This is not the same VCU team as last season.
Not even close.
Going beyond the fact that VCU lost four of their five starters from the team that made the 2011 Final Four, this group plays a completely different style from last season’s team. The 2011 version of the Rams, as head coach Shaka Smart put it, “bombed in threes at a ridiculous rate”. This year’s group thrives off of the defense much the way that Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas teams did. They lead the nation in turnover percentage because of their relentless, stifling full court defense. VCU is going to guard you 94 feet, they’re going to trap you anytime you turn your back or start dribbling too fast, and they are probably going to foul you in the process.
It’s all a method for the madness, but where Richardson titled his defend “40 minutes of hell”, Smart refers to his system as “Havoc”. And “Havoc” is the reason the Rams are, once again, the NCAA Tournament’s darling.
And while this year’s group relies on a different skill than last year’s, don’t be surprised when the Rams make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They are that good and they match up that well with Indiana.
That is what is so scary about this VCU team. This is not just some plucky mid-major that happened to get lucky in their first tournament game. VCU is the real deal. They have a roster stocked with tough, defensive-minded kids that are playing with a chip on their shoulder after the big boys over looked them. They are also young. Brad Burgess may be gone after this season, but the rest of the roster is back, along with a good recruiting class headlined by Jordan Burgess, Brad’s brother.
I don’t think it’s right to say “VCU’s back”.
Because they aren’t going to be going anywhere for a while.