As you know by now VCU lost Briante Weber for the year this past Saturday when he tore both his MCL and ACL in a loss against Richmond. It was the second year in a row that someones college career ended during this rivalry as something similar happened to the Spiders' Cedrick Lindsay a year ago.
Briante Weber embodied HAVOC at VCU. He was really the first player that Shaka Smart found to fit a key role in his pressure defense. Weber ends his career just 12 steals shy of the NCAA record and it's really just a sad story all-around, but how do the Rams focus on moving forward this season?
Yesterday Shaka Smart spoke to the media and touched on the path forward:
"I think your personality changes a little bit any time you lose a dominant figure on your team. At the same time … we’re still going to play the way we play."
It's pretty much what you expected Smart to say with VCU staying the course and still adhering to their current style, but is it the best path forward? When VCU made the Final Four it was largely with Anthony Grant's personnel. Smart carried over the pressure style of Grant's teams and had a balanced squad that could knock off anyone on any given night.
VCU now has a lot more talented roster than that of the Grant era but without the primary catalyst for the Rams defense should they look to change things up? The recommendation wouldn't be to get away from HAVOC or the pressure defense but rather to give a more balanced look on the offensive end.
JaQuan Lewis will step in as a starter for Weber but should the Rams consider giving traditional point guard and freshman Jonathan Williams that gig? The halfcourt offense is going to be paramount and the Rams could flourish if they take some growing pains in February and set up a successful inside-out system that doesn't make them dependent on points off of turnovers.
The biggest key to the Rams offense might be getting a struggling Melvin Johnson going from the outside. Right now there are a lot of forced, transition shots and a guy like Johnson could benefit from a more traditional brand of offense. In the Rams last four games Johnson is shooting 30% and averaging 9 points per game.
VCU has a road swing this week with George Mason and St. Bonaventure, and it could be the perfect opportunity to reinvent some things on the offensive end. If they drop two or three games in February then it's not the end of the world as long as they are firing on all cylinders in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.