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Game Preview: The Black & Gold Game

Melvin Johnson led all scorers in last year's Black & Gold game with 25 points in 24 minutes.
Melvin Johnson led all scorers in last year’s Black & Gold game with 25 points in 24 minutes.

Hard to believe we made it seven months without basketball, but we did it, we survived. On Sunday, things get back to normal. VCU will take on VCU in the most stress-free game of the season (::knocks on wood to avoid the injury jinx::) in what will be the Second Annual Black & Gold Game that pits Havoc v Havoc. Last season saw a Gold victory as Melvin Johnson led all scorers with 25 points on 10-19 shooting in the 72-56 win.

The game tips up at 5PM with doors open at 4PM, general admission on a FREE first come first serve seating basis. Once there, Ram fans will get a first look at a number of exciting new additions to VCU basketball, the most obvious of which will come in the form of a new center hung scoreboard, updated sound system, two new luxury suites not to mention a brand new LED ribbon hung just below the Tommy J West Club. But once Ram fans get past all the new toys their eyes will quickly hone in on VCU’s most anticipated addition: the 2014 recruiting class that ESPN ranked No.14 nationally.

That class will be led by VCU’s first top-50 recruit since McDonald’s All-American, Kendrick Warren, in the form of 6’8 G/F, Terry Larrier. Larrier will be joined by a pair of long, versatile athletes in bigs Justin Tillman and Michael Gilmore — both ranked in ESPN’s top-100 — as well as perhaps the most raved about player by Coach Smart himself, point guard Jonathan Williams.

Last year’s rosters saw VCU’s two active returning seniors, Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic, join a team of mostly freshmen in the loss, but if our staff were to mix it up this year due to a stable full of young talent, here are the two teams I’d like to see (assuming Briante Weber is active).

BLACK
G – Briante Weber (sr)
G – Melvin Johnson (jr)
G/F РJordan Burgess (r-so)
G/F – Justin Tillman (fr)
F/C – Jarred Guest (sr)
F/C – Antravious Simmons (r-fr)
G – Torey Burston (so)

GOLD
PG – Jonathan Williams (fr)
SG – JeQuan Lewis (so)
G/F – Treveon Graham (sr)
G/F – Terry Larrier (fr)
F/C – Mo Alie-Cox (r-so)
F – Mike Gilmore (fr)
G – Doug Brooks (so)

LAST YEAR’S TAKEAWAY v REALITY

If there’s one thing I learned from last year it’s to not put too much stock into this one intrasquad scrimmage. All but one player (walk-on, Torey Burston) posted 20+ minutes in last year’s game and a few folks posted performances that might have been slightly deceiving. For starters, I was ready to crown Terrance Shannon “VCU Messiah” after a 16-point, 7-rebound performance in his 26 minutes in his first appearance since transferring from Florida State. Shannon looked fantastic in the win, then followed that with a 14-point opening night regular season performance before quickly fizzling, then eventually quitting the team in late February. I also LOVED Jairus Lyles’ game after watching the surprise freshman dish six gorgeous assists while adding eight points on 50% shooting, outplaying JeQuan Lewis in my mind that day (who had 13 points but 9 turnovers). Lyles would go on to average 2.6 minutes before transferring to Robert Morris this offseason.

LAST YEAR’S WINNERS AND LOSERS

I mentioned Shannon and Lyles but what’s not surprising is that Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham both had exceptional performances. Johnson got up a high number of shots, hitting 10 of his 19 attempts for 25 points in just 24 minutes. He’d later post a similar performance¬†in a blowout victory over Virginia Tech. Treveon was as steady as always, adding the games only double-double with 15 points (5-10) and 10 rebounds. JeQuan Lewis led his Black team with an impressive 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting (3-5 from deep) but had those nine very freshmen turnovers that proved to be somewhat of a sign to come. Lewis ended up leading the Rams in true shooting percentage last season at 56.3% but ranked last in turnover rate at 28.6%. Mo Alie-Cox showed no real sign of just how good he could be in last season’s B&G game. Big MAC went 1-6 from the field, grabbing just three rebounds in his 25 minutes and get this…had zero blocks in the win. Mo would go on to lead the team in effective field goal percentage (52.5%) during the regular season as well as led the conference in blocks percentage on the year, blocking 10.3% of opponents shots attempted when he was on the court. And who would have guessed Briante Weber would finish that game with just one steal? Weber finished the regular season with a VCU record 121 en route to becoming the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

QUICK PREDICTIONS

– Melvin will once again lead all scorers, somewhere near 27 points.
– Briante Weber won’t actually play (paying suspension debt from a summer incident)
– Terry Larrier will throw down at least one jaw-dropping jam that will have VCU fans talking for days
– Antravious Simmons will post a steady double-double of 12 and 10
– JeQuan and Lewis will lead their teams at PG in a battle of speed an explosiveness
– VCU fans will love the new additions of the Siegel Center