VCU took down Cleveland State in their final non-conference tune up tonight 72-63 in the Siegel Center. The Rams maintained a double-digit lead pretty much the whole game, but Shaka Smart's squad didn't completely run over a Vikings squad that has hobbled through their out-of-conference slate.
On the defensive end the Rams only forced 13 turnovers and didn't seem to rattle Gary Waters' squad, the way they usually do on their home floor. VCU only had a 5 point lead at the break and CSU actually had a solid shooting night from the floor and from three.
When it came to offense, Cleveland State basically didn't have an answer for Treveon Grahm who was a match up nightmare for the Vikings. Graham finished with a game high 20 points and 9 rebounds and was the only starter for the Rams to finish in double-figures. Terry Larrier and JeQuan Lewis combined for 24 points off the bench to really buoy the Rams offense.
Looking forward the Rams have a plenty pedestrian start to the Atlantic 10 slate with a trip to Fordham and home match ups against Davidson and St. Joseph's. Two questions really linger now when evaluating just how good this year's ediition of VCU just might be... can VCU survive average defensive output and low offensive numbers like tonight and will the Rams get tested enough to be a force in March?
It's been rare this year that VCU's rotation has been firing on all cylinders. Treveon Graham is the constant but it never seems like their is consistency in scoring outside of the "Freight Train". On the other end of the court VCU's defense has to generate more offense. The Rams should have been able to clamp down on a team like Cleveland State but Gary Waters' three guard sets weathered the VCU pressure this evening.
The other potential worry when it comes to the Rams is will they be tested enough this winter to be battle tested and readyy for a potential NCAA Tournament bid. Sure the Rams non-conference schedule was impressive but it only featured one road game and their biggest road win, Cincinnati, comes with a bit of an astericks due to the Mick Cronin situation that day.
Simply put, VCU will not run into many hostile environments from here on out. Some of that is due to the A10 falling a part just a little late in non-conference play but the Rams toughest road opponents will be George Washington and Richmond, an opponent and venue that Rams' fans can make into a neutral court feeling. In VCU's initial A10 campaigns they've had big road match ups with the likes of Saint Louis and others but their schedule may be void of that this year.
Yes, VCU has a ton of a talent and there is no reason to raise any red flags, but these are just a few stroylines to keep an eye on over January and February. Cruising through A10 play might not be the best thing for this team.