Crosstown rivals VCU and Richmond will tip it up for the 69th time Saturday morning in an 11AM ESPN2 tip. VCU leads the series 42-26 and will look to add to that in a crucial Atlantic 10 conference matchup that pits the 5-1 Rams against the 4-2 Spiders. The black and gold have won their last four games including two tough road contests at Dayton and La Salle. The Spiders were riding a four-game streak of their own before falling at A-10 defending champ Saint Louis, 77-57.
VCU (17-4, 5-1)
Richmond (14-7, 4-2)
A QUICK LOOK AT RICHMOND
The Spiders are looking to do the majority of their NCAA tournament resume building in A-10 play after dropping a number of missed opportunities in the OOC, and so far they are off to a solid start. After nearly losing an overtime head-scratcher at perennial A-10 cellar dweller, Fordham, the Spiders rallied at home, defeating Dayton, then 13th-ranked UMass and a tough Saint Joseph’s team in a 15-point thrashing. They’re looking to get back on track after a blowout loss at Saint Louis against a VCU team they split the regular season series with last year. Richmond is led by senior guard Cedrick Lindsay who’s 18.2 points per game currently ranks third in the league. Lindsay is joined in the backcourt by speedy sharpshooter Kendall Anthony (14 ppg) who’s 2.5 made threes per contest ranks third in the conference. The two makeup a quick, experienced backcourt that average just a combined 3 turnovers per game (2.2 of which are from Lindsay). As a team the Spiders rank 54th nationally in holding on to the ball (16.3% turnover rate), an ability they demonstrated in their two games against the Rams last season, averaging just 13 turnovers per contest in this past season. On offense the Spiders have struggled to connect on a good percentage of deep balls (31.5%, 282nd nationally) but excel at attacking the paint, hitting 50.5% of their attempts inside the arc, and area where VCU has struggled to defend. 6’8 sophomore Terry Allen has been responsible for a good part of that damage, averaging 8.5 points on 51.5% shooting this season. On defense the Spiders have been very tough, ranking 38th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and are top-10 nationally in shutting down the three ball. In the paint the Spiders have been anchored by shot-blocking star, sophomore Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who’s 2.4 blocks per game ranks second currently in the A-10.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has jumped out to their best start under head coach Shaka Smart at 17-4. The Rams have done so mostly with their havoc brand of basketball that leads the country in turnovers. Where VCU continues to struggle is in taking advantage of some of those extra possessions, shooting just 42.1% from the field (287th nationally), and have struggled in particular from close range. Those struggles could become amplified Saturday with leading scorer, Treveon Graham, questionable after straining his toe this past Wednesday. The Rams however have a number of scoring options including standout underclassmen Melvin Johnson and JeQuan Lewis. Johnson is averaging 10.4 points per game in his second season on Broad St. while Lewis has six double-digit scoring games under his belt already this season. But Lewis isn’t the top scoring point guard at VCU. That honor goes to defensive standout turned offensive threat, Briante Weber. Weber has posted double-digit scoring efforts in five of his last seven games and is just a hair shy of double-digits on the season at 9.4 point per game. His gained confidence in his long range game should help keep sagging defenses honest, allowing the speedy point guard the blow by option that could create easier buckets but more likely better assist opportunities. His 2.5 assist to turnover ration leads the conference.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 76.6, UofR 69
Scoring Defense: UofR 65.3, VCU 65.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: UofR 49.3%, VCU 48.2%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: UofR 45.1%, VCU 48.4%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.9%, UofR 31.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: UofR 28.1%, VCU 30.3%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.7, UofR 32.6
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 27.4%, UofR 21.1%
Turnover Percentage Offense: UofR 16.3%, VCU 17.2%
VCU WINS IF
VCU will need an improved half court defensive effort to feel comfortable in this one. Last season the Spiders diced up VCU’s defense at the Siegel Center, connecting on 59.5% of their two-point attempts in the 11-point Ram win that saw 82 points out of the Spiders in regulation. What got VCU the W in that one was a 17-point made-free throw advantage and 56.8% shooting inside the arc themselves (93 points). Last season’s Rams were a top-100 team in effective field gold percentage. This year’s version ranks 227th nationally, so an improved defensive effort is a must. The focus of that effort needs to be in defending the paint. Lindsay and Anthony CAN hit the three, but so far as a team UofR hasn’t excelled in that area–31.5%, 282nd nationally. If VCU allows Richmond to do what they do best it could be a depressing start to the weekend for Ram fans.
RICHMOND WINS IF
On paper this is actually a great matchup for the Spiders. They don’t turn the ball over, they hit a good percentage of their shots in the paint and they defend very well. The Spiders will try and turn a track race into a paint drying contest, and will look to methodically attack VCU’s weaknesses: scoring in the paint on offense and defending the paint on defense. If VCU can’t turn the Spiders over and shoot like they have been, see above….super depressing day for Ram fans, great day for the University of Henrico.
Kenpom.com: 71-62 VCU win with an 81% chance of victory.
BLACK OUT: This is officially a black out game. Fans are encouraged to wear black and arrive extra early for this ESPN2 game. We want to fill the seats ahead of time and have the Siegel Center looking loud and intimidating for this nationally televised game.
Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: ESPN2. 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.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation