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Q and A: VCU Radio Man Michael Litos

We continue our famous Q and A series previewing the Bonnies next opponent, the VCU Rams. In order to gain a ton of recon and perspective on the new-look Rams we turn to the voice of the team- Mr. Michael Litos. He’s a pro and a great follow on Twitter as well. We thank him for his time and for providing us as in-depth a look on the team as we could get anywhere. 
1. Give Bonnies fans a scouting report of VCU under new head coach Will Wade.
Take most of what you think you know about VCU, and throw it out the window. Go ahead, I’ll wait, because if you hold on to any previous season or mindset of “what VCU looks like,” you will spend most of Saturday confused. This team is scrappy. They play inside-out. Mo Alie-Cox is a big part of the offense and has really learned how to pass out of the post and owns a jump hook. Alie-Cox will get some help from Hamdy. Yeah, just plain Hamdy. It’s weird, really, to see this team play offense. 
JeQuan Lewis has settled down into a role as a scoring point guard. VCU can win when he scores-29 points against Richmond and 19 at St. Joe’s-and it can win when he does not (two points at SLU and three points vs. Fordham). Korey Billbury is a velvet steamroller-a straightline driver to the hole, but shooting 40% from three. Oh, and there’s that Melvin Johnson guy, who is on pace to break the school record for career three pointers made and one of the best scorers in the conference.
That’s just the offense. Defensively, Coach Wade will play a lot of man, but also approximately 4 billion varieties of a matchup zone. I call it The Inverted T because it looks like a 1-1-3 or 1-3-1 but they don’t play to those zone principles. It’s really weird.
What’s mind boggling? The only press you are likely to see is what Wade himself has called “token.” You read that right. A token press. Now, one area of focus is ball pressure and attacking passing lanes, so keep your eyes on that. And here’s the thing-VCU is turning over teams at a higher clip this year than last year.
Go figure.

2. What are the main differences between Wade’s version of the Rams and Shaka Smart’s version? 
You just hit on the premise of my next book. It will take that long to explain it all. In short, read the last question. Really only four things are different: offense, defense, strategy, and culture.
Plus, this VCU team will play St. Bonaventure with a foot of snow on the ground. In years past the snow has occurred in Olean. See what I mean?
Buy the book when it’s published.
3. It seems like VCU is over-achieving so far. What’s the pulse around Ram Nation surrounding this team and their ceiling…compared to expectations in October? 
Here’s where I’m going to confuse you: to say VCU is overachieving is not accurate. But in October nobody really knew what to think of this team and this season. I mean, the program’s winningest coach left. The entire recruiting class decommitted. The second leading scorer in program history graduated, as did Briante Weber, whose defense needs new adjectives. What do you do with that? What’s your measuring stick?
Fans are fans. When VCU was 5-5 the pulse was that this Rams team was a middle-of-the-pack ECC squad. Now that we’ve won eight straight, a game against the Warriors in the Siegel Center is a Pick ‘Em. But Will Wade likes this team and how it approaches every day at practice. He has consistently said that the margin for error is small with this team, that they have to do those detail things every day to be successful. They’ve been doing that since the Georgia Tech game.
I’d say VCU is simply achieving. Not over or under. Taking care of business. Our mascot wears pants. Winning when we play well, and losing when we don’t. Luckily it’s been a long streak of playing well. There are no bad losses, and being down 13 at St. Joe’s and down nine at Richmond but winning both games is a sign. I like the makeup of this squad.
4. It appears that HAVAC has gone no where despite Smart’s departure. True or false? Is HAVOC exactly the same or are there new wrinkles?
False. Ish. Or True. Ish. It’s totally different. Wholly. Entirely. Completely. Everlastingly. Honestly, I wouldn’t even call it havoc. I’d call it a damned good defensive team with guts and an edge. It’s the kind of team that when a dragon speaks, you smell its breath.
5. What will SBU need to do to win on the road this weekend?
Knock down threes and make your free throws. Frighteningly, that’s the two things you do well. This team is still only a half-season into Wade’s defensive schemes, so there are still multiple breakdowns. Those breakdowns have led to some open threes for the opposition. What’s more, VCU has been prone to fouling, and not freedom of movement fouling. Pure, unabashed fouls. It’s an old coaching cliche that to win on the road you have to make your free throws. You will probably get an opportunity to put that to the test.
6. VCU has lost 5 times this season, all to very good teams. What did those teams do to beat the Rams (aside from just being really good)
They used size and length to bother everything VCU did. What I mean is that the plays that worked against Radford and Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee were not going to work against Florida State and Duke and Cincinnati. Those squads had multiple big, long, athletic guys that stopped an aggressive VCU team in its tracks. When you are inefficient against teams like that, you lose those games.
7. How does this season have to end for VCU fans to consider it a success?
I will accept nothing less than a Beanpot championship. It’s that’s simple. I think the generally accepted success metric is an NCAA tournament berth. I don’t think it matters where. Now, if a VCU fan wants to complain about low seed (or is it high seed-I get confused by that all the time), that’s on them.That’s the kind of person who would complain about a free lunch.
But no matter how the season ends, I will tell you this: questions were answered. All that “what will you do after Shaka” drama is just that-nonsensical blather. 
8. Give me your very early prediction of what teams finish in the top four of the league…
Dayton is playing at a ridiculous level.
VCU is in there.
I’ve always liked GW, but Lonergan always seems to coach them into the ground.
And I’ll put St. Joseph’s at four.

Can I put Rhody in there as an honorable mention?

9. What’s VCU’s biggest weakness?
That’s actually a little tougher question than I thought it would be. I guess I would call it bucket making. What I mean is that Melvin Johnson is the only player on the roster that’s a pure scorer, the kind of guy an opposing coach does his best to stop, but sometimes the choice is not his. You can game-plan around the other offensive weapons on this team. So VCU is vulnerable if Johnson is not making shots. Lewis can score, and Billbury is very capable of getting to the rim, but for pure bucket making, VCU needs another.
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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.