VCU will look to extend their 11-game winning streak tonight while also hoping to pick up their third consecutive dub against the Colonials of George Washington. The teams split last season’s regular season series, first with VCU losing by 10 in DC before getting revenge in the form of a 92-75 beatdown at the Stu. The Rams followed that with a 19-point win to knock GW out of last season’s A-10 tournament. The Colonials have won their last four and 10 of their last 11. They also boast a neutral court win over No.12 Wichita State already this season. A Rams win would give VCU a two-game buffer over yet another A-10 team in the Rams’ question for their first ever A-10 regular season title.
No.14 VCU (16-3, 6-0)
George Washington (16-4, 6-1)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Colonials are once again off to a strong start under fourth-year head coach, Mike Lonergan. GW lost two key pieces from last season’s team, most notably leading scorer Maurice Creek (14.1 ppg) but also interior enforcer, Isaiah Armwood, their third-leading scorer at 12.7 ppg and best rebounder at 8.4 rebounds per contest. The Colonials have felt those losses ever-so-slightly on offense, seeing dips in shooting percentages, most notably from deep where GW went from a top-100 three-point shooting team to ranked 182nd nationally as they are hitting 2.6% fewer of their deep balls. Not a huge drop, but one worth mentioning as it’s resulted in three fewer points per contest for the Colonials. They have made up for that slight point decrease however by improving on the defensive end (scary thought) by holding teams to a lower effective field goal percentage, turning teams over at a higher percentage and rebounding better on the defensive end. To make a long story short, GW was damn good last year and they are looking just as deadly this season. The Colonials returned a ton of very talented players inside and out, headlined by guards Kethan Savage (12 ppg) and Joe McDonald (9.8 ppg), wing Patricio Garino (leading scorer at 13.6 ppg) and the Big Danish™, Kevin Larsen (11 ppg, 7.3 rpg). The key newcomer has been Yuta “The Chosen One” Watanabe (actual nickname), a 6’8 versatile forward from Tokyo who has looked REALLY good at times. The Colonials have also gotten improved play from senior John Kopriva who is averaging a career-high 6.7 ppg and has increase his shooting percentages across the board. GW is 3-4 in road games this season with all three wins coming against teams outside of the kenpom top-150.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Somehow, someway, VCU is still undefeated in Atlantic 10 play. That somehow is actually named Treveon Graham, as the senior has saved VCU in the two last games he played in, scoring the game-winner at Saint Louis with 0.9 seconds to play and carrying the Rams to a comeback victory at Rhode Island (on one leg!), scoring 26 points for the Rams that night on a sprained ankle including the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:30 left to play. VCU has spat in the face of danger in all three of their recent road wins (FYI: It’s really hard to win on the road, read my article on that by clicking here) and returns home for the first time since defeating Saint Joseph’s, 89-74, on Jan 10. The Rams continue to win but have done so trending in a negative direction. VCU shot just 42.2% inside the arc on their three-game road trip, 5.8% south of their 48% season average. VCU hit just 35% of their three-point attempts, 1.6% worse than their season average but did managed to hold these three last teams to 23.8% shooting from beyond the arc which is an improvement for the Rams defense. They did however allow those same teams to shoot 50.9% inside the arc, 2.6% worse than VCU’s season average in that statistic and saw a slight dip in turnovers forced as well. VCU has the talent but has looked flat as of late. The Rams’ record is something all Ram fans can be proud of but I know this team is capable of so much more.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 75.1, GW 69.5
Scoring Defense: GW 59.3, VCU 65.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 50.8%, GW 49.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GW 44.7%, VCU 50%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 36.6%, GW 33.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GW 31.3%, VCU 35.3%
Rebounds per game: GW 37.2, VCU 34.8
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.6%, SLU 20.4%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.6%, GW 18.7%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 110.5, GW 104.5
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 92.6, GW 93.6
Strength of Schedule Ranking: VCU 2, GW 169
VCU WINS IF
The Rams need to get their offense on track against GW to pull out another nice top-100 win (would be VCU’s ninth kenpom top-100 win of the season). That’s easier said than done however as GW employees a 1-3-1 zone defense the Rams don’t see that often. Last year VCU shot just 36.8% from the field in their loss at GW versus 47.5% and 46.4% in their wins. The Rams were also destroyed on the glass in their one loss (-16 margin), but managed to out-rebound GW in both wins. The Colonials shot well in their first win (56.3%) as well as their first loss (52.7%) but were held to just 41.7% this past March in Brooklyn. Conclusion: Keep GW out of the paint, make this a three-point shooting contest and win.
GW WINS IF
The Colonials need a defensive effort like the one against the Rams in DC last season and will look to punish VCU in the paint on offense. GW will play a relatively shallow bench (only six players averaging double-digit minutes) so it will be interesting to see what the cumulative effect of havoc is on the Colonials tonight. Foul trouble could also be a killer so that’s certainly something to watch, particularly if the Rams are able to send Kevin Larsen to the bench early.
Kenpom: 71-63 VCU win with an 80% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA
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.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation