What to expect: VCU vs. VCU

A preview of the 2014-2015 VCU Rams.

It’s here! The Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team will hold their second annual1 open scrimmage on Sunday at 5:00 PM in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. VCU will play VCU for two 15-minute halves which will be followed by a 45-minute autograph session.

There’s nothing like the feeling of a flood of Black & Gold taking over the Siegel Center to experience HAVOC! for the first time after a long, dark, and cold offseason. This year, the anticipation seems to have a little more significance after the first unambiguously disappointing end to a season during Coach Smart’s tenure. During his first four years, the Rams ended campaigns with a CBI Championship and three losses to better seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament. Few programs in the country get let down so easily in the month of March, so VCU’s loss to #12 Stephen F. Austin is a reminder that no team is safe in college basketball as well as an excellent story line to follow as HAVOC! 6.0 seeks vengeance.

The free event promises to be highly entertaining, and it’s an excellent opportunity to see the new scoreboard and LED Ribbon board, but it’s also a surprisingly good opportunity to evaluate VCU before the season starts.

Last season, I recapped the scrimmage with twitter-length player reviews. Unfortunately, a few of the predictions turned out way more accurate than anyone could have anticipated at the time.

JeQuan Lewis — Most talented freshman. On Sunday, freshman shone brighter than talent. Needs time to get comfortable in order to avoid mistakes.

Juvonte Reddic — Had an off day. Needs to demand greatness instead of waiting for it to come to him.

Lewis’s foul on a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the SFA game was a deciding factor in the end of the season, and Juvonte Reddic’s enigmatic play plagued the Rams all year. Moving on to a brighter topic: the 2014-15 season. Here are five things to watch for at Sunday’s scrimmage when the public gets its first taste of HAVOC 6.0:

Point guards

It’s unclear if Briante Weber will participate on Sunday. Weber will sit out VCU’s closed-door scrimmage with Florida on November 1st, their preseason game against California (PA) on November 7th, and their season opener against Tennessee in Annapolis, Maryland on November 14th.

If Weber does play, it will be interesting to see how much time he spends off the ball, as suggested by Coach Smart this preseason. If he does not play, it will be a good opportunity to see how the team will fair without him against Tennessee. JeQuan Lewis and Jonathan Williams are talented players who may be upgrades on offense, but can the full court pressure have the same edge without Weber doing what Weber does?

New faces

It’s tough to not get excited about Terry Larrier, Justin Tillman, Michael Gilmore, Jonathan Williams, and Antravious Simmons (RS) but we don’t really know much more than what the highlight tapes show us and the recruiting scouts tell us.

Having three standout starters and eight above average supporters is not the same as having three standout starters and five incredibly good role players. VCU needs at least two of the freshman to channel freshman season Bradford Burgess or freshman season Rob Brandenberg if this team is going to be elite.


The teams won’t be announced until Sunday. Last season, they were intentionally lopsided and the game was a blowout. If competition is the goal, this is how I would arrange the teams:


  • Lewis
  • Brooks
  • Larrier
  • Graham
  • Simmons
  • Gilmore
  • Burtson


  • Williams
  • Johnson
  • Burgess
  • Tillman
  • Alie-Cox
  • Guest

The guards will be phenomenal. The area of interest should be the front court. Who has the strength to match up with Mo Alie-Cox? Antravious Simmons had an incredibly solid scrimmage last year, was it an exception or a sneak peak of things to come?


No team in the modern era of VCU basketball has possessed such a diverse set of physical tools. It seems like every season VCU suggests it will go back to starting big and throw in some 2-3 zone like they did during the Final Four run, but it rarely happens, especially not in games of consequence.

This team could actually be the one to expand the definition of HAVOC!. There is simply too much talent in the front court to play Treveon Graham exclusively at the four while divvying up ~50 minutes between Mo Alie-Cox, Antravious Simmons, Michael Gilmore, Justin Tillman, and Jarred Guest.

The guard rotations on Sunday should be pretty standard, but don’t be surprised to see lineups with Treveon Graham at the three, or super long combinations of guys like Gilmore, Guest, and Alie-Cox because of short benches.


30 minutes is a long time to press and be pressed with such small teams. Is VCU’s extreme conditioning enough for them to play a game designed for 10 or 11 guys during the regular season with only six or seven?

— ∮∮∮ —

Sunday promises to be a highly entertaining, family-friendly event. For the serious fans, it’s the public debut of HAVOC! 6.0’s quest for vengeance. For others it’s an opportunity to see some steals, dunks, and a world-class scoreboard. Either way, everyone except for the six or seven guys on the losing team should be winners.

Photos by: Will Weaver

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  1. I like the event, and it’s in year two, so I’m going to go ahead and call it annual. 
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Aaron Williams

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

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