Game Preview: No.14 VCU v Richmond
VCU will look to keep a number of streaks intact as they host crosstown rival Richmond this Saturday at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The Rams are riding a seven-game home winning streak, a 12-game streak overall and have won their last four games against the Spiders. VCU hasn’t lost a home contest to Richmond since 2001, Richmond’s only win at the Stu.
No.14 VCU (17-3, 7-0)
Richmond (11-9, 4-3)
A QUICK LOOK AT RICHMOND
The Spiders returned every piece from the team the Rams saw last season since the injury of leading scorer Cedrick Lindsay. Richmond was predicted to finish fifth in this year’s A-10 preseason poll but currently sits just south of that, tied with St. Bonaventure and UMass at 4-3. The Spiders have been deadly at home but have struggled to win on the road and have lost six consecutive A-10 road games dating back to last season. Road struggles have been a theme with this team. Chris Mooney’s squad is just 1-28 against kenpom top-100 teams in road games since advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2011. They are are winless 0-7 in true road games this season. Ram fans will be familiar with the makeup of this squad. The Spiders are once again led by Kendall Anthony, pound for pound one of the toughest guards in the league at just 5’8 140. Anthony is joined by promising young guard, Shandre Jones, fresh off a 27-point performance this Wednesday against Duquesne. UofR has two nice post pieces in Terry Allen (highly underrated) and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and adds 6’9 Niagara transfer, TJ Cline. Cline is a skilled big who has connected on 69% of his shots inside the arc and an impressive 42% from deep. He’s the perfect Richmond big because of his abilities to stretch opposing defenses and find open shooters. While Richmond has a number of guys who can get hot, more often than not they have relied on their ability to score at a high percentage in the paint, ranking 11th nationally in 2-point percentage at 55.3%. The Spiders have been deadly on offense in A-10 play, ranking second in the conference in offensive efficiency, first in 2-point percentage, second in 3-point percentage. The only thing Richmond has really struggled to do in conference play is rebound, where they ranked 14th in corralling their own misses and 12th on the defensive glass. Defensively they’ve been a middle-of-the-pack A-10 team but do employ a tricky “matchup zone” (of sorts) anchored by 6’9 center, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa who blocks 7.8% of the opposing teams shots.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams are coming off one of their most impressive defensive performances of the season after hammering George Washington, 72-48, holding the Colonials to just 26.9% shooting from the field and 5.9% from distance. VCU didn’t have their best offensive game but were able to connect on 52.5% of their attempts inside the arc. The performance was VCU’s most impressive in a while as the Rams narrowly escaped in the three road games prior, winning by an average margin of victory of 4.3 points including two rough contests against teams ranked 253 and 252 by kenpom. VCU trailed with under a minute to play before narrowly escaping Saint Louis. Three-point shooting has been an issue in conference play for the black and gold. The Rams have shot under their season average (36%) in five of their seven A-10 victories including just 22.7% against GW, their second worst three-point shooting performance of the season (VCU shot 11.8% from deep against Villanova). VCU has made up for that cold streak by locking down on the defensive end, ranking No.1 in conference play in three-point defense, holding opponents to just 24.8% from the field. VCU has also wreaked some major havoc on the conference, turning over A-10 opponents more than once every four trips down the court (26.1% of possessions) and rank fourth in the conference in defensive blocks percentage. If VCU is to win their first ever A-10 regular season championship it would appear that it’s defense that will be getting it done. The Rams have by no means been awful on the offensive end (fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency in conference) in A-10 play, but with some improved shooting can set themselves further ahead of the competition while stretching their two-game lead over the pack.
Scoring Offense: VCU 74.9, Richmond 27.9
Scoring Defense: Richmond 59.8, VCU 65
Effective Field Goal% Offense: Richmond 53.9%, VCU 50.6%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 47.4%, Richmond 48.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 36%, Richmond 34.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Richmond 33.9%, VCU 34%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.4, Richmond 27.9
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.6%, Richmond 20.7%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.5%, Richmond 16.1%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 110.7, Richmond 107.7
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 91.8, Richmond 96.5
Strength of Schedule Ranking: VCU 2, Richmond 34
VCU WINS IF
Defense wins championships, right? I’d love to see another defensive effort like we saw the black and gold employ against George Washington Tuesday night. If the Rams are defending like that — in the half court in particular — there isn’t a team in the A-10 that can beat them and not many in the country for that matter who can do the same. Richmond has done a great job this season of not turning the ball over, making that tight halfcourt defense that much more important. On offense, I love the shooters line that if you are making shots you are hot and if you aren’t you are due. VCU has some guys that are certainly due from distance (talking Melvin Johnson in particular), so if the Rams can lock down once against on D while getting the Melvin back on track from range…watch out.
RICHMOND WINS IF
How do the Spiders find a way to win on the road? Richmond shot a blistering 44.3% from three and an almost unstoppable 69.4% inside the arc over their last two wins, both at home, but were 36.8% from deep and 47.5% inside the arc in their last two losses, both on the road. Is that a mental toughness thing? Are home teams getting away with more fouls? I have no clue how you explain that but the Spiders somehow will need to get their home performance to translate to the road, especially if they want to win in perhaps the toughest environment in the league at VCU. The Spiders need to take their chances on VCU’s deep ball by protecting the paint at all costs, then on offense attack the basket and hope for the the upset.
Kenpom: 69-60 VCU win with an 82% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the 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