RAMS PROVE PRESEASON PREDICTIONS WRONG
The roller coaster ride is over, Ram fans.
In a season where VCU went from being projected to finish 5th in the A-10 to playing in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the ride has come to an end.
As the offseason begins, the first question to consider is why the team was projected to finish 5th in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The voters did have a legitimate reason to speculate VCU would have a down year after the Rams lost head coach Shaka Smart, point guard Briante Weber, shooting guard Treveon Graham, wing Terry Larrier, and an entire recruiting class.
After starting the season 5-5, including losses to Georgia Tech and Florida State, many fans began to understand the pre-season ranking. It is very hard to recover from all the losses the program suffered, and for most programs it would usually take at least 2-3 seasons to rebuild.
But then something magical happened. The team went on an absolute rampage, winning 12 games in a row before losing a nail-biter to George Washington at the Siegel Center. During the winning streak, the Rams scored an average of 84 points per game and gave up an average of 67 points per game. That’s an average point differential of 17 points.
The program did lose a lot of talent, but a better question to consider is who it gained. Will Wade. Korey Billbury. Hamdy.
Despite being just 33 years old, Will Wade demonstrated all season long why he was such an easy choice to replace Shaka Smart. Yes, he was an assistant at VCU under Smart, but he’s also considered by many to be one of the brightest and most intelligent young coaches in the country. The work he did with this team was incredible.
Senior Melvin Johnson stepped into a leadership role, leading the Rams in scoring and becoming the school’s 3-ball king. The addition of Korey Billbury, however, provided the Rams with another veteran presence in the backcourt that allowed Wade to transition from a traditional lineup to the 4-guard lineup we saw for most of the season.
Hamdy had his ups and downs, but Coach Wade started numerous times throughout the season how much improvement he made, namely defensively. His penchant for getting offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line gave VCU a boost off the bench.
The November version of this team and the March version looked like two completely different teams. Coach Wade’s new system took some adjusting from the players, but once they fully bought in, the difference was clear.
No, it’s not Havoc. But it might be more effective. The “Halfcourt Havoc” that Coach Wade installed allowed VCU to be competitive in every game it played in. It was key in the comeback against Oklahoma in the second round of the NCAA tournament. VCU got some easy points, and momentum, by forcing turnovers in that game. The Rams fought hard to get back into that game. Just like they fought hard to prove the critics wrong.
Fifth place in the A-10? Try regular season co-champions. A first round loss to Oregon State in the NCAA tournament? Try a 75-67 win, which saw VCU withstand a furious run by the Beavers in the second half to hold the lead. A blowout loss to Oklahoma, in Oklahoma City no less? Try a 4-point loss that made Sooner fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena sweat until the final horn blew.
Get ready for next year Ram Nation. It’s sure to be another roller coaster ride.