One game down, another upcoming, and 29 to go at the minimum. VCU Men’s Basketball has made it’s anticipated return back to RVA and has everyone talking out of the gates. Mostly positive banter sprinkled with some constructive insight and the occasional mindless dribble of ignorance. In short…prepare accordingly for what appears to be a productive season for the Rams at first glance.
New Season, Fresh W
Starting the 2018-19 season with a victory was ideal and VCU did just that versus Gardner-Webb in the season opener. Three VCU players stood out from the 69-58 win: Issac Vann, Mike’l Simms, and Marcus Evans.
Watching the healthiest version of Vann play fearless by attacking the rim and taking on the Runnin’ Bulldogs best in defense showed a confident leader. Simms going 4-of-5 from three off the VCU bench had Troy Daniels’ flashbacks running wild in my cranium. Siegel Center unglued as Evans made his Ram debut and put up 9 points in 9 minutes; the Black & Gold heart was beating at an alarming rate in satisfaction.
Teamwork = Dream + Work
Team collaboration was a big takeaway from this game. When’s the last time VCU constantly had 3-4 Rams crashing the paint against the opposition for rebounds? The key word in that last sentence was “constantly”.
Coach Rhoades knew that last season was a depth issue for VCU. 2018-19 may be the year that Rhoades actually may be overloaded with talent that can check in and out whenever. Three to four minutes of all-out effort, water break and prepare for the next round. That’s what Rhoades wants and what VCU needs.
Inside the paint resides a presence that could give opponents’ nightmares for 40 minutes. Sean Mobley and Marcus Santos-Silva have a knack for battling on the boards and improving after a year of collegiate basketball. They’re also joined by Vann, De’Riante Jenkins, Michael Gilmore, Corey Douglas…actually the entire team in all honesty.
The only player that didn’t grab a rebound versus GWU was P.J. Byrd; he made up for that leading VCU with 4 assists. Byrd is a hidden gem for the Rams by the way after some more elbow grease and game experience.
Turnovers is that word that still makes Ram fans cringe. Last year VCU coughed up the ball 446 times; 11 more times than the 2016-17 season (435). While the Rams forced 21 turnovers out of Gardner-Webb, VCU’s turnover issue was still present with 20. On some plays, there was just a pass that missed the target or casual dribbling gone terribly wrong.
Can this be fixed? Yes. With all the talent there comes the pressures to perform and sometimes the ball just doesn’t want to cooperate. There’s a handful of factors that lead to turnovers plus Gardner-Webb’s defense was not that bad. Add that with first game jitters silences the panic a smidge. Hopefully, as the season keeps going the turnovers just keep dropping into the single-digits.
Playing a complete game was a phrase heard on numerous occasions last season. Rhoades demands VCU to play a full 40 and not just an energetic 20 minutes with spare change. From tip-off to the final buzzer, VCU is on and the off button is broken. Once again the depth of the roster is at play as Rhoades mixes and matches to find that working combination on the night.
Marcus Evans. #3??
Marcus Evans matched the anticipation in his debut. After the post-game interviews and walking back to my post, I ran into VCU’s own Mike Litos. Litos was glowing when we spoke about Evans as being THAT dude and a game-changer. I could not agree more.
Coach Rhoades explained further that Evans has an edge to him as a competitor and as a man. Agreed.
Marcus Evans could be the next Eric Maynor. Hold Up & Wait A Minute!
That previous statement could be viewed as the biggest compliment to any Ram past, present, and future that steps into the Siegel Center. I flashback to #3 owning George Mason in the CAA Tournament Finals. Rewatching the Dagger versus Duke on replay in my theater of memories. The grit, the determination, the hatred Maynor had for losing and the love for his teammates after winning.
And I can see that same built-in character in that talented transfer from Rice University in Marcus Evans.
He is no Eric Maynor, however, to be clear. Evans does play a similar style with a knack for a driving lane against all contact. Inside that young man is the will to win and making his teammates better that showed some of that #3 swagger of old. Did I mention that he returned to action after life-changing Achilles injuries months ahead of schedule? Evans is a special player aka THAT DUDE and he’s going to win VCU some games with his skillset.
Comparisons to Eric Maynor is fun and holds a truth in the detail with Evans. That comparison comes with a lot of weight for the Ram rocking #2. Evans is a stud with Maynor-like similarities but he is not #3 nor should he strive to be.
Why Allo Pirates
Hampton hoists their colors and makes way to Siegel in VCU’s next game. The Pirates washed away Mid-Atlantic Christian 110-58 in their season opener with Jermaine Marrow scoring 22 points.
Joining Marrow with 16 points was Kalin Fisher and Trevond Barnes added an additional 11. Hampton scored 62 of their points inside the paint, 28 off the fast break and 26 off turnovers. Hampton’s reserves off the bench put up 46 points with a good shooting percentage from the field of 50.6%.
So Hampton is feeling confident with their focus now on the Black & Gold in the Legends Classic. Mid-Atlantic Christian is no VCU so the Pirates will be battling against a better team on the road. For VCU, limit those turnovers and crashing the boards will be a point of interest while also finding the hot hands on offense rather quickly.
There’s plenty to be excited for as a Ram fan. Offensive playmakers, team rebounding, stifling defense and roster depth. Marcus Evans showcasing what he has while getting healthier brought more giddiness in anticipation. Overall, VCU is in a good spot after their opening contest at 1-0.
The Rams are far from perfection. Energy for a full shift and careless turnovers cause worry and hair pulling but not near unfixable. Teams will get better and tougher as the season continues so working on these setbacks is ideal here and now at early beginnings. All and all enjoy the first one whilst preparing for the second serving come Friday.
Plus, it’s Homecoming. Who gets sour about VCU Basketball on homecoming? My saying for this season in the works is “7th or bust” from the preseason A-10 rankings being shared and the disrespect having VCU ranked that low in my eyes.
VCU doesn’t look like a 7th place team. They’re working in preparation for 1st place prize fights and have the talent to back it up. Get excited because VCU Basketball is back. And hungrier than ever.
VCU Men’s Basketball takes on Hampton on Homecoming in the Legends Classic! Tip-off begins at 7 PM inside the Siegel Center on Friday Night. This game will be broadcasted on MASN and ESPN+