VCU will face Saint Joseph’s for the first time since last year’s A-10 tournament final. The Hawks downed the Rams in that one, 65-61, claiming their first conference title since 1997. The two teams have headed in very different directions this season, however. VCU is back in the national rankings following a 12-3 start while the Hawks are 0-2 in conference play and will need a win on Saturday to get back to .500 for the season.
No.20 VCU (12-3)
Saint Joseph’s (6-7)
A QUICK LOOK AT SAINT JOSEPH’S
Saint Joseph’s graduated the very talented trio of Kanacevic, Roberts and Galloway, with the later two going off to the NBA, and have looked like a completely different team since (as one might expect). Outside of a 2-point upset home win over a talented Temple team, the Hawks have looked downright bad. Phil Martelli’s squad has three losses to teams ranked below 200 by kenpom including a regular season opening loss (at home) to No.280, Fairleigh Dickinson. They’ve lost three in a row including losses to No.200 Denver and No.248, Duquesne. Of their six wins this season, four are to teams ranked 200 or below, two of those being against teams ranked 300 and below. Four of their six wins have been by single digits. Their two dominant performances have come against the likes of Loyola MD (No.328) and Marist (No.327). Offensively the Hawks have been miserable. Their 3-point shooting percentage ranks 346th out of 351 D1 teams. Combine that with 47% from inside the arc and SJU checks in 296th nationally with an effective field goal percentage of 44.6%. Defensively they haven’t been much better, allowing an EFG% of 49.6%, good for 203rd in the country. SJU has two players with offensive ratings of 100 or higher, only one of which actually plays. If it sounds like I’m painting a pretty ugly picture of the Hawks it’s because their pallet has been pretty darn gray all season.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU keeps on rollin, winning their last seven including three wins against teams in kenpom’s top-100. The Rams have done so with a balanced attack and a very deep bench. Out of 11 active roster members, 13 boast offensive ratings of 100 or higher (that’s damn good). With that, VCU’s offense ranks 17th nationally with an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 111.5. On defense, the Rams have been almost equally as impressive, checking in at 37th nationally with an adjusted defensive efficiency rating of 92.3, making this the first team under Shaka Smart to rank in the top-40 in both statistics. VCU has done all of this against the nation’s second toughest schedule, according to the RPI. Long story short, this VCU team has been really, really good.
Scoring Offense: VCU 75.9, SJU 61.5
Scoring Defense: SJU 64.2, VCU 66.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51.5%, SJU 44.6%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: SJU 49.6%, VCU 50.4%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 35.9%, SJU 26.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: SJU 34.9%, VCU 36.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.3, SJU 35
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.9%, SJU 19.8%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.6%, SJU 18.7%
VCU WINS IF
The total sports analyst answer is “if they don’t look past this Saint Joseph’s team”. Screw it, I guess I’ll go with that as well. I don’t see that happening however because the Hawks swept VCU last season with no trip to the Siegel Center on their schedule. With that, I think VCU is hungrier for this one than perhaps they are against other teams who hobble into the Siegel Center on three-game losing streaks. The Hawks have also proven capable this season, taking down Temple and scaring a good GW team on the road. DeAndre Bembry is back after winning A-10 Co-Rookie of the Year honors as are a number of promising young recruits, so VCU will have to respect the dangerous side of this SJU team and attempt to bury them in some form of revenge for last season’s losses. Lock down on D, hit shots and VCU extends their streak to eight.
SAINT JOSEPH’S WINS IF
Saint Joseph’s will need their best defensive effort of the season to defeat this VCU team. Two of the Hawks best games this season were a home win against Temple and a close road loss at GW. In those games, SJU gave up an average of 60 points, holding both teams to just under 41% from the field. Saint Joseph’s will need that type of performance and then some on Saturday to leave Richmond with a win as both those previous teams have adjusted offensive efficiency rankings outside of the top-100. Outside of those two games SJU has played just two top-100 teams. They lost by 52 (52!) points to kenpom No.5 Gonzaga and by 26 to kenpom No.6, Villanova.
Kenpom: 74-59 VCU win with a 93% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in 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