VCU silences doubters and the next step

VCU basketball deserves a personal apology from ESPN and others, but they likely do not care after defeating the University of Southern California 59-46. Next up: Georgetown.

VCU basketball deserves a personal apology from ESPN and others, but they likely do not care after defeating the University of Southern California 59-46. The game started late and was the fourth of the new “first four” part of the NCAA tournament. 10,192 basketball fans cheered on as two teams with vastly different styles fought for the right to play Georgetown on Friday. While VCU and USC did not have large followings, the VCU pep band and the fans that travelled were rowdy.

VCU and USC are complete opposites. VCU is a veteran team that often utilizes ten different players in a game. USC uses six players. VCU is guard-oriented and uses a full court press from the tip-off to the buzzer. USC has two 6’-10” forwards that are rebounding monsters. VCU is ranked 301st in the country in rebounding.

At the game’s end, VCU had outrebounded USC 40-31. Bradford Burgess’ ten rebounds led the Rams and his five offensive rebounds helped VCU get 17 offensive boards to USC’s five. At times he was defending future NBA prospect, Nikola Vucevic, and winning despite a 4-inch size differential.

At the half, after 20 minutes of USC style basketball, the game was tied 22-22. VCU accelerated the tempo in the second half by making it rain 3-pointers; forcing turnovers; and, most importantly, forcing USC into foul trouble. With eight minutes remaining the score was 44-43 VCU, but USC had the ball. USC’s six-man rotation was then tested and failed as three players fouled out and one player finished with four fouls. VCU exploded, and eight minutes later at the buzzer the score was 59-46. This was by far VCU’s most impressive defensive showing all year.

Coach Shaka Smart seriously elevated his coaching at the start of March against Drexel in the CAA tournament. At 33, he is the second youngest Division I basketball head coach and his players are executing his game plans better than ever. His addition of seven-foot freshman DJ Haley to the starting line up has done several things. With a powerful rebounder on offense, Jamie Skeen has shot more threes. By adding Skeen to three-point weapons Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon, Rob Brandenberg and Bradford Burgess, several shooters can have bad days and VCU can still win. With a larger body in the lane, VCU has utilized several different defenses including a zone.

In the second half Wednesday night, VCU started breaking away. They shifted into a zone defense for the final eight minutes, and USC, with limited shooting weapons, was forced to drive to the basket.
Recently VCU has shown a commitment to attacking the hoop and forcing their opponents into foul trouble. VCU has won three of their last four games. In the wins, eight players have fouled out for the opposition while no one fouled out in their loss against Old Dominion University.

After the game, Coach Smart expressed his belief in the advantage of the play-in game. 60 teams in the tournament will have jitters going into their games but now VCU is experienced and has proven they can win on this stage.

The next step

VCU plays Georgetown on Friday at 9:50pm at the United Center in Chicago. Chris Wright, one of Georgetown’s talented guards, after missing three games to an injury is expected to play after practicing this week. Without their starting point guard the Hoyas have looked lost on the court losing their last four games of the season.

After being entirely overlooked and insulted for their tournament selection, VCU should not be overlooked in this game. Even if Wright returns, with his non-shooting hand broken and after missing several games he will likely not be 100-percent. His presence is essential for the success of the Hoya’s Princeton-style offense.

If VCU forces turnovers and makes their shots, they will spend time in transition and have the ability to run their “havoc” defense. If they do this and maintain an up-tempo game, then they will win. Be sure to tune in and watch. Win or lose, VCU always puts on a show.

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Aaron Williams

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

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