Game Preview: VCU v Duquesne

Treveon Graham will look to lead VCU in a 4PM homecoming tip against Duquesne.
Treveon Graham will look to lead VCU in a 4PM homecoming tip against Duquesne.

The Rams suffered their first Atlantic 10 loss of the season as well as their first loss in the past six games, falling at George Washington in a night VCU hit two less field goals than the Colonials despite 20 more attempts. Their next opponent, the Dukes of Duquesne University, would love an off shooting night like that from the Rams after dropping their last two games, a 19-point home loss to La Salle followed by a nine-point L as Saint Joseph’s, good for an 0-2 start in the A-10. VCU defeated Duquesne by 27 points last season and will look to bounce back with a similar type of win in a 4PM homecoming tip this Saturday.

VCU (13-4, 1-1)
DUQUENSE (8-7, 1-2)


The Dukes finished dead last in the Atlantic 10 last season under first-year head coach, Jim Ferry, but are looking to avoid the cellar in this year’s smaller league (13 teams instead of 16) with the help of UAB transfer, Ovie Soko. Soko has been impressive, averaging 17.9 points per contest (4th in the A-10) to go along with 8.1 rebounds per game (also 4th in the A-10). His 17.9 points are more than double what he averaged in his final season at UAB but in only one additional minute of play. That of course is due to his 31.1% usage percentage, making Soko the 33rd most leaned on player in college hoops at the moment. His field goal attempts (12.3 per game) are virtually double what they were in his last eligible season of college hoops. But he’s not the only offensive weapon for Duquesne. Teammates Tra’Vaughn White, Dominique McCoy and Derrick Colter are all averaging double figures in under 29 minutes per game, while two other players, Mich Mason and Jeremiah Jones (both incredible names), are sniffing double figures as well in the A-10’s second most prolific offense at 77.9 points per game. But as good as that offense has been, they have needed every bit of it, fielding what has been one of the worst defenses in the conference this season, surrendering 75.5 points per contest. What’s more, they have built most of those numbers against one of the weakest schedules in college hoops this season — SOS ranked 333rd out of 351 teams. In games against kenpom top-150 squads they are averaging 68 points while giving up 81.4 points. This is due in part to a 112.7 adjusted defenses efficiency (307th nationally).


VCU fell at George Washington in their forth-straight loss to a top-100 team and in the most predictable of fashions: couldn’t shoot, couldn’t defend the paint. The stats point out the obvious, so take a look:

v UVA – 41.4% shooting for 59 total points versus 56 points (UVA 39.1%) (W)
v FSU – 29.3% shooting for 67 total points versus 85 points (FSU 53.7%) (L)
v Georgetown – 35.7% shooting for 80 total points versus 84 points (Georgetown 56.1%) (L)
v UNI – 36.9% shooting for 68 total points versus 77 points (UNI 53.1%) (L)
v GW – 36.8% shooting for 66 total points versus 76 points (GW 56.2%) (L)

Those stats are what have led many to question just how good this VCU team is, a team that entered the season ranked and climbed to as high as No.10 in the polls before essentially losing against all but one of the top-100 teams they’ve played. I, like many, assumed the shots would eventually fall and that we would figure out our halfcourt defensive woes. We have not. But here’s what has me optimistic: 1) we were in all but one of those games, so could just as easily be 16-1 (because we weren’t beating FSU even with Lebron on our team that day) and 2) even in the losses we are still turning teams over and getting a sometimes insane amount of extra shots, sometimes 20 or more than our opponent but on average over nine extra attempts. To me, that says if we improved just the slightest on both shooting and defending, we win those games. Think about that. The Rams lost to Georgetown by four points despite shooting over 20% worse than the Hoyas. The challenge of figuring that out naturally is up to Shaka Smart and company, but I ask you: if you’re betting a year’s mortgage on him figuring it out or not, where are you putting your chips? 


Scoring Offense: DUQ 77.9, VCU 75.1
Scoring Defense: VCU 64.9, DUQ 75.5
Effective Field Goal% Offense: DUQ 51.2%, VCU 47.7%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 49%, DUQ 53.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: DUQ 35.4%, VCU 34.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 30.6%, DUQ 40.5%
Rebounds per game: DUQ 36.3, VCU 35.3
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 28.5%, DUQ 17.8%
Turnover Percentage Offense: DUQ 14.8%, VCU 17.2%


I’ll be brief: Gotta hit shots (particularly from close range), gotta defend the paint.


For starters they need to score like they do against the bad teams, which is the case for every good team in college hoops. Against VCU the way to do that is clearly in attacking the paint. VCU big, Juvonte Reddic, has a total of five fouls in his past 147 minutes of play — five total games. If Soko or the Duquesne guards manage to find themselves in the paint with the ball in their hands, scoring typically hasn’t been a problem for opposing teams as Reddic has had a severe foul phobia since fouling out in the 15 minutes he played in that blowout at the hands of FSU (and after that game, can you blame the guy for not wanting to watch another game from the bench?). They, like VCU, also need to play a much improved version of their defense, or hell, just play some version of someone else’s defense. My recommendation would be to go zone the whole game (the 1-3-1 worked great for GW) and see if they can’t hold Juvonte Reddic to his third consecutive single digit performance while forcing Graham and Co. to beat them from deep.

PREDICTIONS 89-70 VCU win with a 94% chance of victory.

When: 4PM
Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
Watch: CBS Sports Network. Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...