Team preview: Virginia Commonwealth

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

New coach Anthony Grant moves to VCU from Billy Donovan's national champion Florida Gators, taking over one of the most successful CAA programs in recent years -- the Rams have won at least 11 conference games and 18 overall each of the last five seasons.

In fact, last season's 19-win campaign is considered a disappointment -- VCU finished sixth in the conference during the regular season and was the highest-rated RPI team to miss playing in a postseason tournament. It was also the first time in three years the Rams didn't play a game (the CAA Tournament final) with an NCAA berth on the line.
Grant's immediate challenge is to replace Nick George, a two-time CAA first teamer whose energetic style of play endeared him to fans and teammates.

"Nick is a big loss because he was also a leader," Grant said, "but our talent level is very good. The tough part for me is an unfamiliarity with the league and evaluating opponents. But we're excited. Billy Donovan prepared me well and I have a great staff with experience and enthusiasm."

VCU has always had one of the most athletic teams in the conference, and Grant will have a stocked roster of players ready to burst out of the gate and play his open-court style. If there was one knock on former coach Jeff Capel's successful run -- and considering it helped him land the Oklahoma job it's a minor quibble -- it was that his often-mechanical offense didn't allow his players the freedom to take advantage of their natural ability.

"We want to constantly put pressure on our opponents offensively and defensively," Grant said at the press conference announcing his hire. "We're going to play 94 feet both ways, and I think these guys are excited about having a chance to play in this system that will showcase their skills and their talents."