Weber (6’2 165, Jr): 20.9 min, 5.4 ppg, 2.7 ast, 2.7 stl (2012-13)
G – Rob Brandenberg (6’2 190, Sr): 24.1 min, 10.4 ppg, 1.3 stl, 35.3% 3pfg% (2012-13)
F – Jordan Burgess (6’5 215, R-Fr): n/a
F – Treveon Graham (6’6 220, Jr): 27.6 min, 15.1 ppg, 5.8 reb, 36.6% 3pfg% (2012-13)
F – Juvonte Reddic (6’9 250, Sr): 27.9 min, 14.6 ppg, 8.1 reb, 56.9% fg% (2012-13)

Cal U (PA)
G – Tynell Fortune (5’10 155, Jr): 33 min, 5 points, 5 ast, 2 stl (v RMU)
G – Jake Jucabec (6’0 165, So): 31 min, 13 points, 3 ast, 50% 3pfg% (v RMU)
G – Arman Marks (6’4 200, Jr): 21 min, 10 points, 5 reb, 2 stl (v RMU)
F – Art Cook (6’6 195, So): 31 min, 4 points, 4 reb (v RMU)
F – Alonzo Murphy (6’8 255, So): 29 min, 9 points, 7 reb (v RMU)

Prediction: The Vulcans led the majority of their last exhibition and nearly pulled off the upset against a Robert Morris squad picked to finish second in this year’s NEC conference. VCU won’t allow that to happen or get anywhere close, so for the Rams to win by anything less than 30 might be the real upset. As was on display in VCU’s Black & Gold scrimmage, this Rams team may be the deepest ever, so the Rams rotation may look like a hockey game with players coming in in waves. Those waves COULD keep Cal U in it early as VCU’s youth may need some time to shake the nerves in front of what will be a sellout crowd of 7,600+, but will eventually drown a Vulcan squad that essentially plays six deep. And for fun: If Smart experiments with a lineup of Reddic (6’9 250), Shannon (6’8 240), Graham (6’6 200), Burgess (6’5 215) and Weber running the point (6’2 165)…we’re talking tidal wave action (a 6’5 wrecking ball at the 2?!?) that only a Laird Hamilton coached squad could handle.

Game tips at 7PM Saturday, November 2nd at the Stuart C Siegel Center.

Watch: n/a
Listen: 107.3 FM
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Coats for Kids: Fans who bring in a coat to donate at Saturday’s exhibition will receive a 2013-14 VCU Rams team photo (8×10).

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...