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Preseason Preview: VCU

Marquette Men's Basketball

Marquette Men’s Basketball

The first official practices of the 17-18 college basketball season are in the books and Paint Touches is celebrating by counting down every Marquette opponent from worst to first. Each preview will contain a look at how the opponent did last season, who they lose, who they gain, reasonable expectations for their season, and our own prediction of how their matchup(s) with Marquette will go. This series will start with the most under of underdogs and progress all the way up to most unbeatable of opponents. We have moved on from the cupcakes and onto the worst of the high major opponents. Next comes the first of Marquette’s Island opponents in the Maui Invitational, VCU, the former home of #donedeal himself.

A note on our previews for the Maui Invitational. We picked the three teams we think are our most likely opponents in Maui rather than writing a bunch of previews of teams that we won’t end up playing.

Team: VCU Rams
16-17 Record: 26-9 (14-4 A10)
Postseason?: Earned a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, lost to St. Mary’s in their opening game
16-17 KenPom: 48
Date: 11/21/17
Location: Lahaina Civic Center
Coach: Mike Rhoades (1st Season)
Projected KenPom Range: 50-100
Projected Conference Finish: 2/14 in the A10

Departures from 16-17
JeQuan Lewis: Starting PG: 31.2 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.5 tpg, .431 FG%, .367 3P% (Graduated and declared for NBA draft, went undrafted)
Samir Doughty: Starting Wing: 23.1 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .409 FG%, .284 3P% (Transferred to Auburn)
Mo Allie-Cox: Starting C: 26.3 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.0 bpg, 1.6 tpg, .543 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduated)
Jordan Burgess: 1st Man off the Bench: 21.4 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .433 FG%, .328 3P% (Graduated)
Doug Brooks: 2nd Man off the Bench: 20.4 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.0 tpg, .337 FG%, .297 3P% (Graduated)
Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed: 3rd Man off the Bench: 13.2 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.2 tpg, .477 FG%, .000 3P% (Graduate transferred to TCU)
Torey Burston: Benchwarmer: 5.4 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.4 tpg, .182 FG%, .000 3P% (only appeared in 10 games) (Graduated)
Marquell Fraser: Benchwarmer: 3.6 mpg, 0.9 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 0.1 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 tpg, .571 FG%, .000 3P% (only appeared in 16 games) (Transferred to Midland College)
68% of scoring, 58% of rebounding, 73% of assists, 83% of steals, 78% of blocks, 81% of 3PM

Arrivals:
Isaac Vann: Transfer SF from Maine
Khris Lane: Graduate Transfer PF from Longwood
Sean Mobley: 3-star PF, ranked #218 by 247Sports
Xavier Jackson: JUCO SG from Sheridan Junior College
Tyler Maye: 3-star PG, ranked #280 by 247Sports
Lewis Djonkam: 3-star PF, ranked #281 by 247Sports
Mike’l Simms: JUCO SG from Cowley Community College
Marcus Santos-Silva: 3-star PF, ranked #302 by 247Sports
Dylan Sheey-Guiseppi: Walk on PG

Probable Starters:
PG: Jonathan Williams: 6-1 200 lb SR: 24.1 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .449 FG%, .059 3P%
SG: De’Riante Jenkins: 6-5 195 lb SO: 12.3 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.6 tpg, .500 FG%, .455 3P%
SF: Isaac Vann: 6-6 210 lb RSSO: 28.3 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .457 FG%, .412 3P% (15-16 stats for Maine)
PF: Justin Tillman: 6-7 220 lb SR: 25.5 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.0 tpg, .592 FG%, .000 3P%
C: Khris Lane: 6-7 245 lb RSSR: 34.5 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.3 tpg, .537 FG%, .337 3P% (stats for Longwood)

Probable Bench:
Sean Mobley: 6-8 240 lb FR PF
Xavier Jackson: 6-3 190 lb JR SG
Malik Crowfield: 6-4 195 lb SO SG
Tyler Maye: 6-1 175 lb FR PG
Lewis Djonkam: 6-9 245 lb FR PF

Probable Benchwarmers:
Mike’l Simms: 6-5 220 lb SO SG
Marcus Santos-Silva: 6-7 255 lb FR PF
Dylan Sheehy-Guiseppi: 6-1 195 lb FR PG
Marcus Evans: 6-2 190 lb JR PG (Redshirtting)

Notes:

• VCU has become a bit of a proving ground for young up and coming coaches. They are on their 5th coach in the past 15 years and the first four all ended up leaving to become the head basketball coach at football first institutions (Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, and LSU). The latest hire is Mike Rhoades who was doing an impressive job of building up a long dormant Rice program. Prior to that, Rhoades was an Associate Head Coach for Shaka Smart. He got his start at the D3 level when he got the head coaching job at Randolph-Macon at the ripe young age of 25. Rhoades has experience, talent, and knows the VCU program. He should end up being a solid hire but has an enormous challenge in his first season. He inherits a team that earned a 10 seed but loses 3 starters and all the key pieces off the bench. Fortunately for him, the entire A10 looks to be down this season so he might be able to snag a 2nd place finish in conference which may be enough for an at large bid. The A10 hasn’t been a single bid conference since 2005 though this may end up being the year.
• Jequan Lewis, the Rams’ star player from last season, is now trying to earn a roster spot with the Milwaukee Bucks. That leaves major holes in their scoring and assist production. Making up the assists is going to be fellow starter and 2nd point guard, Jonathan Williams. Williams is a local kid from the Richmond area. He spent his first two seasons as a back of the rotation player before getting his shot as Lewis’ running mate as junior. Other than a 22 point, 6 assist performance against St. John’s last year, Williams didn’t often explode. His game was more about consistency. Always chipping in around 6-12 points while delivering a few dimes to his teammates. With Lewis gone he figures to take on the role of lead distributor. It will be hard for him to increase his scoring because of his lack of an outside shot. He has 3 career made three pointers and went 1-17 last season.
• The Rams did hold onto their second-best player in Justin Tillman. The Motor City native doesn’t look like your typical dominant post player at 6-7 220 lb, but he plays like one. The rising senior averaged 12 and 9 and had games where he exploded for 24 against George Mason and 26 against Georgia Tech. The rebounding is what makes him stand out. He routinely pushed double digits on the boards and managed 17 of them in the A10 Conference Championship game. He is somewhat limited on the offensive end, having almost no accuracy from further out than 10 feet. He is also not a rim protector and struggled when larger posts were switched onto him. With only 2 players taller than he is on the roster, both of whom are true freshmen, that could be an issue.
• VCU will be relying heavily on two transfers who put up monster numbers for terrible teams. Isaac Vann sat out last season after transferring from Maine. He put up eye popping numbers for Maine as a freshman including over 16 points a game, nearly 6 rebounds per game and over 41% accuracy from deep, including a streak at the end of the season when he scored over 20 points and grabbed over 7 rebounds in 4 of 5 games to close the season. Marquette fans might remember playing Maine two seasons ago (a 104-67 pounding) but Vann did not participate due to injury. An interesting tidbit about Vann, despite his production, Maine seemed to do better without him. The Black Bears went 4-13 with Vann in the lineup (and one of the wins was a game he played less than half of because he got injured) and 4-8 with him. Could be a coincidence but it might indicate that Vann needs to be the man so to speak which he almost certainly won’t be at VCU.
• The other transfer with monster numbers for a not so monstrous school is graduate transfer Khris Lane. This is a homecoming of sorts for Lane who is from the Richmond area. He spent last season at nearby Longwood University where he was a dominant force for a non-dominant team. The Lancers won a grand total of 3 games all season against D1 level competition. Oddly, their 3 wins were in a row and at the start of their conference season. So, they started 3-0 in conference only to finish 3-15. Lane is a wide body in the lane, capably corralling rebounds and bullying smaller defenders out of the way for easy twos around the rim. He does have the ability to shoot in the mid-range and from outside with 32 makes. In his two games against high major competition (@Creighton and @Texas Tech) he put up average numbers with 12 points and 2 rebounds in each. With a 34.5 mpg average last season, and several games where he played all 40 minutes for the Lancers, Lane has incredible stamina for a man his size. Like Tillman, he is not known as rim protector, so VCU may struggle against teams with offensive minded posts.
• Three-point shooting is going to be a huge concern for the Rams this season. They lose their top 4 three-point shooters from last season. Vann and Lane can hit threes but neither was known for volume outside shooting. Back of the rotation players De’Riante Jenkins and Malik Crowfield were accurate in limited attempts last season and will need to play a bigger role if VCU is going to be successful.

Prediction:
This is arguably the most important game of the season for Marquette. A win means they likely face two quality opponents in the winners’ bracket of the Maui Invitational. A loss could mean facing two sub top 100 opponents in the loser bracket. Massive implications for postseason hopes. Fortunately, Marquette should walk away with a win in this game. 9 of the 13 active players on VCU’s roster did not play a game for the Rams last season. November will likely be too early for that many new pieces to gel together. Vann and Lane should end up being nice pieces by the end of the season but I predict that they will struggle to adjust from the dregs of Division 1 to playing against high majors. Marquette gets the threes going early and VCU struggles to keep pace. Marquette ends up winning by 12-15.

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Categories: Home, Offseason, Previews

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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