The Legends Classic was a good batch of competition for VCU Men’s Basketball at the early stages of this college basketball season. Four games against four various opponents with different players, styles, and tactics. Although the Rams did not hoist the trophy after suffering a defeat* in the final game, VCU doesn’t look that bad at 4-1 with workable improvements to their basketball craft.
A Full Out Rager in Brooklyn
So why the asterisk? ICYMI the final game at the Barclays Center had a dash of controversy between VCU and St. John’s. Social Media was not a fan of the crappy officiating by the officials, especially near the game’s end. A phantom foul by SJU’s Shamorie Ponds on VCU’s Marcus Evans on a game-winning shot attempt was not whistled and…well shockingly…Rams were ENRAGED.
Even with below-average officiating, VCU turnovers ignited the flame against the Red Storm. Players at times were trying to do too much to find that perfect pass or missed their target completely. VCU committed 22 turnovers compared to St. John’s nine on the night. After only 5 games, the Rams have 92 turnovers in total. Only 15 teams in Division 1 college basketball has a worse turnover per game average than VCU (#338, 18.4 Per Game).
This is a problem.
With the desire to playing a high-tempo style of basketball, the need for ball control and security raises to high levels of assurance. Players can sprint and scramble all that they desire but if turnovers stack up, all that grinding goes up in smoke. It’s a common objective in VCU practices every week: Limit Live Turnovers. Unfortunately, the turnovers are not limited in live gameplay at the moment.
Thankfully VCU is only 5 games into the season. Mistakes are common, players are learning through playing time and it just so happens that…shocking to some…that these are college kids. Get the facepalms and hair pulling out now because this work in progress will take some much needed time to wither out.
Work By Example
Accountability can be heard repeatedly in conversations involving VCU Basketball as of late. Issac Vann is taking more responsibility on the floor and showcased that with a career-high 30 point performance against St. John’s. Vann was driving the paint, knocking down threes and going to war for rebounds; his work paid off with his first double-double of the season (30 PTS, 11 REBS).
That work rate infected Marcus Evans running point guard. Evans is already a competitive young Ram and pushes his teammates to be better every single day. Even with a bad night coughing up 6 turnovers, Evans kept fighting. Which is what VCU needs to do: FIGHT like crazy.
Just Bring It
There was fight shown throughout the Legends Classic. Corey Douglas making three consecutive starts and going to town inside the box with 21 rebounds in those starts. Marcus Santos-Silva jumping into the fray for rebounds with Douglas proves that the paint game of VCU is dangerous.
De’Riante Jenkins shaking off his 0-for-5 versus Temple and shooting 50% from downtown versus St. John’s. Malik and Mike’l providing good minutes off the VCU bench and buckets galore. A couple moments of a cool down and panic shooting here and there raised an eyebrow of concern. That was brought back down with better composure and a second wind getting the Rams going once more.
This team has some upside offensively and on defense the HAVOC is real. Currently, VCU is ranked #9 in opponent’s points per game (62.6 PPG) and in the top 10 of opponent effective field goal percentage (39.6%, #7). HAVOC has reappeared in bursts however until the turnover issue is unmasked, agony looms over a promising defense that lurks.
A Harsh Way of Learning
Losing sucks and this will not be the only time VCU experiences this. There will always be a winner and a loser in the game of college basketball. Unless magically the Rams run the table all the way to it’s first-ever NCAA Men’s Basketball championship, VCU will suffer defeat once again this season. It’s not a good feeling but it’s part of the game. What this team does with that feeling is in their hands on trying to improve on the day-to-day basis to prepare for the next game.
Four and one. Not a bad spot to be in after 5 games. That fifth one shouldn’t feel like a loss, however, the record book will show defeat in overtime. What’s important is the following: Stay Together, Hold Each Other Accountable and Fight Like Crazy against Hofstra. A lot of season left; 26 games at the minimum up to this point. VCU took that first L, balled it up and threw it into a dumpster fire.
Reset and Regroup
As painful as that result was, VCU must move forward. Turnovers will make or break games for the Rams as this problem got magnified in Brooklyn. Better cohesion on the floor between players with passing and higher percentage shot attempts is a much even if they don’t fall. VCU has a paint presence and a good three-point arsenal. The trick of consistent production from game-to-game is something Coach Rhoades intends to solve and execute.
Don’t worry. VCU ain’t that bad. In fact, dare I say VCU might actually be…good? Yes, they are and with more time this season VCU could possibly become great.
Time will tell.
VCU Men’s Basketball welcomes former CAA compadre Hofstra to the Siegel Center in their next game on Saturday, November 24th. Game time is set for a 7 PM start on MASN and ESPN+.