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Picking a Final Four in the preseason is plagued with difficulty, since a would-be swami is conjecturing not only on a team's talent level, but also that said team will draw favorable matchups in its road to a championship.
That said, this writer's preseason Final Four picks read thusly: Michigan State, Kentucky, Arizona...and VCU.
Since Dwyane Wade steered then-Conference USA member Marquette to the semifinals in 2003, seven of the 11 Final Fours have included a team from outside the traditional power conferences. VCU accomplished the feat while having to play a First Four game, so every time the Rams have a single-digit seed, they must be accounted for.
Top scorers Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham return, and they'll be augmented by hard-nosed redshirt freshman Jordan Burgess. Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon will take on every opponent's toughest big man, allowing Reddic to thrive in more finesse-oriented matchups.
The biggest key for the Rams is spidery point guard Briante Weber, pictured above picking on Michigan's Mitch McGary, who is most certainly not Weber's own size. Weber has ranked among the nation's steal leaders in each of his first two seasons, but he needs to show that he can run an offense full-time.
Mad bomber Troy Daniels' 124 made threes must be replaced. A committee of guards including senior Rob Brandenberg, sophomore Melvin Johnson and freshmen Doug Brooks and Jairus Lyles will attempt to do just that. And don't discount Graham and Burgess' perimeter contributions, either.
Coach Shaka Smart's "Havoc" defense is sometimes a turnover-or-bust approach. Opponents' 49.9 effective field-goal percentage ranked 13th in the Atlantic 10 last season according to StatSheet.com. If the Rams can stiffen up and reduce opponents' open looks, there's more than enough offensive firepower to carry the Rams to Arlington in April.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.