This week reminds me of that King’s Dominion ride “Flight of Fear”. Ever ride it?
At this point in the ride/season we are seated and filled with anticipation and soon enough will all be shot into full on excitement, a five-month journey that will whip past us in a flash, leaving us all ready for another ride.
VCU has already wrapped up one open Black v Gold scrimmage and a closed-door tip just down the road in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers and will take a bit of what they’ve learned from both those contests and put it all on display this Friday when they take on the Vulcans of Cal U (PA) in the team’s first and only exhibition against another team before tipping up the season the following weekend. Before we got into a bit of this week’s battle, let’s review.
BLACK v GOLD
These can be the most deceptive games because you get nothing but minutes from basically the entire team. They are what made me believe Jairus Lyles was our strongest freshman point guard before transferring (twice) and why Terrance Shannon was the piece that could lead VCU back to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend (before leaving the team before the season was over). That said, DAMN THE RAMS LOOKED GOOD IN THIS ONE!
We’ve gone over a bit of these standouts previously but to review…
Korey Billbury – He looked every bit of the player that has received rave reviews from head coach Will Wade this offseason. Whether he actually did let up a bit in the second half (which is what he recently told us in an interview…and we believe him), it was nice to see him attack the basket in person. Do we think he’ll shoot over 50% every game? Hell no. Would it be nice? Hell yes. But either way, you could see in person for the first time (unless you also have been following Oral Roberts basketball the last three seasons) his ability to attack, attack, attack plus at least one very small sample of a nice three-point stroke — 2-2 from distance in that one.
Broad Street Brallers – This is mainly what I’ve wanted to see more of since last year’s exhibition, basically Mo Alie-Cox and another big with him in the paint. Alie-Cox and sophomore Justin Tillman were sensational together, finding each other for a ton of gorgeous dunks all evening, combining for 35 points and 18 rebounds in around 33 minutes each. It will be interesting on Friday to see if they can do more of the same while also seeing how those two work with guys like Mike Gilmore and Ahmed Hamdy. VCU has options in the paint this year, options that I personally thought were underused last season. It’ll also be interesting to see how long it takes Will Wade and Co. to hit on the right rotation with all those previously underused pieces.
The Melvin – Melvin Johnson needs to have a big year for VCU to do the same and he certainly looked great in this exhibition. The senior was 8-16 from the field and 3-6 from deep for 24 points.
Point guard play – JeQuan Lewis was dropping dimes all over the court in VCU’s Black & Gold game, dishing 10 assists on the winning Black team. That was impressive. They key for Lewis however, as well as Jonathan Williams and Korey Billbury, will be in limiting turnovers. The three have all struggled with turnovers at times and all had at least five in the scrimmage. Lewis and Williams had the highest turnover rates on last year’s team at 24.1 each. Higher turnover rates for point guards are to be expected (both Darius Theus and Joey Rodriguez hovered around that same number at times in their career) but ideally we’d like to see those get a little closer to 20%, or even better, under that. Briante Weber checked in at 18.9% before going down to injury last year and was under 20% his last three seasons at VCU. For the gold standard comparison Eric Maynor was at 28.7% his freshman season but virtually cut that in half as a sophomore at 15% and finished at 18.2% or lower his final three seasons at VCU.
VCU V UVA SCRIMMAGE
VCU and UVA tipped it up on Halloween day in a closed-door scrimmage in Charlottesville. You can look up stuff on that game but I’m hear to tell you what you’ll find on the net about that game is pretty much garbage. Except for this…
My sources were very vague and that’s what I’d expect from a closed-door scrimmage but told me that we played pretty well and played a better second half than first.
VCU has six new players not to mention three sophomores that saw limited action last year, so it apparently took some time for the Rams to adjust to the pace of this year’s preseason No.6 team while breaking into so many new pieces on a team that will be mixing things up a bit more than last year’s squad.
As to be expected I was told there were some positive and negatives but I know our staff won’t be satisfied until this year’s VCU puzzle really starts to come together with some nice official results.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: VCU v CAL U
The longer it takes me to type of this blog post, the closer I get to watching VCU play another team. I love that. I’m just aging closer to VCU games, so exciting!
The Rams will take on Cal U (PA) for this year’s exhibition opener after defeating the Vulcans last season, 92-43 (without Briante Weber). JeQuan Lewis was the only player to play over 20 minutes in that contest while this year’s Black & Gold game leading scorer, Melvin Johnson, led all players with 20 points in 17 minutes of last year’s Cal U exhibition contest.
It was a total team effort in last year’s domination and I expect more of the same this season after two consecutive years of 92-point efforts against the Vulcans (I’m taking the over and guessing VCU hits triple-digits).
Check out last year’s highlights below.
Cal U returns their two leading scorers from last season’s contest, Richard Smith and Khalil Jabbie, the Vulcans only double-digit scorers from last season’s game.
VCU forced 20 Vulcan turnovers and shot 54.9% from the field.
Justin Tillman was the breakout star (see above) and finished with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double.
VCU CUTS RIBBON ON BRAND NEW BASKETBALL DEVELOPMENT CENTER
I didn’t get the invite so I can only show you a collection of pics from the internet but I can ASSURE you I’m getting in there soon enough and will bring you the prettiest video we’ve ever put together. In the meantime here are some pics from our much more important friends.