Last night’s Atlantic 10 action saw two of the final three conference unbeatens, No.9 Butler and Xavier, go down in road losses against tough opponents. The Rams will look to avoid such luck at rival Richmond in hopes of extended the nation’s second longest winning streak to 14 games.
Here’s the preview…
VCU (16-3, 4-0)
Richmond (12-7, 2-2)
A quick look at Richmond: The Spiders are the one A-10 team VCU will face this season with some familiarity with VCU’s havoc style of play. The crosstown rivals have met 66 times since 1976, with VCU leading that series 41-25. VCU has won seven of the last eight, but were embarrassed in their their last trip to the Robins Center, trailing Richmond by 23 at the half before eventually falling 72-60. The Rams exacted some measure of revenge last season, turning the Spiders over 16 time en route to a 73-51 Siegel Center win. Richmond is coming off a 20-point home win over the Charlotte 49ers, handing the Niners their first conference loss of the season. The Spiders have a strong group of guards led by senior sharpshooter Darien Brothers (16.2 ppg, 50% season averaged from deep) who hit 8-of-11 3-pointers and posted 39 points in the win over Charlotte. Brothers is joined in the backcourt by the lightning quick Kendall Anthony (12.8 ppg) and junior point guard Cedrick Lindsay (9.5 ppg, 3.4 ast) who posted 22 points in his last game against VCU. Richmond ranks second in the A-10 in 3-point fg% on the season, but are hitting 7% less in conference games, good for 11th in the league. The Spiders will need good guard play tonight, as they will be without leading big Derrick Williams on a team that has struggled all season in the frontcourt. UofR’s -5.6 rebounding margin ranks last in the Atlantic 10, and losing the 285lb Williams’ 6.8 rebounds per game doesn’t make things any easier. The Spiders will be forced to rely heavily on the 6’9 210lb freshman Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, as well as 6’5 senior forward Greg Robbins in the paint.
A quick look at VCU: The Rams are winners of their last 13 games, and haven’t lost in the continental US in more than two months. That streak was in serious jeopardy two games ago against St. Joseph’s, but with 14 seconds left and down four, the Rams somehow managed to force overtime where they dominated the Hawks and kept their win streak and national ranking alive. That game sums up just how dangerous this VCU team is, in particular, just how hard they are to kill. Nationally, the Rams have made a name for themselves on defense, but are flying way under the radar as the nation’s 10th highest scoring offense as well. When they struggle on D (as they did against St. Joseph’s), they usually don’t on offense. When they struggle on offense, they’re typically lockdown on defense. When they don’t struggle on either, your team is in trouble. It’s no surprise then that with that balance VCU leads the A-10 with a +17.9 scoring margin. VCU is a perfect 5-0 in true road games this season, winning by an average margin of 26.8 points….YO!
Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 79.3, Richmond 70.4
Scoring Defense: VCU 61.3 points allowed, Richmond 65.2
Field Goal%: VCU 45.8%, Richmond 44.9%
Field Goal% Defense: VCU 42.8%, Richmond 43.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: Richmond 38%, VCU 35.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 32.3%, Richmond 33.4%
Rebounding Margin: VCU +2.9, Richmond -5.6
Turnover Margin: VCU +8.89, Richmond +2.42
VCU wins if: The big dogs eat. All eyes will be on Juvonte Reddic in this one. The Rams’ leading rebounder at 7.8 per game and second leading scorer at 13.5 ppg has a considerable advantage on paper. He also has two years experience and 25lbs on Richmond’s Nelson-Ododa. Richmond head coach Chris Mooney knows this, so Reddic may see double teams and some zone looks. If he doesn’t he’ll have a huge opportunity for some serious numbers. Same goes for Treveon Graham. VCU’s leading scorer at 16.2 ppg may only be 6’5, but he’s called the freight train for a reason. The VCU coaching staff and players have done an excellent job of building Graham’s confidence in letting him know just how dominant he can be. Graham is making a legit case for A-10 player of the year so far, and has posted 20+ points in three of his last four games. The game he didn’t hit 20 he still managed 17 in just 22 minutes of play. A typical havoc wreaking night on defense wouldn’t hurt either.
Richmond wins if: Their talented guards handle VCU’s press. Look, stranger things have happened, but I don’t know how Richmond wins this without a low turnover count. VCU’s advantage in the paint seems to suggest the Spiders will need a very efficient night from Brothers, Anthony and Lindsay. And once they break the press, they’ll need to make VCU pay. The Spiders have one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the A-10, with Brothers playing the role of Troy Daniels, including a huge 8-of-11 night for 39 points in his most recent performance. A player who can shoot like that can lead his team to wins over any team in the country. What’s frightening for the Rams is Brothers’ big night came in a 20-point home win against Charlotte, a pressing team that includes the one-time VCU commit and the A-10’s No.3 steals man behind Weber and Theus, Pierria Henry (2.7 per game). Charlotte forced just 10 turnovers in that contest, VCU will need to do better.
Game tips at 7PM. DON’T FORGET TO WEAR GOLD IF YOU ARE ATTENDING!