The bus rolls out for Rock Hill this afternoon, carrying VCU to its date with the Winthrop Eagles on Saturday at 2:00.
For the goobers like me set, here's here's Winthrop's game notes. Ken Pomeroy predicts a 67-53 VCU victory, giving the Rams a 92% chance of winning.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. Melvin Johnson Alert. I'd like to see Troy Daniels play about 10 minutes all in the name of R&D. That leaves a Grand Canyon-sized opportunity for Johnson, who came to VCU with a reputation of deep range and three ball magic. He's yet to make one three in two games. A 3-5 afternoon from the arc would leave me shaking my head in the affirmative.
2. Juvonte Reddic Roll. Last season Reddic had six points and nine rebounds against ODU in the first game after his 28-point, six rebound, six steal day against William & Mary. I'd like to see Reddic post a nice 15/8 against Winthrop and use that to fuel a consistent confidence.
3. A Killer Instinct. This is an early season, Saturday afternoon road game. It's VCUs first road game against an opponent whose RPI begins with a two and has three digits, and we head for the Bahamas next week. That's a tailor-made recipe for Sluggish Stew. I want to see the Rams go out there with a fire and lay it on Winthrop early. Then, make a 10-point lead an 18-point lead instead of settling for a seven-point lead. That kind of killer instinct is far more important than this one game.
4. Continued Focus on Glasswork. VCU is undoubtedly emphasizing rebounding. It shows. Winthrop is a smallish team but has three players who love to get to the offensive glass. I think 12-15 offensive rebounds seems like a good goal to keep me comfy with progress there. Those textbook blockouts on Carl Hall need to continue long after Carl Hall isn't the opponent.
5. Smiles, Everybody. Smiles. I'm Mr. Roarke. Welcome to Fantasy Island. One thing that struck me was the utter lack of chicklets we saw the other night. I know WSU was a tight game and an intense game, but man did it show on VCUs faces. We've got to relax and have a little fun when the game is tight, a la Jamal Shuler. I think a huge part of havoc's success is the kids having fun, even in tight games.
The Eagles are coached by Pat Kelsey. If the name sounds kind of familiar, this is why. Kelsey was an assistant at Xavier a few years back and was in contention at one point for the VCU job, the one that produced Shaka Smart. Kelsey was a Villa Seven veteran and is a well-respected coach who took a couple years off from coaching. He's back, and this is his first season at Winthrop.
Winthrop was decidedly an average team last season (8-10, 12-20) and are predicted fourth in the Big South's South division.
They are 1-1 on the season, beating St. Andrews and losing on the road to Indiana State 66-55. In that Indiana State game, Winthrop shot 26 threes and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds.
The Eagles are led by Derrick Henry (20.5ppg, 6.0rpg), a 6-3 guard who is a classic bucketmaker. VCU cannot let him get into a rhythm. Henry has shot 19 free throws in two games so he doesn't mind mixing it up. However he is turnover prone (2.5tpg) so I imagine we will take the play to him.
Their second most dangerous player is 6-7 Gideon Gamble (10.5ppg, 4.5rpg), a super athletic kid who loves to play offense and hates to play defense. Gideon dropped 20 points on VCU two seasons ago in the only meeting ever between these schools. Andre Smith (10.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.0apg) is their point guard. Smith goes 5-11 and is exactly who you think he is-- a low-to-the-ground player who is fast in transition. Of note, Smith is 5-11 from three this year, and 0-4 from two.
Larry Brown will play the four spot for Winthrop. Statistics back up his high motor (a term of which I've about reached the end of the line). Brown has 10 offensive rebounds and six defensive rebounds. Fouling Brown could be fun. He was 1-14 from the stripe last year, and 1-4 thusfar this season.
The final two players of note: Christian Farmer is Winthrop's designated shooter. Of his 15 field goal attempts, 13 are from three (4-13). And James Bourne is the starting center. Bourne is 6-8 and 240 pounds and has made five of six shots this season. He's more of a defensive presence for Kelsey, though. Bourne, a lefty, also has five offensive rebounds and just one defensive rebound.
SummationWinthrop is dangerous. Henry is a flat-out scorer, and Gideon will have no fear based on his 2010 performance against VCU. However I think there are too many mismatches to exploit, especially around the key area. Darius Theus is bigger and stronger than Smith, and Treveon Graham way too strong for anybody on their roster that could guard him. Those 15-foot catch-and-shoot jumpers should be there all afternoon for Reddic, and Jarrod Guest.