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.

UNLV to host NBA scouting combine

Dave Rice
AP Photo
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UNLV is the latest to join in the trend of hosting their own NBA scouting combine, following in the footsteps of Kentucky and LSU.

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

The Runnin’ Rebels once again have a stockpile of pro talent on their roster. Stephen Zimmermann is projected as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, while the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw, Dwayne Morgan Jr. and Derrick Jones are talented enough that they will get plenty of attention from NBA scouts during the upcoming season.

Kentucky hosted their scouting combine over the weekend, with as many as 70 NBA scouts reportedly in attendance. LSU is holding their combine this week. was the first to report the news.

Ivy League Preview: Can Columbia, Yale or Princeton earn title?

Maodo Lo, Orlando Sanchez
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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ivy League.

The Ivy League is the most underrated conference in the country, particularly at the top of the standings. In recent years, Harvard has been the best team in the conference, winning a pair of NCAA tournament games in the last three years, but the league itself has been much more competitive than anyone has given it credit for.

This year, Tommy Amaker’s club is headed for rebuilding mode. Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi have both graduated, while star point guard Siyani Chambers tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. That leaves a team that struggled at times with depth without their top three players from a season ago. Amaker has stockpiled some talent — juniors Zena Edosomwan and Corbin Miller, freshman Tommy McCarthy, sophomores Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield — but there will be a lot of new faces in new roles with new responsibilities this season.

That leaves the Ivy wide open this season, and three teams appear primed to knock the Crimson out of the top spot.

The easy pick would be Yale. The Bulldogs missed out on the Ivy regular season title in utterly heartbreaking fashion last season — seriously, Yale fans, DO NOT click this link — and then fell to Harvard in a one-game playoff for the right to play in the NCAA tournament. The Elis lose three of their top five scorers from last season, but they return Justin Sears, the best player in the conference. The key may end up being the development of Makai Mason, who the staff expects to develop into one of the best point guards in the conference this season.

Yale certainly will be a major factor in the race, but the favorite on paper is Columbia. The Lions are led by German point guard Maodo Lo, who may be the best guard in all of mid-major basketball. Coming off of a year where he averaged 18.4 points, 4.5 boards and 2.3 assists, Lo will get help in the form of 6-foot-7 Alex Rosenberg. Rosenberg missed all of the 2014-15 season with an injury, but he averaged 16.0 points in 2013-14. If he returns playing anywhere near that level, the Lions are going to be very dangerous.

Princeton should also end up in the league title race as well. The Tigers have pulled in three terrific recruiting classes in a row, and with a young core built around juniors Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook and sophomore Amir Bell, Mitch Henderson has a bright future in front of him. Their freshman Devin Cannady should be the best newcomer in the league, but if they don’t get tougher on the defensive end, they could be looking at a third-place finish.

The two sleepers to keep an eye on are Brown and Penn. Penn has the talent — they underachieved the last few years — and a coach in Steve Donahue that dominated the Ivy League for three seasons when he was still at Cornell. Brown is led by Cedric Kuakumensah, who might be the best big man in the conference this side of Sears.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “Columbia. Maodo Lo is the best guard in the league hands down, and with Alex Rosenberg back they have the best 1-2 punch in the league. The key is just how good Rosenberg will be after taking a year off.”
  • Sleeper: “Penn. They have plenty of talent and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together after underachieving for the last couple of years. There’s a big drop from the top four to the bottom four unless Steve Donahue can get Penn back into it.”
  • Star to watch: “Lo and [Yale’s] Justin Sears will be the Player of the Year. Lo’s great, not a pure point guard but he can flat out play. But I’d go with Sears. He is going to be the best offensive and defensive player in the league.”



Sears is the most dominant front court presence in the Ivy League and has been for quite some time. That’s important for Yale, as the Bulldogs are built around physical play and rebounding the ball. His numbers actually dipped a bit as a junior, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, but that had as much to do with opponents focusing on Sears as anything else.


  • Maodo Lo, Columbia: The German-born lead guard has already scored more than 1,000 points and will, barring injury, become Columbia’s all-time leader in three-pointers made. It’s impossible to ignore his performance in international play for Germany this summer.
  • Spencer Weisz, Princeton: A rising junior, Weisz was Princeton’s best player last season. At 6-foot-4, Weisz is a do-it-all guard that was amongst the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season.
  • Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown: At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, the native of Togo averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 boards, 2.5 blocks and shot 34.7 percent from three.
  • Alex Rosenberg, Columbia: Rosenberg was arguably Columbia’s best player prior to missing the 2014-15 season. He’s a typical Ivy League big: High basketball IQ that’s skilled with size and range.



1. Columbia
2. Yale
3. Princeton
4. Harvard
5. Brown
6. Penn
7. Dartmouth
8. Cornell