It is a shock to the sensibilities to consider this game is VCUs final regular season game in the first A10 year. It's like moving the clocks forward on Saturday night is not one hour; rather we reset the clocks from New Year's Day to the CAA tournament.
Was the Dayton game two weeks, or two months, ago?
We've parsed data, read tea leaves, and played with emotions over the past 15 games. Thrown it all into one big pot and cooked up a stew worthy of an NCAA tournament. VCU has won with its shooting, won with its rebounding, won with grit and won with artistry.
In the end, it's fitting that the last regular season victory may hinge on backbone of havoc: turnovers. VCU leads the nation in turnover percentage (29.1% of possessions). Temple is ninth nationally, protecting the ball as if it is diamond-encrusted (turnovers on 16.1% of its possessions).
Ready. Set. Go.
- TU has scored 80 or more points eight times this season, including four of the last seven games.
- Senior Scootie Randall has scored in double figures in seven straight games.
- With a victory earlier this season over Syracuse, Temple has beaten a top 10 team in five straight seasons.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. I Want To Be Your Knight In Shining Armor. It's going to be an emotional senior day for Temple–five seniors will be honored. What's more, the Owls have stakes, including a top four seed in the A10 tourney and a possible at large berth. I want to see who will come to the emotional rescue for the Rams. That could be a counter-punch when Temple punches, it could be a emotion-sucking three when Temple is wobbly from over-emotion, or it could be a calm and cool surgical procedure that excises the Owls. It's about wresting control of the game by removing their heart.
2. I See A Red Door. Temple likes to attack from the wings. It allows the Owls to isolate their athletic big men on the block and forces the defense to make a decision–guard the guard, or guard the one-foot shot. That's what makes Wyatt so good–he makes very good decisions based on what the defense offers him. It's important for the VCU halfcourt defense to paint it black and shut the door to Temple's preferred offense. That will in turn force loose passes and forced shots–which plays right into the hands of havoc.
3. If You Try Sometimes, You Might Find, You Get What You Need. Khalif Wyatt is going to score points. Wyatt will hit shots. It's that simple. The key for VCU is to force Wyatt into tough shots, make him an inefficient player. It would be nice to shut him down, but you can't always get what you want. However if Wyatt's 20 points comes on 7-19 shooting from the field, that's good for the Rams.
4. The Girl Who Once Pushed Me Around. Temple is as average a rebounding team as you can be. They are middle of the pack in terms of both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. So, the net becomes obvious: turn a push into a victory in a critical area for a huge advantage. VCU needs to get back on the glass and create additional shots by grabbing offensive rebounds. The Rams need to keep Temple off the glass and under their thumb. Plus, no second shots keeps the crowd out of the game. I'm calling out the two-headed monster of Jarred Guest and The Big Buddha.
5. Havoc: It's Only Rock & Roll But I Like It. We mentioned the turnovers in the opening paragraphs. I don't want to oversimplify, but it's true–the Rams need to get the pace all havocy and force Temple, who averages 10.9 turnovers per game, into a much greater number. This is where pace becomes a turnover differential number.
We Don't Work For Free
Khalif Wyatt (21.9ppg, 4.0apg, 3.6rpg) is the A10s leading scorer and a true bucketmaker. When his three isn't falling (68-199 this year), he is smart enough to get into the lane and score in midrange. Shaka Smart said on his radio program that Wyatt is his choice for A10 player of the year.
Scootie Randall (11.1ppg, 4.9rpg). Stop me if you've read this before: Randall is a big, strong, 6-6 wing who has hit 52 threes this year. Randall attacks the glass and can play the 2, 3, or 4 spot.
Anthony Lee (10.1ppg, 7.6rpg) Stop me if you've read this before: Lee is a long, athletic 6-9 post who likes to operate in space. Lee, a lefty, is their best rebounder and has made 55% of his shots this year.
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (8.7ppg, 6.3rg) is a blue-collar post player, working hard consistently and rebounding well on the offensive end. He's 6-6 and can shoot out to 18 feet.
Jake O'Brien (9.6ppg, 3.7rpg) is a pick-and-pop post player who is not overly physical. Despite being 6-9, O'Brien hunts three-pointers (48-114, 42.1% on the year).
Will Cummings (5.6ppg, 1.8apg) is a quick point guard who like to run in transition and does a good job setting up the Temple offense.
TJ DiLeo (2.0ppg, 2.0apg) is the backup point guard and he can knock down a set three, but is a defensive liability for Temple.
Dalton Pepper (3.4ppg, 1.0rpg) is another reserve guard who hunts threes–his biggest weapon in spot time.
I've never liked nor hated the Oakland Raiders, which is probably why
I've always loved former owner Al Davis. He always kept things
interesting when he was alive, and because I had no rooting interest I
could appreciate Davis drifting back-and-forth across the line that
divides brilliance and insanity.
Davis keeps coming back to mind as we ponder this weekend. VCU can
finish anywhere from conference regular season champs to the third seed
for the A10 tournament. Forget every bit of it, put it out of your mind,
and don't sweat one bead.
We can only control what we can control. And by that, I mean you need
to keep repeating to yourself Davis's most famous one-liner:
Just win, baby.