The Rams are out for revenge as the George Washington Colonials come to the Siegel Center tonight after handing VCU their first conference loss of the season, 76-66, back in mid-January. Since that game both teams have been hot, each dropping just one game over the past month and currently sitting tied at 7-2 in conference.
VCU (19-5, 7-2)
GW (19-4, 7-2)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Colonials have fought through injuries and will look to do so again tonight as they take on the Rams without second leading scorer, guard Kethan Savage (26.9 ppg). Savage has missed the last five contests but that hasn’t stopped GW from winning four of those games. Granted, three of those were against A-10 bottom dwellers George Mason, Duquesne and Fordham but the buff and blue also took down La Salle in DC by 22. Their only loss came at Dayton where GW was without the services of not only Savage but leading scorer Maurice Creek (14ppg) as well. Even with the various injuries GW has been the top offense in league play, posting No.1 rankings in effective field goal percentage (54%), offensive efficiency (109.1), two-point percentage (55.9%) and free throw rate (47.7%). On defense they have been no slouch either, ranking no lower than sixth in the conference in conference-only defensive stats including third in defensive efficiency and second in effective field goal percentage. Moral of the story? Mike Lonergan has done a sensational job across the board and has GW one victory away from their first 20-win season since the 2006-2007 Colonials team.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams are off to an impressive 19-5 start and 7-2 in conference play but are now officially in their toughest stretch of the season, a stretch that started with a 69-62 loss at Saint Joseph’s. After this contest against a GW team VCU has already lost to, they’ll travel to both Saint Louis and UMass with a banana peel game at Fordham in between, then return home for yet another contest with SLU before heading to UofR to try and revenge last season’s loss at the Robins Center. There are great opportunities within this stretch to pick up quality wins that tournament selection committees love, but also the kinds of tough games that have the potential to add up the Ls and slide VCU further down the conference standings. The Ram’s chances are greatly increased if they can shore up things on the offensive side of the ball. VCU ranks fifth in A-10 play in offensive efficiency despite ranking 12th out of thirteen teams in effective field goal percentage. On the season VCU has struggled to hit shots and are 287th nationally in two-point field goal percentage despite the presence of two Preseason A-10 First-Team frontcourt players in Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic. But it’s not just Graham and Reddic who have seen a dip in shooting percentages. All of VCU’s top four shooters from a volume standpoint (Reddic, Graham, Johnson and Brandenberg) have seen decreased percentages this season. This is the second worst shooting team under coach Smart, the worst being the 2011-2012 team that lost four seniors to graduation after a Final 4 run. The good news is that group (minus a graduated Bradford Burgess) rounded into form the next season, going from the 229th ranked team in effective field goal percentage to the 69th. Will this year’s version have to wait as long or will the black and gold figure things out in time for another magical NCAA tournament run? If they do, god help the opposition.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 75.8, GW 75.2
Scoring Defense: GW 65.3, VCU 65.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: GW 52.7%, VCU 47.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GW 45.9%, VCU 47.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: GW 36.3%, VCU 34.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 30%, GW 31.4%
Rebounds per game: GW 37.6, VCU 36.9
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 26.1%, GW 20.5%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 16.8%, GW 18.7%
VCU WINS IF
For starters, VCU needs to do what they couldn’t do when they last faced GW: protect the paint. The Colonials hit roughly 66% of their attempts inside the arc to just two of ten shots from deep. There is no more helpless of a feeling than watching a team attack the basket on you all night, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. That’s challenge No.1 for the Rams. The second challenge is on the other side of the floor: gotta hit shots. We’ve talked about how that’s been a major struggle for this VCU team, but somehow it’s gotta get done. The Rams have an insane amount of potential due to the massive field goal attempts advantage they generally have as a result of forced turnovers and good offensive rebounding, but that potential is a wasted one if you can’t put the ball in the hoop.
GW WINS IF
A strategy like the one from last game wouldn’t be a bad start. GW beat VCU by 10 despite turning the ball over 21 times. How? By playing great defense, holding the Rams to 36.8% shooting from the field, while attacking the basket on the other end of the floor. Did I mention GW killed the Rams on the glass? A 14-point rebounding advantage is a great way to minimize the damage of a 7-turnover disadvantage, and the Colonials have the size to get that done on a consistent basis, especially when 6’6 guard/forward, Patricio Garino, is adding seven of those in 28 minutes off the bench.
Kenpom.com: 72-67 VCU win with an 69% chance of victory.
Vegas: VCU 7.5-point favorite to win.
Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: NBC Sports. 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