George Washington crawls out of Foggy Bottom, zips past Fredericksburg, and pulls into our fair city for a 7:30 Saturday tipper.
The Colonials hit town at 5-4 in conference, and 11-11 overall. Their three best games were wins over VCUs last two opponents, Charlotte and UMass, and a narrow three-point loss to Butler last Saturday. GW had its bye game midweek and has not played since the Butler loss.
Pointless historical note: GW is 2-0 against the CAA this year, beating Hofstra and James Madison. Very pointed note: don't take this game lightly. Duquesne, 0-9 in A-10 play before Thursday night, won at Temple.
GW has a very rugged frontcourt and plays solid defense. They hold teams to an effective field goal percentage of 45% (46th nationally), and they are among the top 40 most efficient defensive teams in the nation.
Their issue starts with the three most-loved words in the VCU basketball dictionary: Freshman. Point. Guard. What's more, their second most prolific ballhandler is also a freshman. Those are bedrock components that get you to a steal percentage of 13.7% (342nd of 347 nationally) and a turnover percentage of 23.2% (306th).
Because they are an inside-oriented team, GW has made just 72 three-point shots on the year. Troy Daniels has made 89 on his own. (Side note: Daniels needs five to tie his own school record.)
Ken Pomeroy has VCU winning 72-61, giving the Rams an 86% chance of winning by any margin.
Colonials carry a three-game A-10 road win streak into Saturday's game
having swept through New England with victories at Massachusetts and
Rhode Island in late January, followed by a 79-57 rout at Duquesne on
- Forward Isaiah Armwood, a Villanova transfer, is tied for third in the A-10 with seven
double-doubles this season.
- GW dropped to 0-3 all-time against VCU
with a 75-60 loss last season at the BB&T Classic. The two teams also met in the 2010 CBI, as well as the 1978
Virginia Tipoff Tournament.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. The Bounce, And I'm Not Talking About Dribbling. We saw it in the LaSalle game. Rubbery legs 48 hours after an emotional game against Richmond. A 40-inch vertical leap was perhaps 35 inches, we may have been a half-step slow, and we reached with hands instead of defending with feet. All of it mattered, and all of it conspired. I'm watching for fresh legs and fresh vinegar.
2. Freddie Couples Knocking Down A Birdie Putt. Okay this isn't golf, but a few years back they made a rule in the Skins Game where you had to "validate" a won skin by winning the next hole. I'm watching Melvin Johnson. Now let's be clear. I don't need a repeat of last night's performance. But I want to see a second-straight solid game. I don't know what the numbers will say, but we will know it when we see it.
3. The Middle, Primarily Juvonte Reddic. Isaiah Armwood is a handful. Also, the GW defense is third in two-point FG% defense and third in blocks. VCU leads the A10 in two-point FG% (52.4%). I ask you this question to frame what I'm looking at: GW is going to try to turn the game into a rock fight down low. Is the best way to defeat that strategy not Reddic dropping jump hooks on top of Armwood?
4. Where Have You Gone Garo Yepremian? VCU is going to force turnovers. That is a given. So while we talk often about empty possessions and empty minutes, I'm looking for how often we convert turnovers to points. We have to convert, not waste turnovers forced. All things being equal, the detritus of havoc has to reign supreme. That's what will get the Rams out of a rock fight.
5. Somewhere, Over the Rainbow. The Rams have struggled on the glass the past couple games, and GW brings a solid interior presence. I'm looking for a back-to-basics approach to rebounding, and that means putting a backside on a road uniform. Once that's established, it's frustrating GW into silly over-the-back fouls. That's one of those "small things" we lose sight of in midgame cheering.
We Don't Work For Free
Isaiah Armwood (11.7ppg, 9.1rpg) is a high level rebounder and a 6-9 work horse. He's very active in the post but can also drive from 15 feet to the rim.
Lasan Kromah (10.6ppg, 3.9rpg) is a 6-6 wing that plays aggressive and with a high motor. Kromah is one of those kids that has a scorer's mentality and is always hunting shots.
Patricio Garino (9.7ppg, 4.0rpg) is a multi-faceted 6-6 wing–he can do a lot of things well on the court, including shoot the three (5-13 in A10 play). Garino also nabs about two steals per game playing passing lanes well.
Joe McDonald (8.7ppg, 4.3apg) is the aforementioned freshman point guard. McDonald is a strong 6-1 and can finish through contact. Obviously the key is to harrass him every moment he's on the floor.
Brian Byrnes (5.8ppg, 2.4rpg) is McDonald's back up and a 6-3 senior. Byrnes is an old-school driver and plays with energy.
Nemanja Mikic (3.4ppg, 1.1rpg) is GWs shooter, and he is a good one. Mikic has a quick release and deep range. He only plays about 12 minutes per game, but is 9-21 from three in A10 play. Mikic scored 15 points against VCU last year.
Dwayne Smith (7.9ppg, 3.0rpg) is an undersized but highly-skilled post. Smith is a bull underneath but a very good three-point shooter (5-9).
Kevin Larsen (5.8ppg, 2.7rpg) is a big man, standing 6-10 and weighing 265 pounds. He is predictably a big banger down low, but has the 15-foot jumper in his arsenal.
Finally, Kethan Savage (3.7ppg, 2.0rpg) is a very fast and athletic wing who loves to drive and get into the paint.
This game is about attack. GW is shaky with the basketball, so the VCU impetus is to make every action on the floor uncomfortable. That means pushing the ball for 40 minutes, and attacking in the halfcourt by throwing the ball into the post and putting pressure on the GW inside game.
On defense, you know the story. GW is not prepared to handle the waves of havoc. However if the Colonials can manage to turn the game into a streetfight, the little things like boxing out on rebounds take a greater premium.
Get. After. It.