We’re close to a month away from college hoops officially beginning — 39 days actually, but no games, more midnight madness/official practice stuff. What better time to throw some darts at the wall in an attempt to predict this season’s starting lineup?
Disclaimer: “starts” is probably the most overrated stat in all of sports, especially on a VCU team that substitutes players more like a hockey team than a hoops program. Take for example Melvin Johnson: the sharpshooting sophomore started all of seven games this past season (out of 33) yet finished third in scoring and fifth in minutes. Or on the flip side look at DJ Haley’s 2011-12 season. The 7′ center started 33 of 36 games but finished eighth in minutes for the Rams that season.
VCU’s system is built to send a constant attack at the other team, and sometimes that means bringing a guy who might otherwise start off the bench to keep the attack going. You get the point but regardless here’s what I think VCU’s starting five looks like the majority of next season.
PG – Briante Weber
Obvious enough. Weber is the heart and soul of “havoc” and will once again handle the majority of the point guard duties for the Rams next season (minus the first game, which he will miss due to suspension). Weber started every game for the Rams last season and will most likely do that in all but one contest this year. Weber has the NCAA’s all-time steals record in his sites and should see the minutes needed to attain that goal.
G/F – Treveon Graham
Speaking of records, Graham has a legit shot to break Eric Maynor’s all-time scoring record but will need to be a little more selfish this season to do so. With Juvonte Reddic graduated, all eyes will be on Graham to pile up the points and rebounds while attempting to improve his draft stock en route to leading the Rams to what we hope will be yet another NCAA tournament appearance.
SG – Melvin Johnson
Johnson is the obvious replacement for the graduated Rob Brandenberg. He racked up the points and minutes last season and with an expanded role could put up big numbers during his junior season. “The Melvin” had just 19 fewer attempts than senior big, Juvonte Reddic, despite playing 237 less minutes. Don’t be surprised if the Bronx Bomber sees a green light similar to those Troy Daniels saw in his final two seasons with the Rams.
C – Mo Alie-Cox
Mo has big shoes to fill with the graduation of Reddic, luckily Alie-Cox has some damn large feet himself. The 6’6 250 lb redwood of a man should greatly improve VCU’s ability to protect the rim on defense (Rams ranked 289th nationally in defending 2-point shots last season), but it’s Alie-Cox’s offensive growth that could pleasantly surprise Ram fans.
F – Terry Larrier
Here’s where I probably disagree with a lot of you. I think Melvin and Mo are the obvious replacements for Rob and Ju, just as they were last season (although watch out for JeQuan Lewis who, if he doesn’t start, could be our sixth man of the year), but I think the highly-rated freshman Larrier moves into the starting lineup over Jordan Burgess. What makes that a tough pick is Jordan was in all three of VCU’s three most-used lineups over the last five games and started 19 games for the black and gold last season. His defense is stellar and three-ball was solid last season, but Larrier is a talent that I think will be hard to keep out of the starting lineup. The 6’8 Bronx native has guard-like handles with a great ability to find the open man. Combine that with a stroke from deep and a knack for Sports Center top-10 style dunks and I think Larrier gives VCU a scary freshman starter that will be a major challenge for opponents this season.
Regardless of who gets the starts for the Rams this season, one thing is certain: this is an incredibly deep team who’s second shift could fight for an A-10 title. VCU will show no letup this season and could go even deeper than last year’s team that saw nine players in double-digit minutes with Jarred Guest averaging 9 of his own as well.