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.''

Maryland basketball legend to become Coppin State basketball coach

Maryland basketball legend to become Coppin State basketball coach

According to Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun, Maryland basketball legend Juan Dixon will be named the head coach at Coppin State, his first men's head coaching job.

After his playing career wound down after stints in the NBA and Europe, Dixon joined Mark Turgeon's staff in College Park but was not retained after the 2015-16 season. 

For 2016-17, Dixon took over the UDC women's basketball coaching job finishing with a 3-25 record, but only had nine scholarship athletes. 

Dixon will take over a struggling Coppin State program that has only won 25 games in the past three seasons and hasn't finished with a winning record in the MEAC since 2011-12.

Coppin State became only the third No. 15 seed to top a No. 2 seed in 1997, but have only made the NCAA tournament one time since then (2008). Dixon will look to return Coppin State to the success it had during the 1990's. 

MORE MARYLAND: Maryland lands graduate transfer from Duke

VCU basketball star, Mo Alie-Cox to sign with the Indianapolis Colts

VCU basketball star, Mo Alie-Cox to sign with the Indianapolis Colts

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

The face of VCU basketball for the past several seasons, Mo Alie-Cox is heading to the professional ranks.

No, not as a player on the hardwood but rather as one on the gridiron.

On Thursday it was reported by multiple sources that Cox will sign with the Indianapolis Colts. It is expected that Cox will play primarily as a tight end for the Colts, after tailoring his NFL workouts last month to that position.

According to Mike Garafolo, Cox was deemed eligible for the NFL Draft by the league last season due to his previous red-shirted year. A year removed from draft eligibility, he is technically a free-agent. 

At 6'7" and 250 pounds, he is a natural fit for the position. In addition he has a 7-1 wingspan and gigantic hands that make a basketball look small. 

RELATED: Early entry NBA Draft list

Cox joins a long list of converted basketball stars into NFL tight-ends. Most famous is perhaps Jimmy Graham of the Seattle Seahawks who played both basketball and football at the University of Miami. The list also includes Antonio Gates, new Colts teammate Erik Swoope, Martellus Bennett, and Julius Thomas just to name a few. 

In his four year career with the Rams, Cox played 142 games and helped the team to NCAA tournament berth every season. In an interview with CSN last November, then-VCU head coach Will Wade said he'd received calls from NFL teams and scouts about Alie-Cox throughout his career.