I'm not going to mince words: this is a game VCU should win. Okay, a little mincing: this is a game we should see Doug Brooks and Jarius Lyles on the floor while the clock is running. We should be able to see Brooks swish a pair of three-pointers, then shoot one off the top of the backboard.
Forget GW. Forget Dayton and forget Brooklyn and forget the NCAA tournament. This game is about Saturday and Saturday only. It's about VCU doing VCU things, and doing VCU things better than the previous game.
It's focusing on the task at hand, because that leads to success. Stay with me here. Success leads to a concept that seems counter to the entire reasoning of focusing on today: carryover. It goes like this: focus on today leads to a single point of success. That single point is then refined and improved. This carries over to the next single point. That next single point leads to more success and more refinement.
That is a cycle that can be described in one word: Momentum.
The Dukes are, well, interesting. They play a ton of zone with a smaller lineup. Many times, they crowd the perimeter and cut off passing lanes with a 1-2-2 or 3-2 look. There's no real difference in the two because they are both designed to cut off the wing pass that starts most offensive sets.
Requisite geek note: Keep your eyes on the high post pass to enter the offense. If Juvonte Reddic can turn at the foul line, he should have options depending on how Duquesne reacts. Ditto Rob Brandenberg dribbling into a crease. We should see at least one lob dunk.
Ovie Soko (17.9ppg, 8.1rpg) leads the way. Soko is a handful, the kind of 6-8 athlete that drives hard and is always attacking. He is a coach's dream because no matter what he's doing, he doing it hard. Soko has hit nine threes, mostly on wide open set shots. We've seen Soko, as he is a transfer from UAB.
You will remember Derrick Colter (10.1ppg, 3.8apg) from last year's game in PGH. He was the freshman point guard who committed five turnovers but scored 15 points and was generally impressive. Colter is a score-first point guard who is 25-67 from three on the year.
Tra'Vaughn White (11.3ppg) is a juco transfer and their second-leading scorer. One word tells you what you need to know: gunner. Micah Mason (9.1ppg) is similar, but different. Mason is shooting 63% from three (25-40) but requires help–his shots are in transition or off screens.
Dominique McKoy (10.5ppg, 7.5rpg) is an active 6-8 player who runs the floor well and is their best defender. McKoy is a lefty who crashes the offensive glass. The other guy to worry about is wing Jeremiah Jones (8.3ppg). Jones is a physical player who is the "jack of all trades, master of none" player. (Side note: don't confuse him with Jerry Jones, a rebounding guard who started last year but comes off the bench this year.)
Sum It Up
Generally speaking this should be a fun game. Duquense likes to play a fast pace, which means they run and shoot and defense is something they pretend is part of their game (307th ranked). The Dukes turn the ball over on only 14.8% of their possessions, which is 18th nationally. That exceedingly good, but I'm wagering it's due more to jacking up shots before they turn the ball over.
VCU needs to play a mirrored version of Virginia's pack line defense. That is, a pack line offense where guys like Brainte Weber read the zone, attack it, and make the proper decisions at the right time. I'm wholly convinced part of the shooting sluggishness is due to not getting great shots.
It really comes down to one question: Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry likes fast, but can his team handle Havoc Fast?
A handful of games each season have nothing to do with the opponent. They are all about VCU. This is one of those games.