Rams return depth as A-10 teams rebuild

VCU fans are well aware that the loss of players doesn't always equal a terrible season. The Rams danced all the way to the Final 4 in 2011, then looked to rebuild after losing three of their top four scorers in Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez and Brandon Rozzell, as well as defensive specialist Ed Nixon that season to graduation. But the youthful Rams quickly established an identity of their own. The identity coach Smart warned teams about, that of an attacking, havoc-wreaking squad, who hounded teams on defense and exhausted their opponents into defeat. They did just that to a VCU-record 29-win season with a CAA title and a NCAA tournament win for good measure.

The Rams will look to build on that chemistry this year in their inaugural A-10 season, returning all but senior Bradford Burgess from last season's CAA Champs.

Ahead of them lies a 16-team college hoops behemoth of a conference, with nine 20+ win teams from 2012 competing in what will be one of the deepest college basketball conferences in the country.

The Rams have been picked to finish near the top of the conference by national analysts, but let's take a quick look at what their new conference mates (last season's top 8 teams + VCU and Butler) will be losing in terms of key statistical production. The largest statistical losses are highlighted in <span style="color: #ff0000;">red</span>.

VCU (29-7, 15-3 CAA) - Bradford Burgess
20% of points
15% of rebounds
13% of assists
10% of steals
7% of blocks

Butler (22-15, 11-7 Horizon) - Ronald Norad, Garrett Butcher
14% of points
13% of rebounds
44% of assists
33% of steals
3% of blocks

Temple (24-8, 13-3 A10) - Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, Michael Eric, Jake Godino
<span style="color: #ff0000;">51% of points</span>
<span style="color: #ff0000;">46% of rebounds</span>
50% of assists
31% of steals
<span style="color: #ff0000;">63% of blocks</span>

St. Louis (26-8, 12-4 A10) - Brian Conklin, Kyle Cassity,
25% of points
9% of rebounds
22% of assists
20% of steals
13% of blocks

Xavier (23-13, 10-6 A10) - Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease, Andrew Walker
46% of points
21% of rebounds
<span style="color: #ff0000;">61% of assists</span>
43% of steals
50% of blocks

St. Bonaventure (20-12, 10-6 A10) - Andrew Nicholson, Da'Quan Cook, Michael Davenport
45% of points
41% of rebounds
26% of assists
37% of steals
60% of blocks

UMass (25-12, 9-7 A10) - Sean Carter, Matt Hill
12% of points
18% of rebounds
6% of assists
9% of steals
14% of blocks

La Salle (21-13, 9-7 A10) - Earl Pettis, Matt Sheehan
22% of points
14% of rebounds
15% of assists
25% of steals
13% of blocks

Dayton (20-13, 9-7) - Chris Johnson, Paul Williams, Josh Parker, Luke Fabrizius
50% of points
37% of rebounds
40% of assists
<span style="color: #ff0000;">44% of steals</span>
43% of blocks

St. Joe's (20-14, 9-7 A10) - return everyone


The good news for VCU and every other A-10 team is -- in theory at least -- parrenial powers Xavier and Temple are expected to be down. Will they quickly bounce back like the Rams of last season? Time will tell. But both teams will need to replace key senior guards and almost half their scoring.

A-10 tourny champ St. Bonaventure will also look to do much of the same, losing 6'9 240ish Andrew Nicholson to the first round of the NBA Draft, and with that, almost half their scoring and rebounds as well as a key defensive stopper with Nicholson's 2 blocks per game headed to the NBA with him.

For these very reasons, pundits have pegged St. Louis, UMass, St. Joe's and the newly added VCU and Butler squad as teams predicted to finish toward the top of the A-10, hypothetically putting them in great position for NCAA tournament at large bids via the newly strengthened conference.

The big unknown is both VCU and Butlers ability to adjust to their new A-10 opponents, as well as the A10's ability to adjust to them.

The Rams lose Burgess but add a deeper bench with the additions of Bradford's brother Jordan, one of two ESPN top-100 recruits alongside Miami decommit Melvin Johnson, as well freshman bigs Justin Tuoyo and Mo Alie-Cox.

VCU went 2-0 against A-10 teams this past season, defeating George Washington and Richmond by an average margin of victory of 18.5. Both finished in the bottom half of the conference however.

Butler faced just one A-10 team, losing by 12 at home to the 8th-ranked Xavier Musketeers.



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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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