I’ll start this preview on a personal note…
January 24th was my birthday. It was also the first time we played the University of Richmond this season in a newly refreshed conference rivalry. I sat on the court of the Robins Center next to friend and VCU graphic design/photography master, Eddie Johnson, almost begging Eddie to guarantee the Rams would pull out a win to end what had been a solid 33rd.
The Rams trailed the majority of the game, but with 4:38 left to play, went on a 10-2 run to give VCU a 7-point advantage with just 36 seconds to play. Things were looking good, and there I sat, watching UofR fans head for the exits.
Then the unthinkable happened.
I won’t describe it in graphic detail, but just know Richmond made three 3-point plays in a matter of 22 seconds, the game went into overtime, and UofR outscored VCU 17-5 in overtime to hand us our first loss in 14 games.
There went our No.19 ranking.
Good news is VCU won seven of their next nine, are back in the AP Poll at No.21, have clinched and A-10 tournament bye, are being considered a “lock” for the NCAA tournament, have a shot at redemption tomorrow night at the Siegel Center, and with a win, could actually put Richmond in danger of missing the Atlantic 10 tournament next week.
VCU (23-6, 11-3)
Richmond (17-12, 7-7)
A quick look at Richmond: You’ve seen them before, know roughly what to expect, except Wednesday’s version will have an added element in a healthy Derrick Williams, who missed the teams’ first meeting due to injury. The 6’6 285lb forward is a load in the paint and provides a scoring, but perhaps more importantly, rebounding presence the Spiders lacked back in January. With that, Williams absence may very well have been a blessing in disguise in Richmond’s win earlier this season. Even without Williams’ rebounding prowess, the Spiders won the battle of the boards by 2, while playing longer/leaner front court players who could run with the Rams (Williams can ball, but 6’6 285 isn’t going to win Richmond any track meets). The Spiders bread is buttered by their guards. Darien Brothers (14.9 ppg), Kendall Anthony (12) and Cedrick Lindsay (11.3) rank one, three and four in scoring for Richmond. All can shoot the three and hold on to the ball. They did so against VCU in the first meeting, resulting in a Rams loss.
A quick look at VCU: In their past three contests the Rams have looked both miserable and dominant, sometimes in the same game. Luckily for VCU, they finished 2-3 in those, all against good opponents (two on the road), one being a nationally televised 30-point beatdown of then No.20 Butler. Simply put, when the shots are falling, VCU has been scary good. When they aren’t, well, things look different. One of the keys for VCU over that stretch has been avoiding foul trouble. The Rams are most effective when Seniors Darius Theus and Troy Daniels play big minutes early. Theus and Daniels combined for just three fouls in the blowout of Butler versus seven in the loss at St. Louis. The two averaged 23.5 minutes played in the loss versus 26.25 in the wins (and that includes some mercy benching while the Rams controlled Butler late).
Tale of the Tape…
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.6, Richmond 70
Scoring Defense: VCU 63.2 points allowed, Richmond 66.1
Field Goal%: VCU 45.1%, Richmond 43.8%
Field Goal% Defense: VCU 44%, Richmond 44.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: Richmond 38%, VCU 34.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 32.4%, Richmond 33.5%
Rebounding Margin: VCU +0.7, Richmond -6.6
Turnover Margin: VCU +8.28, Richmond +2.97
VCU wins if: The shots fall. The Rams were 3-17 from distance in their first meeting, and hit just 38.6% of their field goals in the loss. Unable to set up the press, VCU forced just 11 turnovers (nine less than their season average) and saw Richmond hit 12-of-27 threes while hitting 48.3% of their field goal attempts on the night. Ram fans filled just about half of the Robins Center back in January, but will fill up all of the Siegel Center not allotted to UofR. That home court advantage has been huge for VCU in the past and should be a big advantage against a UoR team that is 1-6 in A-10 road games this season (their lone win coming against 15th-placed Fordham).
Richmond wins if: Their guards have their way…again. Anthony dropped 26 points on the Rams in 27 minutes, hitting 5-of-9 threes. Brothers hit 4-of-10 threes and finished with 18 points and just two turnovers in 37 minutes. Lindsay posted 13 points, going 4-6 in the paint while hitting 5-5 from the free throw stripe. VCU struggled to keep Richmond out of the lane, but when they did, the Spiders simply drilled their threes. That can’t happen tomorrow.
Game tips at 8PM, March 6th at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
Watch: CBS Sports Network (Comcast 854, FIOS 94), Official Ram Nation watch party at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation