VCU looks to hand No.7 UVA their first loss of the season as the two teams battle for 2014-15 state bragging rights. The Rams won last year’s battle in dramatic fashion as Treveon Graham sank a deep three to give VCU fans a thrilling victory in Charlottesville. UVA looks to avenge that loss while continuing to assert themselves as a national contender in head coach Tony Bennett’s sixth season since taking over the program.
#7 UVA (8-0)
A QUICK LOOK AT UVA
To put it simply, UVA has dominated everyone they’ve played. Their pack line defense has been frustrating opponents all season to the tune of 46 points allowed per contest. Regardless of opponent, that is ridiculous. The Wahoos surrendered just 26…26! points to Rutgers a week ago, a D1 Big 10 program. UVA has held opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 36.4% (4th nationally), have been the second best team in the country in defensive rebounding and are giving up just 33.1% inside the arc to opponents, a number that ranks third nationally. Have they played a winnable schedule? Sure. But it’s a schedule that has included two A-10 and two Big 10 opponents. On offense they work the paint where they score 60% of their points. They can however shoot the three when needed and are very efficient at the free throw line as a team. Montrose, VA native, Justin Anderson, leads UVA with 15.1 ppg and possesses a dangerous combination of size, skill and explosiveness. Anderson has hit a ridiculous 56.7% of his three-pointers this season but can just as easily put any opposing big on a poster if they get in his way. Malcolm Brogden has been the Wahoos most consistent guard this season with sophomore point guard London Perrantes struggling early on. Brogdon is the 6’5 guard last seen making one-of-two free throws against the Rams shortly before Treveon Graham delivered the dagger last November. VCU’s biggest challenge however could (my prediction at least) come from 6’11 253-lb bruiser, Mike Tobey. Tobey had nine rebounds in just 11 minutes against the Rams last season and is a very skilled junior on both sides of the ball.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU appears to still be figuring things out. The Rams hold a respectable 5-2 record against a challenging schedule so far but have found themselves down and down big at times in three of their last four games. VCU has been a very mediocre shooting team thus far this season and have struggled to defend in the halfcourt, yet due to a 25.4% forced turnover percentage have been able to wreak enough havoc to squeak by a number of solid teams. When those shooting percentages come up the Rams become VERY dangerous. But after opening the season with a 92.6 scoring average the Rams have been held to under 70 points in all but one of their last four games. Call it bad luck or bad defense, but for whatever reason teams have had a rare batch of success from deep against the Rams, success they haven’t had against other teams. Illinois State hit 48.1% of their threes against the Rams but are a 36.5% team on the season. Old Dominion hit 52.9% of their threes against the Rams but shoot 40.5%. Villanova hit a solid 38.9% despite averaging 33.1% as a team this year. Toledo hit 44% of their threes against the Rams, about 8% better than they have all season. You get the point. A good bit of that is a byproduct of a havoc defense that will, even when working at it’s best, allow the occasional wide-open look. But come on! There’s gotta be some bad luck for the Rams tossed in that mix as well. I’ll be bringing my four-leaf clover on Saturday.
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.3, UVA 68
Scoring Defense: UVA 43.6, VCU 69.7
Effective Field Goal% Offense: UVA 51.4%, VCU 50.2%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: UVA 36.5%, 52.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: UVA 35.5%, VCU 35.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: UVA 27.9%, 39.7%
Rebounds per game:UVA 40.9, VCU 37.7
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.4%, UVA 18.7%
Turnover Percentage Offense: UVA 16.6%, VCU 17.7%
VCU WINS IF
Havoc does what havoc does. The Rams REALLY need a massive turnover advantage in this one and for two reasons: opportunities to score in transition and more opportunities to score in general. UVA’s pack line defense is, as Mike Tyson would say…”impregnable”. Getting those deep balls to fall won’t hurt either. Lastly, not just Saturday but in general, VCU players need to do a much better job of playing halfcourt defense. We all love the steals, love the havoc, but just as much as we love them we hate watching VCU give up easy baskets because guys either got out of position or gambled for a steal.
UVA WINS IF
They control the pace. Scratch that, they did that last year and lost. They must control the pace AND hit shots. UVA played that brutal defense last year but connected on just 39.1% of their attempts, not to mention turned the ball over 19 times. Hit shots, don’t get rattled by VCU’s fans and the Cavs could be on their way to 9-0 while handing the Rams a very rare home loss. I think a heavy dose of Mike Tobey could hurt VCU as well. The Rams have a lot of talented young bigs but they are just that…young. Get Alie-Cox out of the game and the path to the basket becomes pretty clear against a VCU team already struggling to protect the paint.
Kenpom.com predicts a 63-61 UVA win with a 39% chance of a VCU victory.
Where: The Stuart C Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: ESPNU. 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