Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/18/13
For more preseason coverage of the 2013-14 college basketball season, click here. On the second day of the 2013 Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, HAVOC ensued. Virginia Commonwealth University, and its large, intensely faithful fan base entered the Barclays Center after their first round bye, providing an energy that day one had severely lacked. Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams brought an excitement that the Atlantic 10 had lacked for the earlier part of the 2010s. Their presence at Barclays Center proved that the Rams were a power in this conference, even if it was their first season. The tournament ended on a bit of a rough note for VCU. Smart and his patented HAVOC defensive scheme, which relies heavily on high energy, athletic players who force turnovers, proved unable to beat St. Louis in the title game. VCU’s holes were on display for the entire NCAA community. When pitted against an experienced point guard and large, powerful big men, the Rams' athleticism looked ineffective. Still, VCU entered the 2013 NCAA tournament as a five seed, eventually losing handily in the third round to Michigan. This team was not Smart’s best. Their lack of size and youth were their obvious weaknesses. As always, the Rams are poised to enter this season as hungry as ever. They are the favorite in an Atlantic 10 that hopes to continue carving its place in the NCAA hierarchy. VCU is no longer a mid-major that no one knows about. This team is one of the best in the nation and everyone is aware. VCU enters 2013 with a better roster than last season. Their only losses from graduation are guards Troy Daniels and Darius Theus. Daniels was the third leading scorer last season, and Theus was second in steals. The Rams' core remains, and they find themselves one year older, and more capable of winning an Atlantic 10 title this time around. VCU is no longer a mid-major that no one knows about. This team is one of the best in the nation and everyone is aware. After leading the country in turnover percentage last season, VCU expects more of the same on the defensive front. If they hope to become the top 10 team their talent seems to suggest, they will need to do a better job rebounding, and defending down low. Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham, and Rob Brandenburg will lead the Rams this season. This veteran trio will be the main sources of offense for a team that always relies on guard play and explosive ball handlers who can find the rim on offense. At 6'9", Reddic is the team's most experienced “big man” and will have the difficult task of matching up with true centers who are less athletic, but make up for it in their size and power. Though Smart refuses to adapt his HAVOC strategy (no player on his roster is over 6’9”), VCU finds itself with a relatively easy conference schedule that has only a few tests. VCU will face its challenges within the Atlantic 10. St. Louis will once again be looming. The Billikens will be without veteran point guard Kwamain Mitchell, who gave the Rams trouble last season. VCU has the clear edge in a weakened Atlantic 10, and will probably find themselves entering the NCAA tournament with a top 5 seed. The Rams and their raucous fans will not be satisfied with just another successful Atlantic 10 campaign. The energy that still remains from their Final Four run 2011 can only last for so long. VCU has become a demanding and consistent basketball program since then, but it still is far from securing itself a place among the NCAA elite. The Rams must find a way to handle large, physical teams, while maintaining their composure and sticking to their unique game plan. VCU will undoubtedly be one of the most fun to teams to watch in 2013. If they can prove they have matured, and improved, they could also be one of the best teams in the country this season.
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