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One-on-One: Which college basketball team will surprise the most this season?

Colgate

BY MATT HARRINGTON

Colgate made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 23 years last season and gave No. 2 seed Tennessee quite the scare in the round of 64, only falling by seven points. The Raiders have the talent and depth needed to make them return back to the big dance and advance.

Colgate brings back four of its starters from last season, including junior guard Jordan Burns, who averaged 16.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. He also earned Patriot League Tournament MVP.

Another key returning player for Colgate is 6-foot-9-inch senior Will Rayman. Rayman was crucial to the Raider’s success beyond the arc last year, shooting 42.3 percent on 3-point attempts. In addition, he was also named to the Patriot League All-Defensive Team in 2018-19.

Sophomore Tucker Richardson, the defending Patriot League Rookie of the Year, will look to build off a strong freshman season. Richardson averaged over eight points and four rebounds per game, in addition to shooting 42.1 percent from the field.

Colgate will need to take care of home court. Last season, Colgate went 15-1 at home, with their lone loss coming to Boston University. It may be one of the smallest gyms in Division I men’s basketball, at less than 2,000 seats, but it will be a determining factor leading to punching their ticket to the big dance.

Colgate opens the season with three of their first four games against the high-motors of Clemson, Syracuse and No. 24 Auburn, all on the road. Should Colgate win a few of these games and finish strong in Patriot League play, it could find itself in position to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

When it comes time to fill out your bracket, don’t be surprised to see Colgate shaking things up.

VCU

BY RONAN KHALSA

Virginia Commonwealth returns its top six scorers and are one of the most experienced teams in the country with seven upperclassmen who will contribute.

Last season, the Rams fell in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament to Tacko Fall’s UCF Knights after claiming the Atlantic-10 regular season title. The national preseason poll for 2019-20 has VCU tabbed at No. 25.  

The Rams have a swarming, aggressive defense. Four of the starters are between 6-foot 5-inches and 6-foot 8-inches tall. This height will allow them to switch while remaining fierce. Mismatches aren’t a problem; they are welcomed.

 In 2018-19 VCU ranked second nationally in 3-point defense, eighth in turnover rate and third in effective field goal percentage. The full court press worked last season and will continue to give opponents fits, although fans should expect many high-flying blocks as well.

There are five bench players that will bring intensity whenever they are on the floor, including four-star recruit Nah’shon Hyland. The vast experience throughout the roster will bring VCU’s highest-touted recruiting class in school history up to speed quickly.  

VCU will need to score the ball in order to live up to the hype. It returns four student-athletes that averaged more than 10 points, but as a unit they turned the ball over 233 times, or 1.77 times per contest.

The Rams will face challenges in the nonconference when they play LSU, Purdue and Florida State or Tennessee. The A-10 is also a very competitive conference day in and day out. Braves fans will be able to gauge its skill when the Rams host Missouri State December 15.

Junior 6-foot-7-inch, 250 pound punisher Marcos Santos-Silva, a Vermont Academy graduate, finished sixth nationally in offensive rebounding rate. Expect him to put up multiple 20-20 games.  

VCU has all the makings to be in the Elite Eight come March.

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