The last time VCU and Florida State met, a trip to the regional final of the NCAA tournament was on the line.
They'll meet for the first time since then Thursday night as a pair of unbeatens in the opening round of Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan.VCU defeated Florida State 72-71 in overtime March 25, 2011, part of the stunning run that would carry it to the Final Four.The Rams (3-0) are off to a strong start this season, averaging 82.3 points and relying on a balanced attack in which seven players average at least 7.0. Guard Treveon Graham leads the team with 16.3 points while shooting 48.6 percent from the field."It's great," coach Shaka Smart said of the team's balanced scoring. "I think it speaks to our depth. We have a lot of guys who can play and give us contributions."On any given night, different guys can step up and score."A lot of VCU's offense comes from its pressure defense. In the Rams' last game, a 92-71 win over Winthrop last Saturday, they forced 25 turnovers that led to 30 points.The Rams are forcing 22 turnovers a game, tied for second most in the nation.Florida State (3-0) plays a similar style, taking the ball away 21.3 times per game.Senior forward Okaro White leads the Seminoles with 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, helping to power a squad that's won its games by an average of 21.4 points. The latest came Saturday, 89-61 over Tennessee-Martin."We feel good," senior guard Ian Miller said about the team's play prior to the trip to Puerto Rico. "I think in these first three games we really accomplished a lot and it has helped us get ready for the really good teams we are going to face down there."While most of the key players from the teams' round of 16 meeting two years ago have graduated, a notable player remains. Rams forward Terrance Shannon played five minutes and went 0 for 2 from the field in that game, but did it for Florida State, as he played for the Seminoles from 2009-13 before transferring to VCU last summer.A starter that's averaging 7.0 points, Shannon will be matched up with White, his former teammate."It's going to be bittersweet," Shannon said. "I get to see my former team again. I talk to the guys a lot, so the bond is still there. I still look at them as like brothers to me. It's going to be weird playing against each other, but it's going to be nice to see them again."Smart feels the same way."(Terrence has) obviously spent a lot of time there and was a really good player for them," he said. "I think he's a guy that can be helpful in game planning against a lot of teams because he's a senior and he's been around. I don't think it's necessarily something where we're going to benefit from knowing all these deep secrets about what they do."