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November 19, 2012

Atlantis Preview: VCU

Over the next seven days, PowerMizzou.com will preview every team in the 2012 Battle for Atlantis. Missouri opens play in the tournament at noon Central time on Thanksgiving Day and we will have complete coverage of the Tigers throughout the three-day event.

Our previews continue today with the Rams from Virginia Commonwealth.

Coach: Shaka Smart
Last Year: 29-7, 15-3 Colonial (2nd)
Postseason: NCAA 3rd Round
Returning Starters: 4

Strengths: As seems to be the theme in this tournament, VCU brings back plenty of experience. The Rams have four starters returning from a team that won 29 games and made the second weekend of the Big Dance for a second straight year. Shaka Smart has become one of the coaching profession's rising stars and his team is used to playing on the big stage. VCU led the nation in steals, turnover margin and turnovers forced a season ago. Despite the fast-paced style, VCU held opponents to less than 60 points in nearly half their games. Defense is the Rams' calling card and they play it well. Darius Theus runs the show and he's a big (6-foot-4) physical point guard who can cause problems. Troy Daniels is a dangerous shooter and Juvonte Randle is an athletic 6-foot-9 post player.

Weaknesses: The Rams have to rely on defense. What happens if they face a team that can run with them and maintain the fast pace? They're going to find out for sure in this tournament. Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess were top 100 recruits who signed with VCU. How quickly can they contribute? If the answer is right away, the Rams are going to be very dangerous.

Overview: Anyone that thought VCU was a flash in the pan when it reached the Final Four a season ago was proven wrong. Plenty of people have looked foolish betting against Smart in a tournament setting. Does he have the horses to make a run at the title in a loaded Atlantis field? Many will say no, but VCU has made a living out of proving people wrong over the last couple of seasons.

Other Atlantis Previews: Stanford, Northern Iowa, Louisville, Memphis

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