One would suspect that the 2020-21 VCU Rams will have a banner raised in the Siegel Center at some point this season. After winning the A10 tournament for the first time in program history last year, the Rams know they have a higher profile than ever. Despite their loss to Indiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Beth O’Boyle’s side are full of confidence and a will to get to the same spot this season.
The Rams won the A10 tournament while playing on their home court, knocking off a resurgent UMass team in the final after upsetting Rhode Island and Dayton. That made it three straight conference championship games for the Rams, after making the WNIT in 2019 and losing to Dayton in the final in 2020. “It’s really hard to repeat and get back to championship games,” notes O’Boyle. “The biggest thing for me isn’t getting to the championship or getting to NCAA’s, but it’s how it feels while we’re doing it.”
This emphasis on the process coincides with the program’s stature as a whole. O’Boyle acknowledges the VCU practice facility and the support she feels the team has from VCU athletics as a whole, and says that both the recent performance of the team and the facility aspect have impacted their ability to recruit for the better. “Yes, we want to win another championship, but we really want to win games in the NCAA tournament,” says Madison Hattix-Covington, one of the captains for VCU this coming season.
To get there, the Rams will need to get through a non-conference schedule that includes a number of Power Five opponents, including Boston College, Washington, and North Carolina, as well as a dangerous Delaware team. They should get a chance for some easier wins as well, with low-major schools on the docket alongside those aforementioned programs. A common theme amongst A10 teams that have postseason goals is an out-of-conference slate that includes regional opponents as well as Top 50 RPI matchups, and O’Boyle’s side will certainly have their fair share of both.
The Rams lost their second-top scorer in Tera Reed to USC as a graduate transfer, but otherwise remain remarkably intact. The dangerous Taya Robinson returns after she led the team in points per game (14.3) and was second in rebounds per game (6). Robinson was named to the preseason all-conference first team and all-defensive team. Keowa Walters transfers in from Buffalo, where she was a steadying presence on both ends of the court with 5.7 boards and 6.1 points per game. Mykel Parham, a talented forward who received limited minutes for Creighton over two years, also joins the Rams. The Rams have only two true first years on this team, and their experienced depth includes Chloe Bloom and Sarah Te-Biasu, the latter of whom put up 10/4/3 in her first year.
The Rams were picked fourth in the preseason poll, tied with Saint Louis while receiving one first-place vote. However, this is more reflective of the depth of the conference rather than any inherent flaw in the Rams’ game. Some keys to look out for in their first handful of games is offensive rebounding – VCU grabbed more offensive boards than any other A10 team last season – and assists, as the Rams recorded the third-fewest assists per game in 2020-21. Beth O’Boyle has repeatedly demonstrated that her VCU team shows up in big games, and this upcoming season should provide a platform to build on last year’s successes.