#38 VCU Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

VCU Rams
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #38
Conference Rank: #3 Atlantic 10
Last season was supposed to be a transition year for VCU. Coach Will Wade was in his first season and the Rams lost some talented players and recruits. But Coach Wade put together a great season and VCU kept rolling along as one of the most consistent and talented programs outside of the major conferences. And that should continue for years to come. Guard JeQuan Lewis figures to emerge as the leader this year after averaging 11.3 points and 5.1 assists. Lewis is a very good outside shooter and will be asked to continue to take on a bigger scoring role, like he did late last season.
2015-16 Record: 25-11, 14-4
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Will Wade
Coach Record: 25-11 at VCU, 65-36 overall
Who’s Out:
Lewis may be asked to do more shooting since Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury are gone. Johnson easily led the team with 17.4 points per game and 110 made three-pointers. He was the player taking all of the big shots for the Rams. Billbury was third on the team in made three-pointers with 42 and averaged 11.2 points per game. Losing those two is a big blow to the backcourt, especially when it comes to shooting the long ball consistently. Forward Michael Gilmore started 18 games, but averaged just 11.5 minutes per contest. He did not score much, but he could stretch the defense with his shooting ability. Little used Gerron Scissum is the only other departure.
Who’s In:
All four of VCU’s scholarship newcomers will get an opportunity to play quality minutes on the perimeter as freshmen. De’Riante Jenkins is the most highly regarded recruit. The Rams need some depth on the perimeter in order to remain aggressive for 94 feet and Jenkins is likely the newcomer who can take advantage of those minutes. Fellow incoming freshmen Malik Crowfield and Marquell Fraser will have something to say about that though. Crowfield is a shooter, while Fraser is in line to eventually take over the point. Samir Doughty redshirted last season as a partial qualifier and is a very good all-around scorer. Those four should be able to provide whatever depth Coach Wade needs. Walk-on Alexander Yadrishchenskiy will add even more options on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt is already pretty loaded with Lewis joining Jonathan Williams, Jordan Burgess and Doug Brooks. Williams took over the point guard duties late last season and that is when VCU really started to turn things around. And now Williams has the experience necessary to become the leader and coach on the floor. The junior is not going to be a major scoring threat, but he will set up the rest of the team and lead the defensive effort. Burgess will likely step into a starting role on the wing. Last year he averaged 4.9 points per game, but shot just 24.7 percent from beyond the arc. That will need to improve. Brooks has been inconsistent offensively and he shot just 29.1 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent from beyond the arc, but he is a very good defender. However, if the freshmen can play solid defense and shoot more efficiently, Brooks could see his minutes diminish this year.
Final Projection:
The backcourt is loaded, but the star of the team is forward Mo Alie-Cox. The 6-7 senior averaged 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. The offense often runs through Alie-Cox and he can do a lot of different things once he gets the ball in the paint. He has a lot of nice moves to finish around the basket and can find his teammates as well. The athletic Justin Tillman could be in for a big year. He has a ton of potential and is a beast on the glass. He averaged 7.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes of action. If VCU wants to play bigger, they will have to rely on Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed. The 6-9 senior averaged fewer than a dozen minutes last year, but he can come in and provide a physical presence in the paint.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jonathan Williams, Junior, Guard, 3.9 points per game
JeQuan Lewis, Senior, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Jordan Burgess, Senior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Justin Tillman, Junior, Forward, 7.2 points per game
Mo Alie-Cox, Senior, Forward, 10.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.3 (75th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 67.8 (73, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.1 (116, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.1 (209, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (145, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.2 (145, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.2 (197, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.9 (83, 4)
Assists Per Game: 14.4 (102, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.5 (68, 5)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#41 De'Riante Jenkins