#62 VCU: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #62
Conference Rank: #3 Colonial Athletic Association
2009-10: 27-9, 11-7
2009-10 postseason: CBI
Coach: Shaka Smart (27-9 at VCU, 27-9 overall)
This team may lack an Eric Maynor or a Larry Sanders, but VCU has all the weapons it needs to improve on their CBI appearance of a year ago. The Rams did not necessarily have a great year while adjusting to life without Maynor, since they lost seven conference games, but Coach Shaka Smart had his team playing great ball in February and March and they have a CBI title to prove it.
Key Losses: G Jay Gavin, F T.J. Gwynn, F Larry Sanders
Obviously replacing Sanders is the big need here, but there is also very little depth in the frontcourt. Toby Veal will be the likely candidate to step into a starting role. The 6-8, 235 pound junior college transfer has the size and the experience that this team desperately needs. Juvonte Reddic, Heath Houston, Reco McCarter and D.J. Haley could all battle for minutes off the bench and at least a couple of them will need to contribute. Reddic is a surprisingly agile athlete for a 6-9, 225 pound forward and is the most likely candidate among the freshmen to see major playing time. Houston and McCarter are more wings than forwards, although both can spend time at the four spot and Haley has the size but is a project. The lone guard coming in is Rob Brandenberg, who will most likely spend the season learning from the bench.
Joey Rodriguez is the new star of the team, but there is a ton of talent in the backcourt. Bradford Burgess is the most dynamic scoring threat of the bunch. The 6-6 guard can shoot over most opponents, but he will also use his size and strength to attack the basket. On top of his scoring ability, Burgess is a great rebounder for a guard and that will certainly help with Sanders off in the NBA. Brandon Rozzell will likely start at the shooting guard position; and shooting is what Rozzell does best. With the experienced Ed Nixon and the emerging Darius Theus available off of the bench, the focus of the Rams will revert to the backcourt.
Nobody is going to replace Sanders’ 14.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. The only returning forward with any significant experience is Sanders’ frontcourt mate of a year ago, Jamie Skeen. Skeen will now have to be the player who mans the five spot. That will not be a problem for the 6-9, 240 pound senior. Skeen stepped out on the perimeter quite a bit last year, but that was partially due to the constant double teams that Sanders required. Skeen does have some outside shooting ability, but this time around he will need to stay in the paint and be the bruising interior force. He can score inside and is not a bad rebounder either and Skeen should definitely improve on his 8.1 points and 4.5 rebounds of a year ago.
Who to Watch:
Rodriguez may not be the next Maynor, but he is a dynamic scorer and a great point guard. Rodriguez was second to Sanders in the scoring column during the 2009-2010 campaign, averaging 12.9 points per game. He is equally adept at finishing around the basket or shooting the long ball, which makes him very difficult to defend. Perhaps more importantly, Rodriguez dished out 5.8 assists last season and he will make the rest of the backcourt better with his ability to create shots for his teammates.
The success or failure of the Rams will come down to the frontcourt. Skeen has to stay on the floor as much as possible and the newcomers have to fill in a lot of minutes. Veal should be a fine complimentary player to Skeen, but neither of them are Sanders. If Reddic lives up to the hype and becomes a major contributor, VCU will be in the mix for a CAA title. However, even if he struggles, this team has enough talent and experience to reach for the NIT instead of the CBI.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Joey Rodriguez, Senior, Guard, 12.9 ppg
Brandon Rozzell, Senior, Guard, 8.8 ppg
Bradford Burgess, Junior, Guard, 10.4 ppg
Toby Veal, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Jamie Skeen, Senior, Forward, 8.1 ppg
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