Home Uncategorized It’s The Offseason You Fear…

It’s The Offseason You Fear…

Those waves are again crashing. From the unconscious to the subconscious to the conscious thought they thunder in my head from back to front and come at random times. They are unstoppable and precdictable. Blue Ribbon writing means talking with coaches, and after a respite to get everything back in order the waves begin. It's clockwork every year, like a media timeout every four minutes.

The waves are good. They break the tension, the monotony, the creative process of the day. They are medicinal in that way. While the waves completely break any focus or momentum of the task at hand, they repoint my mind to a restorative place. Everything becomes better.

The imagery is breathtaking. It isn't a beautiful sunset nor a boat perched tightly to a pier. It isn't mountain nor meadow, not a photograph nor painting. What I see in those waves is basketball season.

It's Briante Weber plucking the ball from Rosie Jones and flushing a dunk. Turning around from my seat at Braclay's to see a sea of gold chanting youdontwannagotowar. Juvonte Reddic rising at the elbow, and Rob Brandenberg turning at the elbow. Buzz standing and firing from the center court logo.

I'm in the middle of training for the Richmond half-marathon. As the miles go by and the music flows from ipod to eardrum, I imagine setting highlights to the music. It isn't just the latest YouTube has to offer. It's Kendrick Warren, Phil Stinnie, Dom Jones. The miles pass easily.

And as quickly as the waves rise and crash, they retreat to the unconscious. The logical mind takes over–I have a real job to do, homework to help with, and the actual basketball season remains more than a month away. The waves are not real so I have to relegate them to that hopeful place for awhile.

But it's close. Very close.

Until the ball goes into the air, we have leaks and rumors. I heard this and you head that. Questions about Jarred Guest's foot (I have no idea) and Melvin Johnson's stroke. ("There are four guys. We almost had to kick them out of the gym this summer–Rob, Treveon, Jordan, and Mel. Mel was terrific." –Shaka Smart.)

We're all in survival mode at this point. The same questions have been asked and answered six million times over six months. If I never have to answer the point guard question again, I will be happy. It's like talking to a teenager:

"Clean up your room."

"I'll do it."

"Clean up your room."

"I'll do it."

"Clean up your room."

"I'll do it."

<Phone rings; it's a producer from that hoarding show>

Here's the thing: we can admit nobody feared Darius Theus shooting the basketball last year. Teams switched or went under high ball screens. It allowed VCU opponents to clog the lane, and run a second defender into Troy Daniels's air space. Briante Weber didn't help. After knocking down seven of his first 14
threes, Weber made just 2-26 to finish 9-40 on the season. That's 22%, and that's a fact.

We won 27 games and an NCAA tournament game with that inefficiency on on offense, and keep in mind VCU had the 19th most efficient offense last season. That ain't chopped liver.

What's more, I'd argue the threat of Troy Daniels was more damning for VCU opposition than Daniels many times was himself. Daniels made three or fewer threes last season 23 times, and shot 36% or worse from three 18 times. I'm not cracking on Troy in the least. What I'm saying is that he was a home run hitter and you pitch around a home run hitter even if he's struck out six straight times.

So take a point guard nobody bothered covering outside 15 feet, his backup that was no more dangerous, a home run hitting shooter, and the fact that Juvonte Reddic had no inside help on offense last year. Of course VCU relied on its defense to generate easy shots.

Here's where I make you think. The notable stat from last season was that VCU was 15-0 when Rob Brandenberg scored 11 or more points. Why is that? 

Well, how does Brandenberg do his scoring? First, there's breakaways because the VCU defense is working. But the significant part is on offense, where Brandenberg scores primarily in two ways–within a halfcourt set, or in late shot clock situations where he takes his man to the basket.

Let me repeat that this way: there's three basic ways you score. (1) by making a steal or grabbing a rebound and running out on a fast break; (2) by running a smooth halfcourt offense that gets you open shots; (3) by running isolation in late shot clock situations when the defense shuts down your initial attack.

That is why Rob Brandenberg's scoring was important last year. He scored when VCU played well in the areas that directly lead to points.

Now compare those inefficiencies to this year's roster.

Reddic has Terrance Shannon to absorb a pounding. Jordan Burgess carries a level of physicality that will allow him to break down defenses by getting into the lane. Melvin Johnson may have begun shaving–experience matters–but he has an inside/outside game. And who is going to guard The Freight Train? Pick your poison.

Offense is predicated on talent, and this year's team has talent. We've had talent before, but not in this abundance and not with this diversity. We have more Brandenbergs, and we have Brandenberg.

That's the word–the VCU offense can be more diversified this year. Diversity gives you options which makes you dangerous.

So I'm not really worried about point guard. Please stop asking me about it.

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