Last Season: The Virginia Commonwealth University Rams went 26-9 last season, going 12-4 in the Atlantic 10 conference and making it to the NCAA Tournament's round of 64.
Last Meeting/All-Time Series: The Villanova Wildcats never before played VCU in basketball.
Head Coach: Shaka Smart has led the Rams since 2009, winning 27 games that season and the CBI Tournament. In 2010-11, however, Smart's Rams won 28 games, including a 12-6 record in the CAA -- earning a rare at-large bid from that league, and then shocked college hoops when they rode all the way from the "First Four" play-in round to the 2011 Final Four -- losing only to fellow-Cinderella, Butler (more on those guys later). Smart is the second youngest active coach to have crossed the 100-win barrier and is 137-46 (.749) for his career.
Top Returners: Senior wing Treveon Graham was the top scorer (15.8ppg) and number-two rebounder (7.0rpg) on last season's team, and will return with high expectations to continue leading the Rams this season. Melvin Johnson also returns, having scored 10.4 ppg last year, giving the Rams one of their best deep-shooting threats when he is healthy. Briante Weber is expected to play point, scoring 9.4 ppg and recording a team-high 3.9 assists per game last year -- he is also known as a defensive specialist.
Key Losses: Last year's second-leading scorer Juvonte Reddic, who turned pro, along with number-four scorer Rob Brandenberg, who graduated. Reddic appears to have signed with a professional team in Italy. Despite the losses, Smart's team is expected to be picked by most to win the Atlantic-10 title this season.
Key Additions: The Rams have a top-30 recruiting class joining them this season in Terry Larrier (G-F), Justin Tillman (F), Mike Gilmore (F), Jonathan Williams (PG) and Antravious Simmons (F - redshirt). Three of them (Larrier, Gilmore and Tillman) were ESPN Top-100 players, and Larrier could have an immediate impact.