#A10WBBTIPOFF: 2019-20 VCU Rams Season Preview
Welcome to the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Tipoff for the 2019-20 Season. This morning, we feature the VCU Rams.
After a stellar 2018-19 season that saw VCU advance to postseason play for the first time since 2016, expectations are high. The whole cast returns from last year’s team that shared the Atlantic 10 regular-season title with Fordham.
“They’re the best team,” acknowledged Saint Joseph's Coach Cindy Griffin.
“We’re very excited to have everybody back,” said Rams coach Beth O’Boyle, who signed a five-year contract extension in June. “It’s important to build consistency when trying to build a program.”
O’Boyle is the reigning conference coach of the year; guard Tera Reed was named to the A-10’s All-Conference First Team.
Remember, this was a Rams team that was 7-22 the year before and picked to finish sixth last year. Instead, they earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, shutting down opponents with the league’s top defense. The 14½ game improvement ties with Arizona for the biggest turnaround last season in Division I.
VCU ranked among the top five nationally in three major defensive categories, the most impressive, perhaps, that the Rams limited opponents to 33.4 percent field goal shooting, the third-best mark in D-I.
“Defense is our identity,” O’Boyle said. “If we can rebound, we can run.”
VCU, which fell to Fordham in the A-10 Championship Final, advanced to the WNIT, but O’Boyle said her team only has eyes for the NCAA Tournament this season. She touts the leadership of Reed, Nyra Williams, and Taya Robinson. Williams had her knee scoped at the end of the season and returns healthy. “Both Tera and Taya are very consistent for us,” O’Boyle said. “Taya just brings it like a pro in the weight room and on the court.”
VCU has never won the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship. Don’t overlook the Rams to make history this season.
A look at VCU:
Coach: Beth O’Boyle, 6th season at VCU, 106-87, 12th season overall, 179-154
Last year: 24-10, 13-3, Atlantic 10 regular season co-champion (lost to Virginia Tech 82-72 in second round of the WNIT)
Impact returners: Reed (12.5 ppg) led the Rams in scoring a year ago and started every game. Hammond, VCU’s top shot blocker, had an A-10-leading .587 FG percentage while averaging 8.7 ppg. Nyra Williams led the Rams in assists; Olga Petrova and Reed both shot 40 percent from beyond the arc; Petrova’s 40.8 was the top mark in the conference. Leading rebounder Robinson anchored one of the best defenses in the nation.
Newbies of note: VCU has none.
Reasons to be optimistic: O’Boyle doesn’t need to motivate this team. These Rams know how close they came to reaching the NCAA Tournament. The turnaround is complete. VCU has the pieces. If the Rams stay healthy, they will contend for the conference title.
Circle the date: Road games at Seton Hall (Nov. 5), South Florida (Nov. 15) and Boston College (Nov. 24) will be key, O’Boyle said, in preparing the Rams for the A-10 slate of heavies.
Bottom line: No doubt these Rams can defend. But in tight games when they need a bucket, they’ll need a go-to scorer. If their offense is even just a little more dynamic, don’t be surprised to see them still playing in March.