Nearing the final moments of 2019, VCU Men’s Basketball finds themselves at 10-3 overall after finishing their non-conference slate with an 85-51 win over Loyola Maryland. The Black & Gold now lace up their kicks in preparation for Atlantic 10 conference play. While winning soothes the soul, the Rams must continue to work from within to keep those wins coming over the next chapter of the 2019-20 season.
Vigorous Need for Discipline
No need for a witty reminder of what happened at Wichita State. After that road whipping in the middle of America, VCU got a much-needed bounce back against the Greyhounds. Even with a season-high 14 three-pointers, highlight dunks, and plenty of Floor Burns inside the Siegel Center, there was still something missing. And that’s discipline.
Hearing Coach Rhoades yell at his guys to move around repeatedly while defending or waiting for the ball carrier to call out the play on offense rose some concern. Not only during the stretch when Loyola could have made a real run but even when VCU was up 20+ and the Rams were stonewalled as time ticked away.
One lesson that has been nailed to the backboard repeatedly is about VCU’s discipline. Coach Rhoades appreciates his players wanting to win as bad as they want to breathe. However, the need for mental toughness is dire for the Rams.
“I think our older guys gotta get better at taking care of the basketball. Our younger guys gotta be more disciplined on carrying out a play call or the plan or the scouting report. We gotta rebound better, we gotta take care of the ball better, and we got to get mentally tougher.”
Don’t be surprised seeing this situation pop up similarly to unwarranted spam e-mails during A-10 play. We’ve seen flashes of VCU playing like crazy while sticking to the gameplan and worked successfully. The last couple of games going back to Missouri State has shown glimpses of Rams’ going off script but not at cost of a negative result outside of the Shockers.
“Stay Disciplined” is a common phrase that Coach Rhoades shouts to his players while out on the court in battle. Right now Coach Rhoades wants everyone to bring more action to that phrase instead of smoke when the lights are shining bright.
More Bones, More Curry. Extra Sauce!
KeShawn Curry and Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland have a high ceiling with their play on and off the basketball for VCU. Curry already had Ram fans clamoring for more built from last season’s highlights and has earned minutes this year with his energetic drive on offense and lockdown help defense on the press.
Bones has wowed with his high IQ, improved ball handling, and defensive upgrades that resulted in Coach Rhoades working Bones alongside Marcus Evans instead of being a relief. Both players averaged around 6 points per game during December and have made a positive impact on the game.
Speaking of +/-, Bones averaged a +8 during this month and Curry had a +11.2. Both players had a better +/- monthly average than any of the VCU starters.
“(They’re) young, aggressive, and they got confidence. They just got to keep winning. That’s what it’s all about here is winning. As long as they keep going and keep putting in the work, the sky’s the limit.”
–De’Riante Jenkins, VCU Senior Guard
As both players continue to improve their game, Coach Rhoades wants his VCU bench to keep that same energy once their number is called. For Bones and Curry at the moment, they’re bringing the ruckus and then some.
Crowfield, Evans, Jenkins, Simms, Vann. VCU’s senior squad is a talented group of young men clashing their will to win and the desire to not make a mistake. Marcus Evans had a rough start to December transitioning from the man that needed to do everything to a Ram that can impact the game without touching the ball.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches praising Evans for pushing his brothers when the net lights up or an aggressive stop on the ball. That senior core doesn’t need to do everything out on the floor however they do take ownership of how the team is playing.
Vann takes great pride in defending the best of the best and expects the same work ethic from his teammates alongside him. Crowfield may be sidelined due to injury and continues to hold Rams accountable pointing out what went wrong and celebrating when the play strikes gold. Simms said it best that if you want to get out on the floor, you have to put in the work for minutes or you will be sitting on the bench. Big Truss.
“Our guys want it so bad which I really appreciate but you can’t win the game in the first minute or on one shot. It’s a process.”
That process relies heavily on this senior class to take the lead. Outside of the basketball numbers, these young men represent the Black & Gold and are looked upon by their young colleagues for guidance. Playing like crazy is infectious and that’s how VCU becomes what Coach Rhoades and Ram fans crave. For this to become reality, the seniors must grasp ownership and take the lead towards conference play.
Swimming Towards The Atlantic
The Atlantic 10 is not like last year’s Atlantic 10. Currently, the A-10 has 6 teams with 10 wins or more and a few teams like La Salle and Rhode Island waiting to spoil the fun at the top of the table.
VCU has that Ram Army that will have their discipline and mental toughness tested day in and night out during this run towards March. There’s plenty to be excited about in 2020 and the Rams intend on dancing. Before they take the dance floor, VCU must continue to build that neurological muscle in between their craniums sharper and stop being selfish. It’s not about your wants, it’s about the TEAM’s needs.
Anyone can get that hot hand on any night. Just in December, it’s bounced from Santos-Silva to Evans then Simms back to Evans followed by Jenkins, Bones, and Curry. With 2020 and Atlantic 10 play near, VCU has the opportunity to showcase how special this team truly can become.
“We can be a special team…we feel like that with the work that we put we got a chance to make a lot of noise when March comes and make a lot of noise in the A-10 tournament and the rest of conference play.”
One Last Tweet
See You Next Year!
VCU Men’s Basketball returns to action in 2020 versus Fordham in their Atlantic 10 conference play opener. The Battle of the Rams takes place at the Siegel Center on Thursday, January 2nd at 7 PM.