Virginia Commonwealth Rams

Shaka Smart

“Unebelievable is Believable Here” — A documentary of VCU’s run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament

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They almost didn’t make it.

After losing to Old Dominion in the CAA tournament and sitting at 23-11, it looked like Virginia Commonwealth would be on the outside looking in of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Many of the college basketball pundits didn’t give them a shot of attaining an at-large bid. The Rams, who were one of the final teams to make the field of 68, were relegated to the First Four in Dayton. They soundly beat USC in Dayton on Wednesday, then headed off to the United Center in Chicago to take on the No. 6 seed Georgetown.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“Unbelievable is Believable Here” is a documentary written and directed by Philip Wall, which chronicles VCU’s magical run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

From the film’s website:

An official selection of the 2014 Richmond International Film Festival, this feature documentary (94 minutes) follows the journey of the 2010 – 2011 VCU Rams’ basketball team through their historic and improbable NCAA Tournament run. Featuring behind the scenes footage and exclusive interviews, this feature-length documentary takes an in-depth look at the team and their trip to the Final Four.

This film has not yet been released. For those who fell in love with that Ram team — every  college basketball fan should raise their hand because we all did — this film looks like a must see. Below is the official trailer.

Late Night Snacks: Baylor, George Washington, and VCU close out the non-conference with convincing wins

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IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) George Washington 73, Georgia 55 — In their final game of the non-conference, the Colonials bounced back from a loss against Kansas State to handily beat Georgia. GW moves to 12-2 with the win, and have an impressive resume with wins against Manhattan, Miami (FL), Creighton, Maryland, and Boston University. It’s the best start to the season since 2005-06 when they went 26-1 in the regular season. The Atlantic-10 is wide open this season, so continuing to build the resume is of importance for GW.

2) Baylor 80 , Savannah State 50 — Taurean Prince came off the bench to lead Baylor with 15 points. Assuming nothing crazy happens over the rest of the weekend, the Bears should remain in the Top 10 in next week’s AP Poll.

3) Southern Mississippi 66, Drexel 49 — Drexel is feeling the adverse side effects of playing without Damion Lee. The Dragons, after beginning 7-2 with impressive showings in losses against UCLA and Arizona, have dropped three of their last four games to conclude the non-conference play with an 8-5 record. Considering conference realignment poached some of the CAA’s top teams, Drexel still figures to challenge for the league title. Southern Miss, meanwhile, enters Conference USA play with a 13-2 record. They and Louisiana Tech are the favorites to win the league. 

STARRED

1) Mount St. Mary’s had perhaps the shooting performance of the season. Usually, when a team has a higher 3PT% than a FT%, they have shot the ball well. In tonight’s 104-84 win over a solid Norfolk State team, The Mount went 18-25 3PT (72%) and 16-23 FT (69.6%). Coming off the bench, freshman Will Miller was a perfect 5-5 from distance for 15 points in just 11 minutes.

2) South Carolina was hardly stellar tonight against South Carolina State in an 82-75 win, but the win pushes the Gamecocks to above .500 for the non-conference. Once sitting at 2-5, they have rattled off five wins in their past six games — three of them being good ones: Akron (2x) and St. Mary’s. Brenton Williams led the way tonight with 19 points on just seven shots.

3) Briante Weber was a menace tonight in Virginia Commonwealth’s win over Stony Brook as he forced seven turnovers, while dishing out nine assists. Just vintage VCU kind of stuff.

STRUGGLED

1) Stony Brook guard Anthony Jackson struggled against Virginia Commonwealth’s defense, as many guards tend to do. In an 81-63 loss, Jackson shot 2-8 and committed six turnovers to just one assist.

2) Bethune-Cookman players not named Clemmye Owens had a night they’d like to forget. Owens was 7-16 FG and 5-11 3PT, accounting for 19 of Bethune-Cookman’s 51 points in a 14 point loss to Northern Illinois. Aside from Owens, B-C shot 9-38 (24%).

3) Georgia concludes their non-conference schedule losing to George Washington, and falling to an even 6-6 on the season, despite playing an extremely weak schedule. It was an ugly offensive output by the Bulldogs as they had just four assists on 23 buckets, and turned the ball over 20 times. 

 

Virginia Commonwealth’s strong second half overpowers Stony Brook

Briante Weber and Shaka Smart
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Stony Brook hung around and, truth be told, outplayed Virginia Commonwealth in the first half of tonight’s game between the America East favorite and Atlantic-10 challenger.

Despite trailing 36-35 at the break, the Sealwolves controlled the pace of play and managed the game well with point guard Carson Puriefoy coming off the bench providing valuable minutes. They had 13 turnovers in the first half, but out-rebounded VCU 20-9. You can bet head coach Steve Pikiell was pleased with the effort.

Eventually, the havoc defense took its toll. It wore Stony Brook out, they had no answer for its relentlessness, and eventually succumbed to it by a final score of 81-63.

The Rams began the second half on a 22-4 run, all but putting the game away midway through the half. Stony Brook would never get within single-digits the rest of the way.

It was a challenge for Stony Brook to just get into their offensive sets, and even when they did, getting the ball inside to sophomore phenom Jameel Warney was a tall task. As active and tough as the Ram forwards are — particularly Juvonte Reddic — when Warney catches the ball on the low blocks, there aren’t many guys who have the ability to stop him; he’s that good. Warney finished with 12 points, four points below his season average.

It was an extremely balanced effort on the offensive end for VCU as five players scored in double figures, led by Treveon Graham with 20 points.

Perhaps most impressive, however, was Briante Weber’s stat line: 14 points, nine assists, and seven steals — the seven steals were a season-high.

This was a good test for the Rams to conclude the non-conference portion of their schedule. Stony Brook is solid, and has a good shot at finally earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their program history.

When VCU forces 20+ turnovers (21) and shoots better than 40% 3PT (well, 39.1% tonight), they are awfully tough to beat.

Georgetown’s strong shooting leads to comeback win against Virginia Commonwealth

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Georgetown used a blistering hot shooting performance from all three departments — two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws — to defeat Virginia Commonwealth in the consolation game of the San Juan Shootout, 84-80.

Despite turning the ball over 26 times against VCU’s havoc defense, the Hoyas made the most of their opportunities when they had them as they shot 56.1% from the field (23-41) and 86.5% from the line (32-37) en route to the comeback win. They trailed 50-43 midway through the second half, but scored 41 points in the final  12:32 of the game to earn a solid early-season victory.

The guard play of Markel Starks D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera combined to score 49 points, and they out-dueled Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg of VCU.

What may go unnoticed though was Josh Smith’s performance, especially at the free throw line. Smith notched 17 points, but hitting nine of then free throws — all of which came in the second half — helped in the Hoyas comeback win. Entering the game, Smith was just a 50% free throw shooter (13-26).

One of the major themes in the early weeks of the college basketball season has been the enforcement of rules on the defensive end that limit hand-checking and physical play that limits the movement of the offense. There may be no team in the country that has had this adversely effect them as much as VCU. The game is slowed down by the added whistles, which greatly limits Shaka Smart’s strategy of wearing an opponent down through relentless defensive pressure.

In their two losses to Florida State and Georgetown, both teams eclipsed the 80 point mark — very uncharacteristic for a VCU team.

Of course, it doesn’t help that in today’s loss to Georgetown, VCU starters not named Briante Weber combined to shoot a woeful 7-30.

From Georgetown’s perspective, this was a much needed bounce back win after losing to Northeastern in the first round of the San Juan Shootout. The emergence of Smith-Rivera adds another dimension to the Georgetown offense and is a welcome sign, especially with someone needing to step up and fill the void Otto Porter left. In the first game of the season against Oregon, Smith-Rivera totaled just five points, but since then he is averaging 22.5 ppg.

Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Louisville has first test of the season against North Carolina

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Louisville vs. No. 24 North Carolina, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN) 

North Carolina isn’t the team that many projected in the preseason thanks to the absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, but the Tar Heels still have enough firepower to challenge Louisville in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tipoff at Mohegan Sun. Louisville defeated Fairfield 71-57, while North Carolina earned a solid win over Richmond, 82-72, the the semifinal games yesterday.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Georgetown, 2:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Georgetown is feeling the ill effects of losing Otto Porter to the NBA and has struggled in the early going with losses to Oregon and Northeastern — the latter loss very disconcerting as the Hoyas were outscored 38-20 in the second half en route to a 63-56 loss. Things don’t get easier as they have to now cope with VCU’s havoc defense. Look for Georgetown to feature Josh Smith on the offensive end as he will have a distinct size advantage against VCU.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE DAY: North Dakota vs. North Dakota State, 6:00 p.m.

If you like scoring and three-pointers, keep an eye on this game between these in-state rivals. North Dakota State has high aspirations this season as they return Taylor Braun, among others, but North Dakota is a solid team in their own right as they showed against Wisconsin last Tuesday. The Bagders are good this season, and North Dakota hung with them for much of the game, eventually succumbing 103-85.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH: 

1) Will UMass continue their hot start and knock off another BCS opponent in Clemson? On the young season, UMass has already defeated Boston College, LSU, Youngstown State, Nebraska, and — most impressively — New Mexico. A win against the Tigers, and don’t be surprised to see the Minutemen in the Top 25 come Monday.

2) Another Massachusetts school, Harvard has their first true test of the season as they travel to Colorado. It’s been hard to gauge just how good the Crimson are, but we should learn much more about them against Colorado. The match-up between Harvard’s guards Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders vs. Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker will be a good battle.

3) Providence has impressed thus far, compiling a 5-0 record with solid wins over Boston College and Vanderbilt. Against Vanderbilt, the Friars ended the game on a 27-4 run to win 67-60. They have another good test today against La Salle. Seniors Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts have been tremendous, and the Friars are looking like a team that has the potential to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

4) Maryland has gotten off to a slow start with losses to Connecticut and Oregon State, and their game against Northern Iowa at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas figures to be a tough one. Nick Faust has to be better in order for the Terps to get on track — through four games he is shooting just 36% on two-pointers and 22% on three-pointers.

5) You should be paying close attention to Belmont this season; the Bruins are for real and very good. Fresh off of their win against North Carolina last weekend, they dismantled rival Lipscomb 94-64, and then had a solid victory against Holy Cross last night. Through six games, they have eclipsed the 80 point mark five times, and have one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball. Belmont doesn’t figure to be challenged much by Hofstra today.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • No. 6 Duke vs. Vermont, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 14 Michigan vs. Charlotte, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • No. 17 Oregon vs. San Francisco, 8:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
  • No. 19 New Mexico vs. Davidson, currently airing on ESPNU
  • No. 22 UCLA vs. Chattanooga, 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

NOTABLES: 

  • UAB vs. Temple, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Florida State vs. Northeastern, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Richmond vs. Fairfield, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

Shaka Smart’s new contract at Virginia Commonwealth

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In this day and age, job security is seemingly as important as a high-paying job.

For Shaka Smart, he has both at Virginia Commonwealth.

On October 11th, Smart signed a new contract with VCU — different from the one he signed this past March — that enables the 36 year old coach to remain in his current job through 2028. The previous deal went through 2023.

According to Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Smart’s base salary is $450,000 per year, but his supplemental income increases from $800,000 to $950,000 with the new deal. Furthermore, Smart’s guaranteed compensation is $1.45 million in the first year of the contract and $1.5 million in subsequent years.

What makes it such a unique contract are the many incentives:

In addition to his base salary and supplemental income, the contract states Smart will receive $25,000 per year for university sponsored radio and television appearances.

Smart can be required to speak at or attend events or functions sponsored by the university, the university development office and other affiliated organizations that benefit the university directly or indirectly.

He will receive $25,000 annually for such appearances.

Other potential compensation includes $6,500 for every VCU game broadcast nationally and $3,500 per game broadcast outside the VCU or Atlantic 10 package.

Smart will receive $5,000 for a victory over a member of the ACC — four are on VCU’s schedule this season — and $2,000 for defeating Old Dominion.

If the Rams miss the NCAA tournament but are selected for the NIT, Smart will receive $2,000. He can make as much as $31,000 if VCU wins the NIT.

If the Rams win 20 or more games in a season, Smart receives a $20,000 bonus.

There also are incentives for players’ academic performances. Smart receives $4,000 for each player who graduates by the summer of the completion of his athletic eligibility and $2,000 per player for any who graduate within one year of the completion of their eligibility.

Smart’s new contract sends a message of program stability and reaffirms to prospective recruits and donors that Smart is content at VCU. Recall that his name was continually being mentioned for big time jobs in the past, namely Illinois, Minnesota UCLA, and USC.

Smart became VCU’s coach in 2009 after Anthony Grant left to take the head coaching position at Alabama. In his four years at the helm, Smart has advanced to the NCAA Tournament three seasons, and went to the Final Four in 2011 as a No. 11 seed. He has a record of 111-37 over the four seasons.