PORTLAND, Ore. — Virginia Commonwealth forward Bradford Burgess was asked Friday to compare this year’s VCU team to the one that made the Final Four last season.
“Really, the only similarity is the name on the jersey,” Burgess said.
Last year VCU team was senior-laden and had plenty of guys who could score. That team was led by guys like Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez and Brandon Rozzell, all of whom graduated after the Final Four run.
This is simply not the same VCU team. But that doesn’t mean its one that’s any less dangerous.
The scorers are gone, so the Rams rely on their defense — their HAVOC defense. They press, they trap, they chase. Basically, they cause havoc, and lots of it.
“We didn’t focus as much as we needed to on the defensive end [last year],” Burgess said. “We tried to almost outscore teams sometimes, and that hurt us.”
Added VCU coach Shaka Smart: “We have our stretches where we score really well, where we shoot really well. But we depend on our pressure defense. We depend on our ability to stop teams in the half court.”
The HAVOC defense, as Ryan Corazza analyzed in his post yesterday, features athletic guys who relentlessly pursue the ball and do their best to get the opponent out of their offense. If they can’t create turnovers, the Rams want to speed the other team up and force them to play at a pace they are uncomfortable playing at.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said he’s been having his team play against seven pressing defenders to attempt to simulate what his players will see Saturday night against VCU.
Lots of teams press, but few do it better than the Rams.
“It’s their length,” Crean said. “And they do an excellent job of pushing you in a spot. Their traps are really hard nosed, they close their traps. … You’ve got to do a great job of catching the ball where you want to catch it. Your fundamentals really come into play, getting the ball out in front, reversing the basketball, head up.”
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