Five things to watch for at the Black & Gold Tip-off

Sunday marks the public start of HAVOC! 5.0 and the journey of Coach Smart’s most talented team ever.

Big Blue Madness. Hoosier Hysteria. Midnight Madness. Gaudy midnight practices are the standard for blue blood college basketball programs. Complete with choreographed dances, 3-point competitions, and dunk competitions, these events usually have more to do with recruiting players than showing fans what their team has been up to over the summer. Thankfully, VCU’s plans for Sunday are more like a basketball game and less like the Miami Heat’s Big 3 announcement.

It’s worth asking, would HAVOC! be showing itself in public before November 2nd if the NCAA hadn’t voted to move the start of practice up three weeks? Maybe not, but Sunday promises to be an entertaining experience for fans and an opportunity for VCU’s nine players who have never played in front of a Siegel Center crowd to rid themselves of some butterflies.

Since we’re all new to this, here’s what we know: VCU will play VCU for two twenty (maybe fifteen) minute halves with a ten minute intermission. Coach Smart will announce the teams immediately before the scrimmage. Douglas Brooks should be ready to play despite his recent knee surgery, but Jarred Guest will be unavailable as he continues rehabbing a dislocated ankle.

Here are five things to watch for on Sunday:

1. HAVOC! vs. HAVOC!

Are you the type of fan that will be upset on Sunday because VCU has to lose, or are you the type of fan that sees this as a win-win? Let’s be honest, when HAVOC! plays HAVOC!, everyone’s a winner.

Recently, Coach Smart has talked about having a nine to eleven man rotation this season. With Guest sidelined, that leaves each team with seven players. How will the full-court pressure and high octane offense look with such a short bench? How will VCU’s guards handle the full-court pressure?

2. New Faces

Count ’em, nine new players will take to the hardwood Sunday. Jordan Burgess and Mo Alie-Cox will finally see some action after a season in the shadows, and Jairus Lyles, JeQuan Lewis, Terrance Shannon, Douglas Brooks, and Antravious Simmons will don the black & gold in public for the first time. Walk-ons Torey Burston and Emerson Burk will also join the mix.

Who spent their weekends at “Club Franklin Street” this summer? What freshmen are ready to contribute?

3. Match-ups

It’s tough to predict the exact teams for Sunday, but the positional match ups are really interesting:

Briante Weber vs. JeQuan Lewis: Some (especially the national media), are doubting Weber’s place as the heir apparent to VCU’s point guard position. Some say Lewis could be the starter by the beginning of the A-10 season. Both have an opportunity to make a serious statement Sunday.

Melvin Johnson vs. Rob Brandenberg: Johnson is expected to make a huge leap this season and Brandenberg is expected to be back with a vengeance. Both will have a sense of urgency. Who will prevail?

Jordan Burgess vs. Treveon Graham: This is the most intriguing match up. Does Burgess 2.0 possess the toughness and muscle to guard the Freight Train? Is Burgess every ounce as tough as everyone has been saying, and can he hold his own at the four like the upperclassman version of his older brother? (I expect Burgess to start at the three this season.)

Juvonte Reddic vs. Terrance Shannon: Reddic is a household name and Shannon is the new old kid on the block. Can Shannon hang? Who stands a chance guarding Reddic when Shannon goes to the bench?

Here’s where it gets interesting. Lyles, Brooks, Alie-Cox, Simmons, Burston, and Burk are the six remaining player. The two additional starters will have serious style implications. Teams could either go super guard heavy with Brooks or Lyles, or play a rarer (for VCU) more traditional lineup with big men like Alie-Cox and Simmons.

4. Starters

Ten Rams will start on Sunday which is conveniently close to the size of Coach Smart’s rotation this season. The ten starters will be a decent indicator (excluding Jarred Guest) of who will get minutes. Expect one guard, one big man, and the two walk-ons to start the game riding the pine.

I anticipate five guys averaging a combined 125 minutes a game this season: Reddic (28), Graham (28), Weber (25), Brandenberg (24), and Johnson (20). That leaves 75 minutes to be divided between the remaining players including 4-star stud Jordan Burgess and 4-star scoring machine JeQuan Lewis. Sunday is another opportunity for those on the outside to make their case as insiders.

5. Point Guards

Two camps have developed this offseason. Those who are freaked out by the departure of VCU’s floor general Darius Theus, and those who have been around long enough to realize this is a biannual tradition for the Rams. Unlike Maynor and Rodriguez, Theus will probably be replaced by committee. Don’t panic, between Briante Weber, Rob Brandenberg, and JeQuan Lewis, VCU has enough eggs in different baskets to have an effective answer at the one. Sunday will be a great opportunity to see Brandenberg play point guard for the first time and to see JeQuan Lewis in black & gold.

It’s here

Read the interviews, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams are far from satisfied with their back to back first weekend exits at the hand of Big 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Sunday marks the public start of HAVOC! 5.0 and the journey of Coach Smart’s most talented team ever.

Tipoff for the Black & Gold game is scheduled for 6:00 PM, Sunday October 13th. Coach Shaka Smart will welcome fans and open the gates at 5:00 PM on the eastern side of the Siegel Center. The Black & Gold game is free, but seats are first come first serve.

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Aaron Williams

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

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