I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Sunday’s BB&T Classic.
New year, new team. Somebody tell the press. “Half the questions from the media, even now, December 4, are about last year” said VCU coach Shaka Smart after Sunday’s 75-60 win over George Washington in the first game of the BB&T Classic. “In our mind, last year’s over, and it’s not gonna win us any games this year.”
Fair enough, Coach. But while VCU can’t carry over any wins from last season, what it has replicated is the same style of play that took the Rams on their historic run to the Final Four. Just like last year, this year’s team relies on a frenetic, turnover-generating defense with heavy ball pressure. And just like last year, the offense is not built around a super-efficient field goal percentage. Rather, the Rams will try to beat you with second-chance points and three-point shots.
Despite losing four starters to graduation, VCU showed on Sunday just how effectively the current team can execute this approach. Against a GW squad undergoing its own transition — from coach Karl Hobbs to coach Mike Lonergan — VCU generated 17 turnovers and turned them into 21 points. They torched the Colonials from the three-point line on 12-24 shooting. And while GW did a better job of keeping the Rams off the offensive glass in the second half, VCU built a 17-point first half lead on the strength of a 39% offensive rebounding rate.