Rams primed for A-10 success in 2014-15

Rising senior Treveon Graham (center), seen here in the Rams second-round matchup against Stephen F. Austin University in the NCAA Tournament, will look to lead VCU offensively next season. Photo by Audry Dubon.

Kris Mason
Contributing Writer

When the VCU men’s basketball team’s 2013-14 season came to a stunning close after a second-round loss to Stephen F. Austin University, many fans consoled themselves by looking forward to next season, and what appears to be a bright future for a young, talented team.

VCU will have to the replace the void left by the departure of seniors Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg. However, the Rams return many key players and will welcome in a highly touted recruiting class.

VCU was named preseason favorites heading into the 2013-14 season, but ended up in second place in the standings in a tough Atlantic 10, in which six teams made the NCAA tournament. However, many of those schools relied heavily on seniors, so they should be expected to take a step back this upcoming year.

Saint Louis University is a prime example of a team that was heavily dependent on seniors. The A-10 regular season champions started five seniors, including A-10 Player of the Year Jordair Jett. Look for the Billikens to struggle next year.

Another example of a senior-laden team was Saint Joseph’s University. The 2014 A-10 Tournament champions will lose three of its top-four scorers: Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts Jr. and Halil Kanacevic. The fourth member of that group is Co-Rookie of the Year DeAndre Bembry, so the roster won’t be completely bare for head coach Phil Martelli.

The University of Massachusetts will lose star point guard Chaz Williams, who led the team in scoring as well as assists per game. Returning starters Cady Lalanne, Maxie Esho and Derrick Gordon will try to prove that they were more than a one-man team.

Other schools that will not lose as much talent will be expected to compete with VCU for a conference title. George Washington appears to be one of the primary threats to VCU next season. Of their top six scorers, they will lose key seniors Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood, but will return Kethan Savage, Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald, all of whom are part of an outstanding class of rising juniors.

The University of Dayton is returning many key players from a team that reached the Elite Eight this season, including leading scorer Jordan Sibert. The Flyers did have key seniors in Devin Oliver, Matt Kavanaugh and Vee Sanford, so it remains to be seen who will fill the leadership role next year. Dayton was a balanced and deep team this season, as proven by the variety of leading scorers it had in its NCAA tournament games. The experience gained from the run should help Dayton compete for an A-10 title next year.

The future appears to be bright for VCU as it returns many key players from a 26-9 team. The Rams will be led by a duo of rising seniors in Treveon Graham and Briante Weber. Graham was the leading scorer for the Rams last season and was named to the first-team A-10. Weber was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and is 89 steals away from breaking the NCAA career steals record. VCU also returns A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Melvin Johnson as well as many underclassmen who received a lot of playing time this season.

Head coach Shaka Smart’s recruiting class includes three ESPN Top-100 players, in 6-foot-7 forward Terry Larrier, 6-foot-9 forward Mike Gilmore and 6-foot-8 forward Justin Tillman. No other A-10 school has one Top-100 recruit, as of press time. Some if not all of the recruits should be able to have an immediate impact. Expect VCU to be among the A-10 favorites again heading into next season.

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