Virginia Commonwealth is the best basketball program in the state. Their results under Shaka Smart speak for themselves. Earlier this year they defeated UVA in Charlottesville, and they’ve amassed a 115-38 record under Smart, including a run to the Final Four in 2009-10.
The Rams are 9-3 so far this season, and they are likely going to use their Havoc defense to run to the NCAA Tournament yet again. They play a fullcourt style of basketball and they like to pressure on every play. They wear teams down, and then blow them out in the second half. Protecting the basketball is a must, and unfortunately that’s been a struggle at times for Virginia Tech this season.
Shaka Smart has done a very good job of recruiting players who fit his style of play. VCU has solid depth, and he will play a number of guys. 10 players average 10 minutes or more for the Rams, and eight different players have started games. Rather than list a starting lineup, we’ll just go over all 10 of their major contributors.
G Treveon Graham (6-6, 220, Jr.): Graham is VCU’s top scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game. He is shooting 35.6% from the outside, but his size is Graham’s real asset. He is a big wing who can take advantage of smaller defenders, and his length and athleticism are great fits for the Havoc defense.
F Juvonte Reddic (6-9, 250, Sr.): Reddic averages 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Joey van Zegeren will play a big role in this game. He needs to limit Reddic and stop VCU’s ability to score in the paint.
G Rob Brandenberg (6-2, 190, Sr.): Brandenberg is a very experienced player who is averaging 9.4 points per game. He has a 6-7 wingspan, which means he fits right into what Shaka Smart likes to do defensively. He averages 2.1 steals per game.
G Melvin Johnson (6-3, 195, So.): Johnson is from New York, and he was pursued by Virginia Tech out of high school. In fact, he visited Tech on September2, 2011. He was the #99 player in the country coming out of high school, according to Rivals. He is a good scorer off the bench, averaging 9.1 points per game.
G Briante Weber (6-2, 165, Jr.): Weber has started all 12 games for VCU at the point guard position. He averages 8.3 points and four assists per game. He is an excellent defender, and an amazing leaper (45.5 inch vertical jump). He’s yet another great fit for Shaka Smart’s style. Weber averages 3.8 steals per game, and he’s one of the best defensive guards in college basketball.
G JeQuan Lewis (6-1, 175, Fr.): Lewis plays just over 15 minutes per game, and he averages 7.4 points. He is a very good three-point shooter, connecting at a 44% clip.
G Jordan Burgess (6-5, 215, r-Fr.): Burgess is a big, physical guard who averages 6.4 points per game. Shooting isn’t his forte as of right now, but he’s another long-armed guard for the Shaka Smart defensive system.
F Terrance Shannon (6-8, 240, r-Sr.): Shannon is a transfer from Florida State where he got a lot of playing time for Leonard Hamilton. He’s a good scorer and competent rebounder off the bench, and he’s also used to playing against high-level competition.
F Mo Alie-Cox (6-6, 250, r-Fr.): Alie-Cox is a very energetic and athletic player who runs the court very well. Though he’s only 6-6, he has a 7-1 wingspan. Say it with me…he’s a great fit for Shaka Smart’s system.
F Jarred Guest (6-8, 225, Jr.): Guest is a stretch forward with length who is also able to knock down outside jumpers. He plays just over 10 minutes per game.
The Rams have talent and depth, and more importantly Shaka Smart has done a great job of filling his team with players who fit his style of play.
Quite frankly, this is a terrible matchup for Virginia Tech. The Hokies only have one true point guard, and that’s true freshman Devin Wilson. Adam Smith, who isn’t a true point but handles Tech’s backup point guard duties, is questionable for this game. James Johnson might have to use Jarell Eddie at the point guard spot for part of this game, just to give Wilson a breather.
From a turnover standpoint, this game is a horrible matchup for the Hokies. The Rams are #1 in the country in forced turnovers (19.7 per game), while Tech is #243 in turnovers per game. Defensively, VT ranks #345 in forced turnovers. On paper, VCU is going to have a huge advantage in turnovers on Saturday, and it’s going to be very difficult for the Hokies to get a win.