After a long weekend to mull over their opening round loss to the Saint Mary’s Gaels, it seems an appropriate time to evaluate the VCU Rams’ 2016-17 season.

The Rams entered the 2016-17 season with questions about who would fill the scoring void left by departing seniors Melvin Johnson (17.4 ppg) and Koery Billbury (11.2 ppg). JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox both averaged double-figures during the 2015-16 season, but Lewis represented the only returning Ram shooting above 28 percent from beyond the three-point line. The offseason was also dominated by the news of promising sophomore Michael Gilmore’s transfer to Miami. Gilmore’s transfer left the Rams with only three members of the roster over 6-7.

Despite Gilmore’s departure, the Rams were picked to finish third in the Atlantic 10 and JeQaun Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox were picked as preseason All-League performers. The Rams also had high hopes for head coach Will Wade’s first recruiting class, which included a top 100 recruit in small forward De’Riante Jenkins, and the on-court debut of redshirt freshman Samir Doughty.

VCU maneuvered its non-conference schedule as it underwent a transition from a three-point shooting team to one that emphasized interior play. Junior Justin Tillman made the leap from a player with raw athletic potential to an interior force with his length and leaping ability. The Rams were dealt a sour pill, however, when Jenkins, who had started to grow in confidence and improve his defense, broke his foot in the team’s A-10 opener against George Mason December 30.

Even without Jenkins, the Rams scrapped their way to a second place finish in the A-10 and earned an at-large NCAA selection for their seventh straight trip to the national tournament. The season can viewed as a success, as the team was able to mask its perimeter shooting for large portions of the season and was able to dominate teams inside with a front court that did not include a player taller than 6-9. The Rams made it to their fifth consecutive A-10 Tournament Championship game, had three players receive All-League recognition and had their eighth straight season of 25 wins or more. Despite not advancing out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years, the Rams performed admirably against arguably their toughest first round opponent in that span, Saint Mary’s.

The Rams now enter the offseason with a team that is much younger and more inexperienced than the team that took the court in Salt Lake City. The Rams lose three starters, Lewis, Alie-Cox and Jordan Burgess, and also lose sparkplug sixth man Doug Brooks.

Lewis’ graduation leaves the Rams with a void at point guard. Jonathon Williams made strides during 2016 and featured intermittently in the Rams’ starting lineup, but his inability to knock down exterior jump shots allowed defenders to back off and clog up driving lanes in the paint. Doughty, too, faded as the year progressed after showing promise as a hybrid point guard early in the season. VCU will hope both players can make strides in the offseason to ensure the Rams can chase an eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid.

In addition to players already on the roster, the Rams boast a top 20 recruiting class. Incoming freshman Mayan Kiir and Lavar Batts rank in ESPN’s top 100. Kiir will add size as a 6-9 power forward, while Batts fits the VCU mold of quick guards who flourish in the open court. The Rams will also add 6-9, 4-star recruit Sean Mobley and 6-7 Marcus Santos-Silva. Junior Isaac Vann, a transfer from Maine, will be eligible after sitting out the 2016-2017 season. The 6-6 small forward averaged 16.4 points per game during his freshman campaign with Maine.

The Rams also hope they can retain the services of Wade, who is being courted by LSU and visited with the school over the weekend. If the Rams can keep Wade, and his highly touted recruiting class, VCU can reload instead of rebuild as they attempt to build the prominence of the basketball program.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cuban: Losing is Mavs' 'best option' for rest of season

J.D. Martinez signs with Red Sox

Fergie apologizes for NBA All-Star anthem performance

Skier Joel Gisler has horrific crash in halfpipe

NBC analyst Tanith White uses unfortunate wording when talking about Shibutanis

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Kirk Cousins won't sign long-term with new team if tagged and traded

Verlander speaks out against MLB rule change

Polian: Lamar Jackson 'short' and 'slight,' needs to be a WR

Baker Mayfield will not attend 2018 NFL Draft

Anthony Rizzo opens up about vigil speech: 'Hardest thing I ever had to do'

Jeremy Lin defends J.J. Redick over perceived racial slur

The 'James gang walks away with a win' quiz

Negro Leaguers every baseball fan should know

Grading the deal: Eric Hosmer finally finds a home with Padres

Top 30 NFL free agents

Sports & Politics Intersect: NBA united against racial divide

MLB's top 10 starting pitchers for 2018

Dario Saric thriving in shadows of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

MLB's top 10 catchers for 2018

Ten bold predictions for 2018 MLB season

Wil Myers has a tough adjustment ahead of him

10 NFL offseason moves that need to happen

Flyers reverse course behind a balanced attack

Rams News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'James gang walks away with a win' quiz

Negro Leaguers every baseball fan should know

Top 30 NFL free agents

Sports & Politics Intersect: NBA united against racial divide

The 'Emerald City on ice' quiz

NHL Weekender: Blackhawks, Rangers continue to free fall

The 'Hope springs eternal' quiz

Dario Saric thriving in shadows of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

MLB's top 10 starting pitchers for 2018

MLB's top 10 catchers for 2018

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker