VCU has a knack for making the NCAA Tournament; the Rams made it 7 straight last season after a shaky start to the year. They’d bounce back from losses against Illinois and Georgia Tech to win their next 8 games. VCU would finish 2nd in the A-10 and earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance. After falling to Saint Mary’s and seeing the season end, Will Wade jumped ship and left for LSU. Now, the Rams are under the leadership of Mike Rhoades, and after some offseason additions, it seems the Rams could be poised for another trip to the Big Dance.
I love Jonathan Williams’ capabilities as a true point guard; he had a better assist-to-turnover ratio than JeQuan Lewis last season. He’s been effective in the lane, scoring near the bucket, but he definitely lacks an outside shot. That shouldn’t be an issue this year with guys like De’Riante Jenkins and Issac Vann on the wing filling it up. Look for the pass-first point guard to be a major distributive threat in the Atlantic 10 this year.
Mo Alie-Cox and JeQuan Lewis have departed; it’s Justin Tillman’s team now. The A-10 Preseason First Team select has a lot of tricks up his sleeve, especially on the boards. He led the A-10 in rebounds per 40 minutes last season, and I doubt he’ll have any problem doing so again. He brings size and capabilities in the post to a league that’s lacking big men. Give the ball to Tillman down low, and let the senior eat like he should…
I don’t know what to expect of Khris Lane just yet. The Longwood transfer averaged 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Lancers. Only problem: it was Longwood. How his skills will carry over to the A-10 has yet to be seen, but if you’re looking for a bode of confidence, there’s this: St. Bonaventure’s Matt Mobley had very similar numbers early in his career at Central Connecticut State. Now, he’s expected to be a top 5 player in the Atlantic 10 as a senior. VCU’s gotta be hoping Khris Lane ends up in the same boat.
Jackson’s a guy that averaged 13.2 points and 7.1 rebounds at the JUCO level. He provides immediate depth to VCU’s roster, and he’s athletically capable, especially when crashing the glass.
As a freshman, Crowfield’s contributions were limited; as a sophomore though, expect him to make some big steps up. Playing in 34 games last season, it’s no secret that the rising sophomore has some experience under his belt. Emerging as a three point threat would be a huge development for Crowfield. He made three buckets from downtown in a road win over Richmond last season; the Rams should be loaded on the wing.
The Rams can utilize Simms’ impressive physique as a scorer both beyond the three point line and inside the arc. He’s got the size and ability to get to the bucket, slashing through defenders. I think he’ll play a nice role off the bench for the Rams as they look to figure out who their best scorers are.
Here’s a guy that you really should start getting excited about. De’Riante Jenkins could easily be the A-10’s best three point shooter this year. Coming in, the freshman was known as a threat from deep, and he shot 45.5% from three throughout his limited first season as a Ram. Jenkins went 3/3 from range in the first round of the A-10 Tournament to help down George Mason. He’ll be VCU’s best shooter this year (and maybe its best scorer).
I’m very excited about Issac Vann, and I think you should be as well. At 6-6, Vann combines excellent size and versatility, making him an absolute force when he decides to take it to the rack. He also averaged 16.4 points per game in less than 30 minutes per contest as a freshman with Maine. Honestly, he could be the Rams’ most dominant scorer this season; he also knocked down 41.2% of three point attempts in 2015-16.
Tyler Maye, a three star Composite point guard, gives VCU some depth at the 1. From Farmville, North Carolina, Maye averaged an incredible 36 points per game as a senior in high school. He’s an explosive scorer who could prove to be a deadly 1 in a couple of seasons. Expect him to earn playing time early on in his career.
Need an indicator to believe in Sean Mobley this season? The 6-8, 240 lb. forward chose the Rams over the likes of Dayton, N.C. State, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. This stretch 4 is going to be a nightmare for defenses. And the best part is that Mobley hustles on both ends of the floor. Honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mobley play a major factor in this year’s rotation; he’s got a bright future with VCU.
Here’s another 3 star Composite freshman that adds depth to VCU’s growing frontcourt. If we know one thing, the Rams will not be lacking options at the 4 and the 5. Santos-Silva weighs in at 265, giving the Rams a body that most Atlantic 10 teams don’t posses. Like Mobley, Santos-Silva had a myriad of offers from schools with merit; Kansas Sate, Boston College, and Temple all took interest. Expect Santos-Silva to be a skilled passer and rebounder in his first season under Mike Rhoades at VCU.
Djonkam is another reason VCU has the deepest frontcourt in the Atlantic 10. I’m curious to see how Mike Rhoades plans on integrating so many freshman forwards with only so many minutes to go around.
Home– Grambling, North Florida, Virginia, Appalachian St., Old Dominion, Texas, Bucknell, Winthrop, VMI
Away– Seton Hall
Neutral– Marquette, California/Wichita St., Chaminade/Notre Dame/LSU/Michigan
VCU has a tough non-conference schedule. If the Maui Invitational wasn’t enough, the Rams will also face Texas, Virginia, and Seton Hall. Needless to say, Mike Rhoades will be tested in his first season as VCU’s head coach. A double digit loss to Liberty in a charity exhibition game proved that the Rams may have some work to do before the start of the season; VCU is going to have to grind out some games before league play.
Home – Davidson, Duquesne, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Dayton, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Richmond
Away – La Salle, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis, Dayton, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, Richmond
Playing Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, and Richmond twice sets up for some relatively easy conference wins at home and on the road. Even better for the Rams, they get St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island at home and don’t have to face those two on the road. Away games against Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis should be tough, but La Salle and Massachusetts should be easy wins away from home.
Non-Conference Record: 9-4
Conference Finish: 4th in the A-10
Starting Lineup: Jonathan Williams, De’Riante Jenkins, Issac Vann, Khris Lane, Justin Tillman
X-Factor: De’Riante Jenkins
Biggest Sleeper: Issac Vann
Most Improved: Malik Crowfield
MVP: Justin Tillman
VCU’s one of those teams that always seems to be OK. Question marks or not, the Rams tend to get off to a shaky start and smooth it on out come conference play. Will that happen again under first year head coach Mike Rhoades? Who knows? The talent is there, and a lot of experienced seniors should carry the Rams this year. I think VCU has a great shot at getting back to the NCAA Tournament if all the pieces fall into place.