Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

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Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

For many college basketball programs, previous encounters with Duke invoke painful or at least losing memories. Quite the opposite for Virginia Commonwealth - and now the program's current roster has its own opportunity to add a "we beat Duke" chapter to the school's history.

Following Friday's win over No. 19 Memphis, VCU (3-1) faces the fifth ranked Blue Devils (4-0) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Giving Duke's ranking and prestige, this game has the illusion of David vs. Goliath to the uninitiated, but quite the opposite to those aware of previous events.

Over the last two seasons, the Shaka Smart-coached Rams have reached the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the third round this past March. Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke bowed out in the round of 16 in 2011 and last year dropped its opening game against Lehigh.

Last season's loss was the Blue Devils earliest exit since 2007, the year VCU stunned Duke 79-77 for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 22 seasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points that day five seasons ago in VCU's only meeting against Duke. His free throw line jumper with a second remaining propelled the Rams to what at the time was the biggest win in the program's history.

In the next battle with Duke, once again it will be VCU's backcourt leading the way. To call the Rams up-tempo would not accurately describe the rapid pace Smart choreographs for his squad, especially on defense. Spearheaded by guards Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, VCU's relentless pressure forced 22 turnovers against Memphis, leading to 33 points.

Graham leads the Rams in scoring with 14.5 points, just ahead forward Juvonte Reddic (14.3), the team's top post option. Weber and Theus combine for 5.5 steals per game while the Rams average 9.75 3-pointers per game.

Even though Duke has perimeter threats of its own, including sharpshooter Seth Curry (18.3 ppg), VCU would be wise to keep the tempo moving considering the Blue Devils' interior power. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee is averaging 21.3 points while shooting a staggering 71.4 percent from the field. Mason Plumlee. The senior dominated with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's 89-71 win over Minnesota.

The challenge is not lost on Smart, who will battle coaching wits with Duke's famed leader Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.

"Playing Duke, what an incredible opportunity,'' Smart told the Associated Press "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era.

"But we won't fold up to the test.''

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

Virginia has added another quarterback to its roster for next season as Kurt Benkert of East Carolina announced Sunday that he will transter to UVa.

Benkert announced on April 25 that he intended to transfer. The move to Charlottesville will reunite the quarterback with former head coach Ruffin McNeill who now is the defensive line coach for Virginia.

Benkert's bio on ECU's athletcis website lists him as 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and describes him as "A talented and polished signal-caller whose arm strength perhaps already ranks among the best in the history of the Pirate program ." He was named the starter by McNeill at ECU heading into last season, but a knee injury forced Benkert to miss the entire 2015 season.

As a graduate transfer, Benkert will be immediately available for next season. He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Benkert will now be thrust into a quarterback competition in Charlottesville with incumbent Matt Johns and fellow transfer Connor Brewer.

RELATED: TWO HOKIES SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY AFTER ARRESTS

Smart move: GW adds Harvard grad transfer

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Smart move: GW adds Harvard grad transfer

Harvard forward Patrick Steeves, a 3-point shooting threat, has committed to George Washington men's basketball program, a source revealed to CSNmidatlantic.com.

The 6-foot-7 Steeves, a native of Montreal, graduates from Harvard next month. He is eligible immediately at GW and has two years of eligibilty remaining. 

Injuries plagued him early in his career with the Ivy League program, but he turned in a solid 2016-17 campaign with averages of 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Steeves shined from long range, sinking 45.8 percent (33 of 72) of his 3-poit attempts.

California, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Richmond were also after Steeves, accorrding to a source.

Steeves joins a massive contingent coming to help for the 2016-17 season. The Colonials lost six players from a team that won 28 games last season and captured the season-ending NIT championship under coach Mike Lonergan. 

Former Seton Hall transfer Jared Sina is eligible after sitting out last season. The heady guard and Steeves will help offset the perimeter loss of seniors Patricio Garino, Joe McDonald and Alex Mitola. Guards Paul Jorgensen and Anthony Swan transfered out of the program after the season.

Incoming big man recruit Kevin Marfo headlines a five-player class. The Colonials also lost starting center Kevin Larsen to graduation.

Leading scorer and rebounder Tyler Cavanaugh returns along with fellow starting forward Yuta Watanabe.

VIDEO: Brian Mitchell helps Navy QB learn to return punts before draft

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VIDEO: Brian Mitchell helps Navy QB learn to return punts before draft

CSN's Brian Mitchell, one of the best punt returners in NFL history, is helping former Navy QB Keenan Reynolds to reinvent himself in advance of the 2016 NFL Draft. 

While learning to play another position to increase his chances of getting drafted or making a roster, Reynolds showed off his ability to field punts. And he's already pretty good. 

Watch the full segment featuring Mitchell, Reynolds, and CSN's Rob Carlin in the video player above.