VCU-George Mason Preview
(AP) - VCU will have to make some adjustments moving forward without injured floor leader and defensive linchpin Briante Weber - though changing the way the No. 18 Rams play won't be one of them.
The first staging of VCU's new look comes Wednesday night with a visit to a struggling George Mason team that has lost six of its last seven games.
Weber tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee late in a 64-55 loss to crosstown rival Richmond on Saturday. Surgery could come in about two weeks after the swelling goes down, coach Shaka Smart said Monday.
"We'll adjust some things," Smart said. "I think your personality changes a little bit any time you lose a dominant figure on your team, but at the same time, we're not going to cancel the season.
"We're still going to play the way that we play. There may be some adjustments in terms of some of the Xs and Os stuff we do on both ends of the floor, but we're still going to be us."
Weber, a senior point guard, was the orchestrator of the team's 'Havoc' style and has led the nation in steals by a wide margin since the start of 2012-13. He was averaging a nation-best 3.9 this season and was 12 shy of breaking the NCAA career record of 385 set by John Linehan of Providence in 2002.
VCU (17-4, 7-1 Atlantic 10) absorbed a double dose of disappointment Saturday, having its 12-game winning streak snapped and then seeing Weber writhing in pain on the floor. He was hurt with just over three minutes left when he attempted a jump-stop in the lane.
Unable to practice again until Monday, the team has focused on supporting Weber after getting the details of his injury late Saturday.
Smart said Weber has pushed them to get back to work.
"He's been very resilient so far. He's had a terrific attitude," Smart said. "The things that he has said to me and to his teammates about our team and about what we need to do have been terrific. I think he is ready to attack any type of rehab and any type of comeback. Bri is always a highly energetic guy."
To replace Weber, the Rams will turn primarily to JeQuan Lewis and freshman Jonathan Williams. While Williams is logging just 7.7 minutes per game, his averages of 5.5 assists and 2.4 steals per 40 minutes show some promise after the loss of Weber, who Smart expects to be on the bench for both home and road games before and after his surgery.
"He's still a big part of our leadership team," the coach said.
Smart said the hardest part of seeing Weber's college career end as it did was the idea that, as a senior, he won't get a chance to do it over. Still, his legacy will not just be as one of the best defenders in program history, but also as a player whose growth as an individual mirrors what coaches hope to see when they recruit a player.
"He's grown a great deal and I think great evidence of that is just the way he's responded with his teammates since this injury occurred," Smart said, noting Weber's refusal to feel sorry for himself.
"He could be caught up in himself and down in the dumps and upset," Smart added, "but he's been great."
The Rams have won three straight and 10 of 14 against George Mason (7-13, 2-6), which ended a five-game slide with a 68-60 home win over Saint Louis on Thursday before falling 62-53 at Duquesne on Saturday.
The Patriots are led by junior center Shevon Thompson, averaging 13.1 points and 11.5 rebounds, while junior guard Patrick Holloway is scoring 11.5 points per game.
They lost to then-No. 18 Oklahoma on Dec. 31 and have dropped their last 10 against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 18 Kansas State 87-77 on Nov. 22, 2007.