By season's end, we will have crowned Winthrop national champions. By using keen powers of rationalization and the transitive property of equality, the Eagles' march to glory is underway.
You see, Winthrop comes into The Stu having beaten USC-Upstate Wednesday night 82-74. USC-Upstate beat Virginia Tech in their season opener, and you know the Hokies will win an ACC game, and so on, and so on, and so on–until the ultimate conclusion that has Winthrop with a chance to win the national championship.
VCU traveled to Rock Hill, SC last season and whipped Winthrop 90-54. Briante Weber made 4-6 from three and VCU hit 13-25 overall from deep. Winthrop scored the first basket of the game but then the Rams went on a 30-9 flurry to all but end the competitive portion of the game. It was also the team's third game of the season and the game prior to heading to the Caribbean for a big tournament. Funny how that worked out.
Anyway, last year the Rams were coming off a salty loss to Wichita State as opposed to a lightning-strike win over Virginia. Poor Winthrop received the business end of an angry basketball team. The Eagles are a scrappy bunch, and the whole letdown factor should be in play.
I know this because the locker room after the Virginia win was joyous–how could it not be after what occurred–but once the moment settled in, it was back to business. There was no extra measure of celebration. The guys knew they didn't play their best game, and knew there was, as Shaka has said, "a lot to work on but a lot to work with."
Ken Pomeroy has VCU winning the game 77-58, giving the Rams a 97% chance of winning by any margin.
It’ll be strength vs. strength. VCU enters the contest ranked 16th in the country at defending the 3-point line, holding it’s first two opponents to 5-of-31 (16.1%), while the Eagles enter the game shoot- ing 18-of-41 (43.9%), which ranks in the top-40 in the country.
Bonus nugget: VCU has 10 players who average at least 10 minutes per game.
Them There Eagles
Joab Jerome is the main threat. He goes 6-5 and is a physical player with range out to the arc (3-5 on the year). However Jerome prefers to drive and mix it up, getting to the foul line. Andre Smith was a pretty good-looking point guard last year that was a victim of havoc. Smith was 3-14 from the field and committed six turnovers. He's better than that. He can shoot to 24 feet and is a microwave scorer–he heats up in a hurry.
The new name to watch is spunky freshman Keon Johnson. He's fast, low-to-the-ground at 5-7, and a cocky player. Johnson has made 5-9 from three but will turn the ball over. He is, after all, a freshman. You know what that means. Inside, lefty James Bourne returns. Bourne grabbed six offensive rebounds against VCU last year and is a big, strong 6-8 240 pounds. He is a solid player so the Rams simply have to hold their ground.
Tevin Prescott is a very active, very athletic swingman who has made 9-13 field goals this season. He's smallish at 6-5 but makes up for it with the cliche of a high motor. Larry Brown is a similar player to Prescott, and Christian Farmer is a lefty and a pure shooter with the constant green light.
My Eyes For Your Eyes: Old School Rap Edition
No Parking on the Dance Floor: Winthrop is an aggressive, attacking team. Naturally, that leads to a lot of feet and momentum headed towards their own basket. I'm looking for VCUs transition offense to flourish. The Rams should be running out off of both misses and makes. Winthrop goes 10-deep, but VCU can run past them. The best way to quell an attacker is to counter-attack with swiftness and force.
The Freaks Come Out At Night: It's a simple approach, really. VCU needs to blow up everything Winthrop wants to do. There's the havocy fun in the press, but in the halfcourt the Rams have to frustrate the Eagles. We always say in situations like this that VCU needs to avoid letting its opponent start feeling good about itself by making shots. Step one to that preventative measure is to not allow them to get into position to take those shots. That means denying entry passes, deflecting passes, and fighting through screens. The more late shot-clock situations that feature one-on-one play, the better.
Mama Said Knock You Out: This needs to be a surgical procedure, much like last year's game. VCU needs to bludgeon Winthrop on the inside, throwing painful body blows. This works in concert with the free-flowing press and pace. I want to see a Terrance Shannon workman's double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Juvonte Reddic hit for about 18/8. The sure sign things are working: double-digit minutes for Doug Brooks.
Bring The Noise: Public Enemy is not technically old school, but you get the point. I want to see That Animal become that animal.
Good teams win games like Virginia, and good teams respond to big wins by pummeling its next opponent instead of slogging through it. Winthrop visits That Animal (my new name for The Stu, thanks much Shaka) Saturday night. I expect there may be a bit of a hangover–we are all human–but eventually VCU should overwhelm the Eagles.