After two months of undefeated basketball, the Rams suddenly find themselves reeling and looking for a road win at Rhode Island to cure a two-game skid.
The last time VCU had a losing streak longer than two games? Try Dec 22nd of 2004 through Jan 2nd of 2005, a three-game stretch that included single-digit road loses against Iona and Middle Tennessee State, and a one-point home L to the Rebels of Ole Miss. The Rams finished 19-13 that season, dropping an OT CAA tournament final against ODU that would have sent VCU back to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season under third-year coach Jeff Capel.
Ram fans would prefer the Shaka Smart led squad to match their response to our last two-game skid, by going on a 13-game tear that would take VCU all the way to the podium (is there a podium?) of the Atlantic 10 final.
Here’s the preview…
VCU (16-5, 4-2)
Rhode Island (13-5, 3-2)
A quick look at Rhode Island: Like VCU, the Rhode Island Rams are riding a two-game losing streak after an emotional overtime win against a tough St. Louis squad. Outside of that win however, Rhodie has struggled. URI has one of the most anemic offenses in college hoops. Their 61.7 points per games ranks dead last in the A-10 and is 291st nationally. VCU fans will welcome the fact that URI is the second worst 3-point shooting team we will have faced in A-10 play as well (32.7%). URI is led by junior guard Xavier Munford. The 6’2 New Jersey native is second in scoring in the A-10 at 17.4 points per game, but is more of a high-volume shooter than marksmen, connecting on 40.4% of his 267 attempts while hitting just 31.5% from deep. Munford averages 5.5 more attempts per game than any other Rhode Island player, so shutting him down will be key for a team who let La Salle’s Ramon Galloway (a very similar player) go off for a career-high 31 points. Like Richmond, Rhode Island is a team that struggles to rebound (15th in the A-10). The Rhodie Rams lack a dominating post presence, but so did Richmond, and they outrebounded VCU in an overtime thriller at the Robins Center just two games ago.
A quick look at VCU: The Rams have been a two-man show lately, perhaps good enough to win tight games in the CAA, but certainly not enough to get by in a competitive Atlantic 10. Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham have notched double-doubles in each of the Rams previous losses, but have received limited help from their backcourt teammates. In the past two games, VCU has forced just 12.5 turnovers per game (about 8 less than our season averaged), are shooting just over 38% from the field and just 21.8% from deep. Starting guards Darius Theus, Troy Daniels and Rob Brandenberg hit a combined 13-of-45 (28.8%) over that span versus point totals of 18, 13 and 26 against Richmond’s backcourt, and 8, 16 and 31 against Explorer guards. That has to change tonight.
Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 78.1, Rhode Island 61.7
Scoring Defense: VCU 62.9 points allowed, Rhode Island 64.5
Field Goal%: VCU 45.2%, Rhode Island 40.3%
Field Goal% Defense: Rhode Island 41.5%, VCU 43.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.3%, Rhode Island 32.7%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Rhode Island 31.5%, VCU 33.1%
Rebounding Margin: VCU +2.8, Rhode Island -4.9
Turnover Margin: VCU +8.14, Rhode Island +0.17
VCU wins if: They keep Rhodie’s guards out of the lane by either hustling through screens or switching the same way La Salle did against us. La Salle got 30 of their 36 points in the paint from their guards, not to mention an additional 17 points at the free throw line from Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Duran. The plan was simple, play an attacking one-on-one game and challenge VCU to defend. VCU didn’t defend, and thus, lost their second-straight A-10 game. Like Ramon Galloway, Xavier Munford will hope for a career night against the black-and-gold, which VCU can’t allow. I’m of the opinion VCU guards will get back on track in this one offensively. As my bearded master, Michael Litos, pointed out in his game preview, the Rams have had considerable more luck shooting on the road. I think that coupled with a stingier D will take some pressure off our guards, allowing them to get back to the free-flowing style we saw before these last two.
Rhodie wins if: The formula will be the same every game until someone figures out a different way to beat the Rams. 1) Hold on to the ball. 2) Get good guard play on offense by either attacking the paint at will (which I don’t think VCU allows this game) or getting hot from deep.
One last thing…
It’s been a rough start to my 33rd year of basketball loving (still don’t look a day over 23!), losing a complete heart-breaker on the night of my birthday to Richmond, then following that with a TOUGH one-play drive fest against La Salle. With that said, I do enjoy the roller coaster aspect to being a sports fan. 13-game win streaks are great, but so is getting knocked down, then riding the emotion of picking yourself up off the mat and fighting back like Rocky. I’m an emotional guy, ask anyone who knows me, so when times are tough, sometimes I need a little extra help in lifting my spirits. Maybe it’s goofy, but this great clip from Rocky 5 has always helped pick me up when things are looking bleak. So for anyone who needs a little pick-me-up like I have…for your viewing pleasure…
I DIDN’T HEAR NO BELL! GET UP YOU SON OF A BITCH…CAUSE MAT LOVES YOU!