Johnson needs help during potentially historic season

Melvin Johnson is hitting threes at a historic pace for the Rams this season.
Melvin Johnson is hitting threes at a historic pace for the Rams this season.

VCU may have come up just short in Sunday’s comeback attempt against Florida State, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort from senior guard Melvin Johnson. The Bronx native dropped a career-high 36 points, the most scored by a Ram since a Ram Nation favorite, Nick “King” George, dumped 36 on William & Mary in a CAA conference game back in February of 2005.

It was The Melvin’s highest output since scorching Virginia Tech for 27 as just a sophomore.

This is nothing new for Melvin. The Rams knew what they were getting when landing the top-100 guard thanks to a Miami decommit situation that brought Johnson from South Beach to Broad Street during the summer of 2012. This, however, could be what it looks like when a high school talent reaches his full potential by his senior year of college, that being a potentially historic season with the Rams.

If Johnson’s 47.8% three-point shooting holds or somehow even improves (could you imagine?), it would land him at No.1 in VCU’s record books for single-season three-point percentage, surpassing Patrick Lee’s 96-97 season at 47.7%.

Lee took a total of 130 threes that season, a number Johnson is on pace to cruise by over the next eight games.

Melvin is taking them and making them. His 4.1 threes made per contest is ahead of Troy Daniels’ blistering 3.4 during his 2012-13 senior season, a season that ended with a VCU record 124 made threes.

Johnson’s 19.9 points per contest is the highest average at VCU since Eric Maynor led the Rams to the 2009 NCAA tournament by averaging 22.4 per game. If he can continue that pace he’ll post a top-10 all-time VCU average, bumping Bernard Harris and his 19.7 per game off the list for that 10th spot.

Sorry, Super Nard.

Only Maynor and Johnson will have averaged at least 19.9 over the past 27 seasons. Half of you reading this weren’t alive when Chris Cheeks and Phil Stinnie dropped over 23 per game the two seasons prior to that stretch.

But here’s the kicker: Johnson needs help.

23218495599_20945eddb9_oDespite Melvin’s 56.3% effective field goal percentage, the Rams check in at a mediocre 48.8% as a team, a number that ranks 184th nationally and just 12th in the Atlantic 10 conference ahead of only St. Bonaventure and George Mason.

Only Johnson and Gilmore are hitting above 34% from distance and Gilmore has attempted just seven of those.

Johnson is the only non-big — meaning outside of Alie-Cox, Gilmore, Tillman and Hamdy who get the majority of their baskets off dunks and layups — with an effective field goal percentage above 48%.

In VCU’s three losses — all close losses to top-100 teams — only one other “non-big” has posted what I consider a “good” offensive rating (100 or higher), that player being Korey Billbury who did so against Wisconsin (111), a game VCU lost in the last six seconds of play.

Johnson has posted an O-rating of 103 or higher in every game this season and boasts a season-long rating of 124.7, the highest rating at VCU since kenpom has been keeping the stat (since 2002) and the only 120-plus rating outside of BA Walkers senior season (123.5) with the Rams in 2007, the season VCU would go on to upset Duke in the NCAA tournament.

VCU’s Sunday loss was an escaped resume builder, putting the black and gold now 1-3 against current kenpom top-100 squads. The Rams will have just two more non-conference opportunities to collect those much-needed builders for their March application, coincidentally the Rams next two contests. They’ll first take on Georgia Tech in a tough road game, once again in Atlanta, then in a return to the Stu against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

A hot-handed Johnson will go a long way in those contests but as we’ve all seen, even a 36-point effort might not be enough if the senior guard has to go it alone once more against a worthy opponent.


A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...