5 key takeaways from VCU's exhibition win heading into the regular season [INSIDER]

It's easy to get overexcited about exhibition results, but the early glimpse we've gotten from this year's newcomers combined with a few years of data from an experienced group of Rams has to have the black and gold faithful excited about not only this season, but the future as well.

Here are my five key takeaways from this past weekend's dominant exhibition win heading into next week's regular season opener.

<h4>1 - BELIEVE IN BONES</h4>
Fact: The drop-off at point guard last season was extreme, about as extreme as I can remember from group A to group B at VCU.

Marcus Evans entered last season -- his first on the active roster at VCU -- as a two-time CUSA First Team player who had averaged over 19 points per game in his first two seasons of college hoops with a 107+ offensive rating his first two years as a DI athlete and a career true shooting percentage hovering just shy of 60%. His backup this past year, freshman PJ Byrd, finished the year with a 71 offensive rating and a turnover rate 43.5% higher than his true shooting percentage of 43.2%. While even the best freshmen can often struggle at times, those numbers were historically low for a VCU Ram. Byrd's turnover rate during his one season at VCU was the highest TO rate by any VCU Ram since kenpom.com has been tracking the stat (dates back to the '02-'03 season), which when paired with a low 30s effective field goal percentage meant the drop from Evans to Byrd in the backcourt was as extreme as you could find in college hoops.

I wish Byrd the best of luck in the future at Colorado State, but as for VCU and their backup point guard spot...I believe in Bones.

Not only did freshman, Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland, lead his squad to a Black &amp; Gold game victory over Evans' gold squad, but he followed that up with an efficient night against VSU, posting a 9-point, 3-assist, 2-turnover line in his roughly 21 minutes and an even more impressive +25 box plus/minus, the top box plus/minus on the team Saturday night. His 50% three-point shooting effort (3-6) followed another 50% night (2-4) during VCU's Black &amp; Gold game, flashing an extremely impressive start from deep for a team that struggled to hit threes this past season. Not only has Bones looked good as a freshman, he's downright just looked good in general, giving VCU a much-needed boost at the backup PG position spot for this year and a scary promising guard to lead VCU following the graduation of Evans this spring.
VCU returned a deep roster and added even more depth, making this year's team one of the most promising I can remember in terms of depth at VCU.

The Rams' bench outscored the starters 51-39, getting nine each from Hyland and big man Corey Douglas and an efficient team second best 14 from Keshawn Curry. VCU's freshmen group posted a true shooting percentage of 55.2% with backup wing, Jarren McAllister, hitting both of his attempts on two offensive rebounds. Even walk-on, Arnold Henderson, has gone 3-4 from three in his two games of action as a Ram for a ridiculous 75% three-point percentage.

Yes, it was Virginia State, but a Rams team posting 90 points with the senior trio of Issac Vann, De'Riante Jenkins and Malik Crowfield combining for just 10 of those, should have the black and gold's A-10 league mates concerned about how good VCU will be both this season and beyond.
The black and gold were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in college hoops last season, ranking 332nd nationally from deep last year thanks to a 30.5% three-point shooting effort. Through two early samples the Rams are a combined 27-72 from distance (37.5%). Even sniffing that number would make the Rams extremely dangerous thanks to a defense that checked in at seventh nationally in defensive efficiency this past season.

Much of that effectiveness from deep early on however, has come from Rams I'm not certain will get to shoot quite that many threes. VCU underclassmen are a combined 15-25 from deep in the two exhibitions we've seen for a ridiculous 60% mark.
Vince Williams did a lot of resting this offseason due to shoulder injury but showed little rust Saturday night. The sophomore fits the mold of the Bradford Burgess and Treveon Graham types that basically just makes winning play after winning play.

The Rams' were sparked by Williams off the bench against Virginia State, the sophomore checking in with a +24 box plus/minus, second to only Hyland, grabbing five boards and four steals to go with his six points. He posted a 63% true shooting percentage in the win.

Williams did not get the start, but in my opinion is CLEARLY one of the five best players or better on this team. He was an extremely efficient AAU hooper during his high school years against some of the best in the country and I believe -- especially as he heals up -- has major breakout potential as a sophomore. The graduation of Michael Gilmore and transfer of Sean Mobley -- who combined for about 28 minutes last season -- means the Ohio native, Williams, should see plenty of opportunity as well.

Williams can himself a huge year, but just imagine what this guy looks like in the future when he finally gets a healthy offseason.
Marcus Santos-Silva flashed promise as a freshman, did a full on breakout as a sophomore and appears to just keep adding to his game, which is a horrifying for the rest of the Atlantic 10 since his last A-10 game saw him post a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double. Following a vicious put-back dunk in VCU's Black &amp; Gold exhibition, the Taunton, MA native's high school chimed in on the big man's progression:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="ltr" lang="en">Marcus Santos-Silva ‘17 (<a href="https://twitter.com/Marcus7345?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Marcus7345</a>) was not doing this in high school. That’s for sure!!! <a href="https://t.co/2DKeS7ZoTv">pic.twitter.com/2DKeS7ZoTv</a>
— Vermont Academy Men’s Basketball (@VTAcademyHoops) <a href="https://twitter.com/VTAcademyHoops/status/1183418897724301312?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 13, 2019</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The 6'7 big man has been an efficient bruiser his first two seasons on Broad St. but seems to be showing even more explosion/bounce in the two exhibitions we've seen him in this season.
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Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of VCURamNation.com and A10Talk.com.
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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