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2013 Basketball Blogger Q&A: VCU

Shaka Smart and his HAVOC system have had the Rams rolling the last few years. Parks Smith of SB Nation's Mid-Major Madness breaks down the 2013–14 squad, the Hoos' November 12 opponent.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Want to win your office pool by picking that #11 seed out of the Missouri Valley Conference? Then read Mid-Major Madness, SB Nation's blog dedicated to the Cinderella in all of us.

VCU has begun to establish its HAVOC brand over the last two years, but the Rams looked overwhelmed by Michigan in the Big Dance. How does your fan base feel about last year's results?

I'm a lifelong Richmonder and the hoops "revolution" for the city and VCU in particular has been crazy to watch over the years. VCU has one of the most unique fan bases in the country. Their passion is unmatched, but at times I think its misguided passion. VCU's "new" fans expect nothing less than another Final Four run every year, while the old fans realize how hard it is to climb to the top of that mountain. I think the Michigan game was a humbling experience for a lot of fans. HAVOC isn't a unique defense, many team play it, VCU just does a better job of branding it. I remember talking to one fan last year who immediately proclaimed "No one plays defense like VCU!". My response: "Have you seen Louisville play?"

I think the humbling experience and the sting from that bone rattling Mitch McGary pick on Briante Weber have subsided and it's quickly transferred back to a sense of excitement, optimism, and even entitlement on Broad Street.

What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?

Two guys have moved on from VCU that were a big part of the Rams success over the past couple of years. Troy Daniels was the Rams biggest three point threat and he's moved onto the NBDL. He even hit eleven threes on his own against East Tennessee State a year ago. The other guy that is gone is the Rams point guard Darius Theus. Theus was the scoring threat that Daniels was but he was the maestro for the Rams offense. It will be interesting to see if VCU will struggle more in halfcourt sets to start the season without Theus and an experienced ballhandler on the team. If HAVOC isn't generating offense early in the season, then the Rams could find themselves struggling a little bit to start off the year.

Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?

There's a lot of talk about Melvin Johnson stepping up as a premier scorer and also chatter around the freshman lot that includes Jordan Burgess, Mo Alie-Cox, and others. But with all that being said, I think the guy who is expected to step up the most (especially early on) is reigning Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber. If HAVOC has a heart and soul then it's Briante Weber. But as good and energizing as Weber is on defense, it will be interesting to see if he steps into more of a roll of bringing the ball up the court and orchestrating the offense this year. Freshman Jequan Lewis definitely provides some point guard depth, but it'll be interesting to see what the Rams unleash on the offensive side of the court early on.

Who is the player UVa fans ought to look out for the most?

Mike Tobey should help to neutralize Juvonte Reddic and your old ACC friend Terrance Shannon in the paint, so I think the primary threat that Virginia has to look out for is Treveon Graham. He spent the summer starting for Team USA at the World University Games and he's one of the most dangerous scorers from the wing in the nation. Graham is about as steady as it gets in college basketball and is always good for 15 points. He's also a tenacious rebounder for only being 6'5 and averaged nearly 6 rebounds per game a year ago.

What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?

I think success is nothing short of an Atlantic 10 Championship. This is still Saint Louis' conference until the Rams can knock them off. A lot of fans and pundits think the Rams are a Top 15 team in the country, so I think going deep in the NCAA Tournament is once again a primary goal. I think the Rams and their fans will also have a chip on their shoulder and look to leave a wake of destruction against in-state programs who have not traditionally scheduled VCU in Virginia and Virginia Tech. Shaka Smart would also love to get past Florida State and get a rematch with Michigan in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off as well. I think failure for this team is anything other than first place in the A10 and anything less than the Sweet 16.