The big news out of the Colonial Athletic Association during this off-season has been the departure of Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion from the CAA to the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA, respectively. With this news, this examiner has only looked at the Drexel perspective as to how the Dragons would perform in the new-look CAA. But now, let’s take a look at what this means for VCU, which has been one of the top Mid-Major programs in the country over the last several seasons.
Taking a look at the Rams’ 2012-2013 roster, head coach Shaka Smart only loses senior Bradford Burgess and returns every other player from last year’s CAA championship team. Burgess was a big part of VCU’s Final Four team from 2011 and last year he led the team in scoring at 13.4 points-per-game. But what better way to replace Burgess with his younger brother Jordan, who is projected to be even better than Bradford. Jordan was ranked in the ESPNU Top 100 incoming freshmen and can not only drain three-pointers like his older brother, but he also has the ability to score inside.
Big men Juvonte Reddic and D.J. Haley are back for their junior seasons and the backcourt trio of Troy Daniels, Rob Brandenburg and Darius Theus all return to the VCU lineup. Reserve guards Treveon Graham and Briante Weber had promising freshman seasons last year and will be able to provide VCU with backcourt depth as sophomores.
So now that we’ve established that VCU will have a plethora of weapons in the 2012-2013 season, let’s examine how they stack up against Atlantic 10 opponents. Temple and Xavier are the perennial powers in the A-10, but Temple will be heading to the Big East after next season. Teams like Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s and La Salle are on the rise, and UMass, Richmond and Dayton are all competitive year in and year out. Fellow Mid-Major darling Butler is also joining the A-10 and should compete for one of the top spots in the conference standings.
In this examiner’s opinion, the A-10 overall has more talent and the programs are able to get higher-rated recruits. However, what the CAA doesn’t have in talent they make up for with intensity and defense. VCU led the nation in defensive turnover percentage last year with their ‘Havoc’ defense implemented by head coach Shaka Smart. In addition, their CAA opponents, like Drexel and ODU, are some of the best defensive teams in the country, so VCU is used to tough, intense games.
The Atlantic 10 may not be ready for the intensity that VCU will bring to the court and now with all the attention VCU has had recently, the bigger name recruits will come to their Richmond, Virginia campus.
With a more competitive conference schedule, VCU should get more key wins and most likely will be picked to be a part of March Madness, even if they don’t win the A-10 conference tournament. The Rams should finish in the top half of the A-10 conference standings along with Temple, Xavier, Saint Louis and Butler, and could become a regular member of the NCAA Tournament.