Off-season on the Brink

In the mid-majors, success almost always leads to a certain amount of chaos. High-major programs try to hire the key parts of winning machines while the mid-major athletic program tries desperately to capitalize on the moment. In 2012, Shaka Smart led the Rams to within a basket of the Sweet 16. The second that Rob Brandenberg’s three-pointer missed, VCU entered a new type of off-season.

VCU rams front

In the mid-majors, success almost always leads to a certain amount of chaos. High-major programs try to hire the key parts of winning machines while mid-major athletic programs tries desperately to capitalize on the moment.

The Final Four happened so fast in 2011 that VCU’s entire off-season was one giant honeymoon. In 2012 Shaka Smart led the ninth youngest team in the nation within a basket of the Sweet 16. The second that Rob Brandenberg’s three-pointer missed, VCU entered a new type of off-season.

On the home front

The chaos started with the man behind “HAVOC.” Every summer between now and his departure, Richmond will hold its breath in anticipation as top-25 coaching destinations plead their case with Coach Shaka Smart. Every season Smart stays is a huge victory for the program and its goal of being a perennial Sweet Sixteen team. Last summer, Smart said no to North Carolina State, and this summer he said no to Illinois. It may take a Duke, UNC, or Syracuse to make Smart leave Richmond, but that kind offer might only be a few seasons in the future.

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The second Coach Smart turned down Illinois, Norwood Teague became the most desirable Ram. His legacy at VCU is undeniably incredible. The man went with his gut as he gave an opportunity to the unproven Shaka Smart. On April 23, Teague announced that he had accepted the job as Athletic Director at University of Minnesota.

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On a lighter note, the Rams will travel to Europe in August to play exhibition games. The NCAA allows one international trip every four years. The trip will give the Rams ten additional practices which should help VCU as it stands on the edge of the preseason top 25.

Conference Chaos

With strong programs like VCU, GMU, ODU, and Drexel, the Colonial Athletic Association is a conference on the rise. Unfortunately programs like Towson, Hofstra, JMU, and William & Mary drag down the conference’s RPI. In April, the conference leadership attempted to raise the conference exit fee from from $250,000 to $1 million. At the last minute the vote was postponed.

Then worries about the conference’s stability began to surface when it was rumored that VCU and GMU were interested in joining the Atlantic 10 along with Butler (who, previously, was a member of the Horizon League). Now the Colonial Athletic Association teeters on the precipice of total collapse.

Georgia State was the first team to jump ship by joining the Sunbelt Conference for the 2013-2014 season. The Panthers are taking a step down in basketball, but their motives seemed to be fueled by football.

Chaos followed. The rumor mill has been in full swing as everyone has an opinion on the situation. Even after Norwood Teague recommended VCU stay put for at least one more year, rumors persisted that on May 1st VCU would announce their move to the A-10. Around the same time ODU began flirting with Conference USA.

VCU, George Mason, and Old Dominion all remain in limbo. If all three remain in the CAA, the conference will continue to rise. If all three leave the CAA, the conference will most likely collapse. Only time will tell where VCU ends up. Rest assured, VCU is an extremely desirable program and the Black & Gold will end up in a winning situation no matter how things shake out.

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The politics of sports simply don’t allow good things to happen without a backlash. In April, the ESPN Bracketbusters lineup was announced and the CAA was entirely excluded. VCU is 3-0 under Coach Smart in the Bracketbusters with wins over Akron, Wichita State, and Northern Iowa. The Rams’ key victory over the Wichita State Shockers was paramount in their at large bid that led to the Final Four in 2011.

Senior Struggles

Senior Kent Bazemore never received a warm welcome in the Stuart C. Siegel Center, and not surprisingly the Rowdy Rams never ran out of things to say to him during the pre-game shoot around. It turns out Bazemore couldn’t even get a warm welcome in the Monarchs own Constant Convocation Center. On March 21st, Bazemore was arrested during warmups before ODU’s final game for failure to complete an alcohol safety program related to a DUI in 2011. ESPN has the entire story here.

On the same day George Mason Senior Andre Cornelius was arrested for possession of Marijuana. Cornelius served a ten game suspension in 2011-2012 after being arrested for credit card fraud.

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VCU successfully maintained its momentum during their first post-Final Four season. While the environment is a bit chaotic right now, good things don’t happen in sports without things first getting a little messy. Despite VCU’s incredible success over the past decade, the best is still yet to come.


To stay up to date on all things VCU Basketball related, follow @rvaRAMnews on twitter or facebook.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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