Tremendous Guard Play Masks VCU’s Interior Weakness

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 19th, 2014

This year’s VCU team is considered Shaka Smart‘s best squad since he took the reins in Richmond some five years ago. The return of the majority of last year’s team coupled with three top-100 recruits helped the Rams to a #15 ranking in the preseason AP poll, the team’s second consecutive such honor. After two wins in its first two games of the season, it’s clear that there is a lot of talent on this roster. But there is also a glaring question shadowing the team: Can the Rams consistently win without offensive production in the post?

Alie-Cox and his fellow post players need to add offense to their defensive contributions (AP)

Mo Alie-Cox and his fellow post players need to add some offense to their defensive contributions (Associated Press)

The season’s first two contests — a convincing win over Tennessee and last night’s thrilling victory over Toledo — demonstrated more of what everyone has come to expect from VCU. The Havoc defense creates all kinds of problems for opposing offenses, and the Rams have a number of players who can hit the open three-pointer. In those two contests, the Rams have already created 40 turnovers and knocked down 20 threes. What’s different about this season’s team is that they lack a skilled big man who can provide a credible offensive threat on the interior. Juvonte Reddic and his 12 points per game are gone to graduation, and the players filling in for him have done little thus far to make up for his production.

Mo Alie-Cox is the sole big man in the starting rotation, and he has contributed only nine points through two games. Jarred Guest, Justin Tillman and Michael Gilmore have combined for 12 points as the frontcourt reserves. While all of these players have excellent potential, they too come with limitations. Alie-Cox is a brute force inside, but he stands at only 6’6″ and has a limited offensive skill set, making it difficult for him to match up against true centers. Guest is a senior but is still too lithe to bang with big bodies inside and often finds himself in foul trouble. Gilmore and Tillman are both freshmen, clearly learning their roles on the offensive side of the ball. The result so far has been a team living off the long ball and dribble penetration from its guards.

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Checking In On… the Southland Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2011

Zach Birdsong is the RTC Correspondent for the Southland Conference. You can also find his musings online at houstonianonline.com or on twitter @zachbird_nerd.

Readers Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Pat Knight Era Begins at Lamar: The Pat Knight era at Lamar University began in earnest last Friday as the Cardinals took on Arkansas State in their home opener. Knight and the Cardinals picked up the win, 65-62, as Brandon Davis led all scorers in the game with 17 points for the game. Devon Lamb also contributed 13 points and picked up 15 rebounds. After that, the team traveled and lost to #8 Louisville, 68-48. Knight and his team endured its first loss of the season. Despite the score, Lamar was able to hang with Louisville for awhile before Rick Pitino’s team took control of the game. Two days later the team fell in their second consecutive game at Ohio in overtime, 85-78, but followed that up with an 18-point pasting of Charlotte on Saturday night.

Pat Knight Takes Over at Lamar

  • Sam Houston A Growing Team:  Last season, the Bearkats won the Southland Conference West Division. However, they lost numerous players including Conference Player of the Year Gilberto Clavell.  This season, Sam Houston has just three returning players, including one starter (Antuan Bootle), so SHSU is still looking to find its identity. In the season opener, the team beat Howard Payne, 76-42, and shot the ball at 40% from the field and 12.5% from three-point range. In the second game of the season, the team traveled to South Bend, dropping a 74-41 game to Notre Dame. SHSU had trouble shooting, with a clip of just 34% from the field, faring even worse from the perimeter. Overall, the young team is shooting 37.2% from the field and 16.1% from beyond the arc. They have also turned the ball over 33 times in two games as they struggle to find consistency.
  • Southland Schools Battle Power Conference Squads: Four schools in the Southland Conference battled teams from the Big 12 and Big East. Last Friday, Texas A&M-CC lost to Oklahoma State; then, on Sunday, November 13, Lamar traveled to Louisville and lost, followed by a game on  Wednesday, November 16, where Sam Houston State traveled to Notre Dame while UTSA lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma State. Despite not having their leading scorer, Melvin Johnson III, who was serving his second game of suspension for violating team rules, UTSA built a lead before a miracle sequence from Cezar Guerrero eventually sunk the Roadrunners.

Power Rankings

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