Now that the TBT season is over for team Ram Nation, it’s time to put the focus back on our beloved VCU Rams. We are just 3 months away from an exhibition opener, which means that we can expect to see more information trickle in about the upcoming season. VCU just announced a home-and-home series with Wichita State, and we can expect a full non-conference schedule in the near future. While we wait, I thought I’d compile and share my list of the top 5 things I’m most excited about for the 2018-2019 season.
- Incoming freshmen. Last year’s incoming class was pieced together in a hurry, as first-year VCU head coach Mike Rhoades rushed to fill a roster that was left void with the departure of Will Wade. We should expect to see a much more solid roster of freshmen as Rhoades has had a full year to recruit and fill these roster spots. In particular, I’m most excited to see what P.J. Byrd is capable of while Marcus Evans recovers from an achilles injury. He’ll be given the opportunity to prove himself as a freshman PG. VCU brings in two more freshmen in Keyshawn Curry and Vince Williams. Williams looks very promising as a Treveon Graham type of player with his size and style of play.
- Sophomores Sean Mobley and Marcus Santos-Silva. Both players were exciting to watch last season, showing flashes of great potential throughout the season. Sean Mobley became a key contributor by the end of his freshman season, starting 13 games for the Rams. He averaged 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per 40 minutes of play. Marcus Santos-Silva’s numbers per 40 minutes are even higher (12.6 points, 12.4 rebounds). Both players will see an increase in minutes with the departure of Justin Tillman, who averaged 31 minutes per game. I’m also excited to see Sean Mobley in a leadership role this season, as he showed similar characteristics throughout his first season with the Rams.
- Beating the odds. VCU is again the underdog. CBS Sports writer Jon Rothstein provided his Atlantic 10 Offseason Power Rankings, putting VCU at 9th in a field of 14 teams:
Atlantic 10 Offseason Power Rankings:
1. Saint Louis
2. Saint Joseph’s
4. Rhode Island
5. George Mason
6. St. Bonaventure
12. La Salle
13. George Washington
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 16, 2018
De’Riante Jenkins was also snubbed in Rothstein’s preseason first-team. Long-time VCU fans understand the program’s motivation to prove naysayers wrong.
- Marcus Evans. Though he injured his other achilles this offseason, Evans will eventually return to the court, and we are all very much looking forward to that moment. Evans, who transferred from Rice, averaged 21.4 ppg as a freshman, 19 ppg as a sophomore, and made first team all-Conference USA both seasons. He is the seasoned PG this VCU team will desperately need if freshman PG P.J. Byrd needs time to develop.
- ESPN+. The Atlantic 10 announced a partnership with ESPN+ this offseason which means that every non-televised VCU game will be available on the ESPN+ platform. This is huge news for those who like to stream college hoops. ESPN+ is a simply monthly cost of $4.99 and gets you access to not only all Atlantic 10 games but also a whole host of other college sporting events. It’s a high quality stream (60fps) and will work across most devices, like Roku, Apple TV, Fire stick, iOS, Android, etc. Say goodbye to the days of being forced to watch an away game on your laptop screen.
Oh and did I forget to mention how wild it is that Michael Gilmore is back for his senior season at VCU? What a time to be alive!