Previewing Shaka Smart and His VCU Rams

The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams are 7-3 on the year, and 1-1 away. The Cats are 7-2, and 6-0 at home. We anticipate an even larger and more electric crowd at Fifth Third Arena on Saturday at noon, than the crowd of 9,000+ that attended the SDSU victory in the middle of the workweek at 9 pm.

Season: VCU averages 77 points per game. That’s good for 37th in the country. They have home wins over Tennessee, Oregon, and a double OT win over #23 Northern Iowa. They have played a very difficult and testing schedule (an RPI of 5!!!), which we always approve of here at BSR. However, VCU has been blown out by nearly 20 points against #12 Villanova and #7 Virginia.

Stats: As a team, VCU shoots 44% from the field, 64% from the free throw line, and only 35% from three point land, which is lower than Smart’s past teams. However, the Rams continue to shoot the three, making nearly 9 per game. The Rams also average 36 boards, 15 assists, 10 steals, and 4 blocked shots. They generally possess the ball very well, and average just 11 turnovers a game.

Key Players: Rams12Senior guard/forward Treveon Graham is 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs. and leads the Rams in scoring with17 points per game and rebounding at 6 per game. He plays nearly 30 minutes a game, shoots 45% from the floor, and makes free throws 72% of the time. Senior point guard Briante Weber contributes 8 points a game, and a whopping 5 assists. Most importantly, Mo Alie-Cox has some SERIOUS hair, and can throw down comparable to our own Shaq Thomas.

Shaka Smart: Besides having the best head coach name in the world, Shaka Smart has made quite a name for himself at VCU. His teams play a style known as “havoc.” He relies on the full press defense very, very heavily. In each of his last three seasons, VCU has maintained one of the most disruptive defenses in the nation, ranking 31st in steals and 17th in turnovers his first season and 1st nationally in both categories his second and third years. The Rams also push the ball up court at a hectic pace after missed shots. In a nutshell, the VCU Rams are opportunistic.

At VCU he is 143-49, wining 75% of his games. He also has four March Madness trips under his belt, including a shocking Final Four.

Prediction: We predict the Cats to come out ahead in this one by protecting the ball and continuing to execute well on the Fifth Third Arena home floor. The home crowd will be nearly double the size of what the Rams are used to at home. VCU is not a good shooting team. SDSU was the toughest test of the year, and we expect the Cats to continue their growth.

Our primary concern is the fact this will be UC’s third tough game this week, and they have already played 3 extra OT sessions. VCU’s pressing defense may take a toll, but we trust Mick will have the boys ready.

Bearcats win 60-55 in regulation.

By Andy Smith