Many of you are wondering what occurred during Saturday's scrimmage against Virginia. Here's what I was told: nobody was hurt, and " ." It seems those who attended the scimmage turned into Teller for the weekend. Oh well.
That got me to thinking...this year's VCU team is a lot like last year's team. Brad Burgess is an important loss, but he's one guy. I'm not trying to minimize what Burgess meant to this team and to this program. Rather, focus on one guy.
The Freight Train has been rightfully tabbed to replace Burgess at the four. They are different players--Tre is more aggressive and drives to the lane while Brad was the far better shooter--but really they are the same player. Each is an undersized four who is a matchup problem on offense, and the lack of size is somewhat mitigated by the VCU havoc style of play.
So what may be more important to this team is not replacing Brad Burgess, but replacing Treveon Graham's role from last year. Jarrod Guest comes to mind, as does Justin Tuoyo. Heck Rob Brandenberg could slide down in spot situations, and we could always go with the big lineup a few extra minutes.
The gist is simple: my concern is replacing Graham's 17 minutes and seven points, which includes being a part of the opposition scouting report. "Being reckoned with" is not an official stat but it matters.
But that's it. That isn't much upheaval. Darius: same role. Briante: same role. Juvonte, DJ, Rob, Troy: same, same, same, same. My hunch is that the UVa scrimmage looked a lot like most any game from last year so it's really a pointless recap. The team took a natural season preparation step. We always want to be moving forward.
Continuity matters in college basketball, and that's one aspect to this year's team that should not go overlooked.
"I think anytime you have experience, you have advantages early in the year," said Shaka Smart at media day. "We’re a better team (now) than we were at this point last year. Last year’s team got better and better each week, each month and was playing terrific basketball in the last month of the season."
In short, VCU has a head start. And that brings me to today's stat geek moment: goals, and what matters. How points are scored matters greatly.
A typical game last season had VCU hit 23-57 from the field (41%). The Rams were 7-22 from three and 16-35 from two, on average.
VCU scored 32.7% of its points on threes last year. That was 53rd nationally--very good, and made more impressive because we hit just 33.4% of our threes--211th nationally. The downside is that the three-point shooting was highly inefficient. VCU saw stat lines of 5-23, 4-15, and 2-22 alongside 12-24, 11-25, and 8-20.
Efficient three point shooting is going to be very important this season. VCU needs Daniels and Branderberg to get a little better, and both need to get some help from Melvin Johnson to offset the loss of Burgess. Swishes allow the press to set up and loosens up the interior.
Efficiency in havoc breeds the kind of exictement from fans that creates spittle. Make-steal-make changes games.
Back to statistics, let's get that three-pointers made number to a more respectable 37%. That number last season would have placed VCU about 60th nationally. We can easily get there by taking two fewer threes per game and making the same 7 or 8 (7.4 was the actual average) each game.
That's doable--in 25 of 36 games VCU made either 6, 7, 8 or 9 three-pointers. The difference comes in shot selection and offensive patterns. So seven or eight makes in 20 attempts is a reasonable goal and a good number for offensive balance.
Conversely, 46.6% of our points were made via two-point field goals (306th). The 16-35 on two pointers is 45.7% and 254th nationally. This needs to improve, which won't be helped by the new conference.
The A10 is going to offer bigger players and more dynamic inside presences. Simply put, we have to get better inside. Post touches will be critical. As Shaka said "the better (Juvonte Reddic) plays the more he is going to get the ball."
So let's use those two shots we didn't miss from behind the arc and give them both to the paint. Juvonte and DJ Haley get a dunk each. That changes the two-point number to 18-37, a more average 48.6%. That's about 120th nationally.
Here's the summary of all that math. Nobody worries about the defense, but the offense has become teeth-grindingly difficult at times. VCU avoids taking two bad threes per game, turning them into two made two-pointers, and it wholly changes the offensive aptitude and results of this team.
It's neither insurmountable nor crazy talk: turn two bad threes into two good twos.
Remember, there's only one player role changing as well--continuity makes change like this much easier.
That's four more points per game, and here's why that seemingly miniscule improvement is important. Last season VCU lost four times from November 30 until the end of the season (26-4). Three of those four losses were by one or two points.
Or use the words of Smart to explain it: "When we play well we create offense from our defense and pushing the ball. But in the last six minutes of games most of the possessions are half court, so we need to focus on that, to execute and score in the end game situation."