VCU Rams head coach Smart talks with guard Johnson during the final seconds of their third round NCAA tournament basketball game against Michigan in Auburn Hills

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 18 VCU Rams

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 27-9, 12-4 Atlantic 10 (2nd); Lost to Michigan in the Round of 32

Head Coach: Shaka Smart (5th season at VCU: 111-36 overall, 50-20 CAA/A-10)

Key Losses: Darius Theus, Troy Daniels, Teddy Okereafor, Justin Tuoyo, D.J. Haley

Newcomers: Jordan Burgess, Mo Alie-Cox, Terrance Shannon, Jequan Lewis, Jairus Lyles, Antravious Simmons, Douglas Brooks

Projected Lineup

G: Briante Weber, Jr.
G: Rob Brandenburg, Sr.
F: Treveon Graham, Jr.
F: Terrance Shannon, Sr.
C: Juvonte Reddic, Sr.
Bench: Melvin Johnson, So.; Jordan Burgess, Fr.; Jairus Lyles, Fr.; JeQuan Lewis, Fr.; Mo Alie-Cox, Fr.; Jarrod Guest, Jr.; Antravious Simmons, Fr.; Doug Brooks, Fr.

They’ll be good because …: By now, we all know about Havoc, the all-out, full-court press that Shaka Smart’s teams constantly utilize. It’s what they’re known for, it’s what the program takes pride in, and it’s the game that gives opposing point guards nightmares. That press is devastating, especially when you consider just how well-conditioned these athletes are. They never get tired. It’s demoralizing.

But what makes the Rams especially dangerous this season is that their depth is just ridiculous. Sophomore Melvin Johnson and redshirt freshman Jordan Burgess, the younger brother of former VCU star Brad Burgess, are both former top 100 recruits. And they will both come off the bench this year. Jairus Lyles and JeQuan Lewis could have gone to schools in power conferences. Jarrod Guest, when he gets healthy, will be able to provide minutes up front to spell Juvonte Reddic and Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon. The waves of that press just aren’t going to stop this year.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: I have a couple concerns about VCU replacing players they lost from last season. Darius Theus was more valuable to the Rams than he got credit for, as a point guard and as a leader. He’ll be tough to replace; Briante Weber, Rob Brandenburg and Johnson are quite talented, but they aren’t “true” point guards. It will also be interesting to see where VCU replaces Troy Daniels’ perimeter shooting. He made 124 threes last season. As a team, VCU his 278. That’s a big loss.

But the biggest concern I have with VCU is that they struggle against teams that can beat their press. VCU’s defense last season was 31st in the country in efficiency, leading the nation with a ridiculous 28.5% turnover percentage. Many of those turnovers led to layups, dunks and wide-open threes. It’s how the system works. But if they don’t get that turnover? They were 294th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, 226th in defensive effective field goal percentage and 272 in free throw rate. That’s why teams with talented and/or veteran guards — a la St. Louis — can given the Rams trouble.

Outlook: I love the makeup of this roster for VCU. Juvonte Reddic is a beast in the paint, and with Terrance Shannon on the roster, he’ll have some help in the paint this season. Weber, Brandenburg and the rest of VCU’s hellishly-quick back court will force plenty of turnovers, and Treveon Graham is back for what should be a big junior season.

The difference maker on this team? Jordan Burgess. Like Graham, he’s a big, strong three that can get a three just as well as he can grab a rebound. His presence on the roster is what will give Smart so much more lineup flexibility. Smart can go with a small lineup, using Graham and Burgess together at the forwards spots, and not have to worry about playing a team with three guards on the floor. That will allow Shannon to spell Reddic at the five spot more often.

The point guard issues are a bit disconcerting, especially when you consider that VCU was not a greay team at executing in the half court last year. But that defense? That will make them the odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season.

No. 10 Florida State uses early run and outlasts No. 12 Louisville

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles drives to the basket against the Illinois Fighting Illiniin the second half during the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.

Both teams struggled to find consistent offense as 38.5 percent was the high mark between the two teams.

Freshman Jonathan Isaac was a standout on both ends for the Seminoles as the 6-foot-10 forward displayed his versatility in so many ways. Isaac finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as its his third consecutive double-double. Dwayne Bacon (16 points) and Terance Mann (15 points) also played well for the Seminoles while Michael Ojo finished with 10 points.

Playing another game without Quentin Snider, Louisville (16-4, 4-3) the Cardinals struggled to open the game and never really recovered in this one. Tony Hicks led Louisville with 16 points and 17 field goal attempts and that usually isn’t a good sign for an offense that is facing a top-1o team on the road.

Mangok Mathiang had a solid outing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Deng Adel (12 points) and Jaylen Johnson (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

VIDEO: Clock stoppage costs Georgia win at Texas A&M

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Mark Fox the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs gives instructions to his team during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M wiped out a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Georgia 63-62 on Saturday in one of the season’s odder endings.

The Bulldogs had the final possession trailing by one, but the clock inadvertently stopped with 5.6 seconds remaining. Georgia’s J.J. Frazier dribbled the ball near the top of the key, and thought he had time to pass down low to Yante Maten.

Maten received the pass from Frazier, and officials whistled a foul on the Aggies when Maten attempted a layup. With the clock still stuck at 5.6 seconds, officials used game video to count down Georgia’s final possession, and determined that time had run out before the foul was called on A&M.

Here is the play:

Georgia coach Mark Fox kept his composure afterward but was obviously upset at the outcome.

“Our kid (Frazier) looks up and thinks he has time to make a play, but he doesn’t,” Fox said. “I don’t know who stopped the clock; I’d like to know.”

Afterward A&M officials said a “belt-pack” worn by one of the officials malfunctioned and inadvertently stopped the clock. They were checking further into what happened. The Aggies (10-8, 2-5 Southeastern) snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Bulldogs (12-7, 4-3) have lost two of their last three.

Robert Williams led the Aggies with 18 points and D.J. Hogg followed with 16, while Maten led the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points.

Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene scores 50 points on Miami (OH)

marcus-keene
(Central Michigan Athletics)
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Central Michigan junior Marcus Keene has been a big story in college basketball this season since he’s become the nation’s leading scorer.

The 5-foot-9 guard had his finest scoring display yet on Saturday as Keene dropped 50 points in a Central Michigan win over Miami (OH) in the MAC. Keene only needed 23 field goal attempts to hit 50, as he was 10-for-15 from three-point range and 15-for-23 overall. He also went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Keene was averaging 28.7 points per game entering Saturday as his previous season-high was 44 points against Montana State. Keene also had 40 in a win over Green Bay.

The last player in a Division I game to score 50 points was South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters when he scored 53 points against IPFW on Feb. 7, 2013.

Oregon’s Dillon Brooks has a sprained foot

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks tires to dribble around Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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Oregon junior Dillon Brooks was diagnosed with a sprained left foot on Saturday after the star forward left Thursday’s win over Cal.

There is no timetable for when Brooks will return but a sprain is good news compared to what the injury could have been for Brooks.

The 6-foot-7 Brooks is averaging 13.4 points per game this season as the Ducks look like a much better team with him in the lineup. Brooks missed the first three games of this season with a left foot injury, so that is why there was major concern when Brooks left the Cal game.

Oregon’s faces Stanford at home on Saturday.

No. 9 North Carolina survives BC despite Berry’s off night

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 11:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a shot against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 11, 2017 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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No. 9 North Carolina survived a scare from Boston College in Conte Forum on Saturday, winning 90-82 in a game that they led by one or two possessions for much of the second half.

Justin Jackson scored 22 points in the win while Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combined for 34 points, 14 boards, five assists and three blocks.

Boston College isn’t the pushover that they were last season. The Eagles already have a pair of ACC wins in that building this year and their back court seems to have an axe to grind against the schools that didn’t recruit them. Ky Bowman, a Havelock, N.C. native, and Justin Robinson, a Raleigh native, combined for 51 points and seven assists against North Carolina. They had 43 points in a win over N.C. State and 40 points in a loss at Duke.

Put another way, North Carolina had to show up and play well to win this game. Beating BC isn’t a given this year.

And, frankly, UNC didn’t play all that well. They got lit up by BC’s back court and their stars, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, did not play all that well. Jackson finished with 22 points and hit a couple big shots, but he was 6-for-16 from the floor. Berry was more-or-less a non-factor. He hit a dagger three with just over a minute left but finished the afternoon with just nine points and sans an assists.

Maybe I’m making too much of it – and maybe I’m undervaluing the return of Pinson and how that affects who UNC needs to be a playmaker – but this win keeps UNC on pace with Notre Dame for first place in the ACC, and teams that win leagues as tough as the ACC is this season can only do so by winning the games in which they don’t play well.