We’re some 86 days away from the official start of the 2014-15 college basketball season, a season of great promise for a VCU team already being pegged as the top team in the Atlantic 10 and one of the 25 best to start the season. In short, there’s a ton to look forward to this November, but here are 10 things that have us giddy like my daughter on Christmas eve (in no particular order).
1. The Four Horsemen of the A-10 Apocalypse – Stole that term from our friends at Richmond Good Life (@RichmondGL), the 2014 recruiting class is VCU’s best yet, a class that includes three top-100 players of 6’8 or taller. Terry Larrier is an absolute highlight machine that will bring some of that old Larry Sanders big play ability to Broad St, but he’s not the only one. Detroit’s Justin Tillman brings a supercharged motor to Ram Nation, can run the floor and bring the house down on put-back dunks while adding another rad hairstyle to the court. Those two are joined by 6’9 center, Mike Gilmore (nephew of NBA Hall of Famer, Artis Gilmore), who has a killer touch for a man of his size and can throw it down with as as well. The lone guard of the class, Richmond native Jonathan Williams, is a rock of a point guard with great vision and a pesky defensive personality.
2. Siegel Center upgrades – VCU’s recruiting class isn’t the only major upgrade coming to the Stu next season as the Siegel Center will receive a number of upgrades itself. Look for a long-awaited center-hung scoreboard, two new luxury suits in the corners as well as a brand new court with a fresh new VCU logo.
3. Sleepers – CBS’ Jon Rothstein listed his Atlantic 10 “sleeper” players for this upcoming season with VCU redshirt freshman, Antravious Simmons, being among that group. Simmons sat out last season so outside of what goes on in practice is a relative unknown heading into the 2014015 season. He brings great size at this level and has a nice back-to-the-basket game that could surprise some A-10 foes. The aforementioned Jonathan Williams is another player to watch. VCU has tons of guard depth but Williams’ speed and defensive prowess could earn the freshman plenty of minutes on a lineup that throws guards at opponents in waves.
4. VCU v UVA: Round 2 – Last season’s long-awaited matchup in Charlottesville will go down as an all-time classic, as VCU’s Treveon Graham buried a deep three in the waning seconds that sent the thousands of Ram fans in attendance into party mode while silencing the Wahoo faithful. UVA have their work cutout for them in exacting their revenge against a VCU team that won all of their home games last season, but will no doubt be a tough opponent for the black and gold as they return an experienced team that won last year’s ACC. Ticket prices should reach record highs.
5. BROOKLYN! – Brooklyn has become a home away from home for Shaka Smart and Co. since joining the Atlantic 10. The Rams have made it to the championship game of each Atlantic 10 tournament in their two seasons in the conference and smoked Boston College there in a neutral court matchup there this past winter. VCU will look to make it back to the A-10 tournament final in March of 2015 but will get a warmup in the Legends Classic that will pit the Rams against some combination of Michigan, Villanova and Oregon.
6. Third time a charm? – As I just mentioned, VCU has played in two consecutive A-10 tournament finals but have lost each time. VCU will start this season as the favorite to lift the hardware at the Barclays Center but as we all know, tournament championships are much more satisfying than preseason titles. As a fan/media member, the joy of at least making the A-10 tourney final is you get to experience the tournament as a fan from start to finish, meaning more parties at the KBH and more happy days in the Big Apple. Next season would make for an even better Selection Sunday however if the Rams can not only make it BACK to the final, but do some celebrating there as well. That of course, is easier said than done.
7. Practice facility progress – VCU recently broke grown on a game-changing $25 million practice facility. Those who park behind the Stu on game days will get a chance to watch a little bit of the progress on that facility from November through the beginning of March. The facility is scheduled for a Fall 2015 open date.
8. Graham v Maynor – Treveon Graham will chase VCU’s all-time scoring record of 1,953 points, needing 604 points to tie, 605 for the record. Graham posted 553 points in 35 games this past season so will need to average about a basket more per game this upcoming season to own the record.
9. Weber chasing NCAA history – Treveon isn’t the only senior chasing a record this season. Briante Weber already owns VCU’s all-time steals record and will attempt to add the NCAA record to his resume as well. Weber has led the nation in steals percentage in his three seasons of college basketball and needs just 90 more steals to own the all-time NCAA record currently held by former Providence guard, Jon Linehan. Weber grabbed 121 steals this past season and 98 as a sophomore, so that record looks very attainable for Weber as he finishes his career on Broad St.
10. Nights at the Stu – By far the most depressing part of the offseason for me is the dip in weeknight fun. From November to March my week typically consists of two evenings of VCU hoops with some A-10 action often on the tube when we aren’t playing as well. Needless to say, life just isn’t as much fun when I can’t drive to the Siegel Center to see my friends, family and fellow Ram fans on a random Wednesday evening. While I enjoy the result of a big win, the process of my basketball routine is easily my favorite part of college basketball season and being a Ram fan. I look forward to welcoming that back to my life this November.