NCAA countdown: No. 15 VCU
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Bringing back six of your top eight players should present a soothing outlook for just about any college basketball coach.
Not for the orchestrator of the nation’s most havoc-wreaking defense.
Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart once again has the Rams well-positioned for postseason success, bringing back another experienced team poised to cause headaches for opponents.
Yet the key ingredient to Smart’s full-court pressuring defense is arguably hinged upon the team’s depth, and the 36-year-old coach is optimistic VCU will improve with a handful of newcomers.
VCU loses a dynamic backcourt tandem in Troy Daniels and Darius Theus. But the Rams return the focal points of their offense in 6-8 forward Juvonte Reddic and lengthy guard Traveon Graham, the team’s leading scorer last season. One of those notable newcomers is Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon, a graduate transfer immediately eligible and sure to make an impact. Shannon, a hard-nosed 6-8 forward, should fit perfectly in VCU’s up-tempo offense and pressuring defense — meshing nicely with Reddic and providing a paint toughness that was clearly missing last season, highlighted by a 25-point, season-ending loss to Michigan in which the Rams were outrebounded 41-24.
After a second-place finish in the Atlantic 10 — in the school’s first season in the conference — an experienced, stronger VCU team appears ready to put a stranglehold on the league with Butler and Xavier gone. And of course, these Smart-led teams are never a bad pick in the NCAA tournament.
2012-13 in review: 27-9 overall (12-4 in Atlantic 10), lost in third round of the NCAA tournament to Michigan.
Tournament projection: Automatic bid, No. 4 seed.
Coach’s corner: “Those (key returners) are all going to play. It’s up to the new guys to figure out how many guys we play. We actually have not had as much depth as I would like to have the last couple of years. My first year at VCU, we had a lot of depth that year. If you look at it, we’ve kind of disguised it a little bit. It looks like we’re playing nine or 10, but we’re … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 15 Virginia Commonwealth, click here.]