The day after a last second overtime victory is an odd time to pen a "What's Wrong with the Rams?" column. But after seeing VCU scuffle through what should have been an easy victory over William & Mary, the Rams' flaws need to be pointed out.
They are 14-5, and just about any other CAA team would trade their situations for VCU's any day of the week. But Shaka Smart is trying to craft together a championship team. And every VCU fan is realistic enough to know that another run to the Final Four is just a shade off impossible. But they'd love to just have the hope that it could happen.
Therefore before I jump into talking about their flaws, I need to touch about a few strengths. The defense has been incredible, and that will keep them in every CAA game this year. Freshmen Briante Weber and Treveon Graham have provided much more than Shaka Smart could've asked for. And Darius Theus's play has made VCU fans miss Joey Rodriguez a lot less than they thought they were going to.
And while last year's team was flawed, (not as great defensively, at times too reliant on the 3) they were able to hide them for five games on their way to Houston.
This year's team is going to need to work around the following:
Immaturity leads to inconsistency - After a performance like he had last night, the first thing on everyone's minds was "Why can't Juvonte Reddic do this every night?" Well, he's just a sophomore, and he's not going to have that jumper going each night, or face a team with as small of a front line as the Tribe's. But the fact that he had the confidence to take over that first half when he had it going is a great sign for the future.
Three point shooting struggles - This year's team is shooting 32% from beyond the arc, down from 37% last year, and the team is hitting about one and a half threes less than they were last year. While some nights those shots just don't fall, I'm beginning to get the feeling this team is just not as good of a shooting team as last year's squad.
Rob's shooting woes - Rob Brandenberg has lost much of his confidence as a shooter, and his percentage has dipped to 30% from the field. He's playing twice as many minutes as he did last year.. but his ppg has gone from 5 to 8. But more so, he seemed to provide a lot of spunk off the bench last year, and this season he just hasn't been able to do the same from the starting lineup.
Burgess has not made the leap - VCU's lone senior hasn't lived up to his "Big Shot Brad" nickname. While he has picked up his vocal leadership on the court, when it comes to the team needing a bucket, the ball very rarely gets into Brad's hands. He does lead the team with 14 points a game, and he has had some nice showings, but he's also had some duds. Over the last seven games, he's shooting just 27%. This is a different team, and they need to have someone to lean on, which we all thought was going to Brad. But now it looks like it is Theus (Shaka Smart called Darius the team's leader in last night's press conference).
VCU can still win the regular season and conference CAA title. But they need to find a way to address these flaws.