VCU passed their first test without the on-court help of senior guard Briante Weber, defeating George Mason 72-60 this Wednesday night in Fairfax. What’s more, is the Rams had to do most of their damage without leading scorer, senior Treveon Graham, who re-aggravated a high ankle sprain suffered earlier this season after just 11 minutes of play. VCU’s youth gave the A-10 a preview of the future of havoc — all-be-it without the three highly rated recruits on their way next season — forcing 18 turnovers en route to picking up their seventh true road win of the season. VCU is a perfect 7-0 on the road and will look to extend that streak Saturday in Olean, NY against St. Bonaventure.
No.18 VCU (18-4, 8-1)
St. Bonaventure (12-8, 5-4)
A QUICK LOOK AT ST. BONAVENTURE
The Bonnies snapped a two-game losing streak in stunning fashion, getting a buzzer-beating win on the road against a very good Davidson team. It was their second win over a kenpom top-100 team of the season, moving them to 2-5 against such teams on the season. St. Bonaventure has dropped four home games already this season, losing by double digits two two top-100 A-10 teams (La Salle and Dayton), but more surprisingly dropping home contests to the likes of Sienna and Maryland Eastern Shore (a team VCU beat by 40 earlier this season). They are the quite the wildcard at 5-4 and very much in the hunt for a top-four A-10 tourney seed. The Bonnies are led by an experienced group that includes top scorer, Marcus Posley (17.2 ppg), junior forward Dion Wright (13.2 ppg) and 7′ senior big man, Youssou Ndoye (12.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg). Talented freshman Jaylen Adams (10.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) and 6’5 senior Andell Cumberbatch (9.5 ppg) round out St. Bonaventures group of key contributors, all of whom average over 30 minutes per contest. And there’s the first big story of this game. VCU will be down two key pieces at St. Bonaventure but without those pieces will still run at least eight players double-digit minutes. Offensively the Bonnies have struggled to hit shots as a team but rebound well and don’t turn the ball over. Defensively the 7′ Ndoye is a force, blocking 10.1% of opponents shots, helping the Bonnies hold opponents to just 44.1% inside the arc, which ranks 57th nationally and second in the A-10 behind Rhode Island. Where they have struggled on D is defending the three. They’ll face a VCU team that has really struggled to hit the three in conference play in front of what should be a packed Reily Center.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
There is a ton of luck involved in having a great college hoops season, most notably the ability to go from November to the end of March with a healthy roster. VCU has not had that luck as of late, losing reigning A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Briante Weber, to a career-ending knee injury, and most recently seeing Treveon Graham shelved due to re-aggravating a high ankle spring sustained in the Rams road win at Rhode Island. Just like that, VCU went from arguably the most dangerous backcourt in the conference to being without their two senior leaders, as Graham will be a game-time decision Saturday afternoon. My money is on him not playing in hopes of getting his ankle ready for the longterm goals this March. That means teams get a preview of the future of havoc, with junior guard, Melvin Johnson, providing the biggest scoring punch and sophomore JeQuan Lewis running the offense. We’ve had one look at that already and the results weren’t too shabby. Without Graham or Weber, the Rams forced 11 George Mason second half turnovers while outscoring them by 14 to finish the game. The black and gold used a number of young players to hold Mason to 32% from the field that half, 27.3% from deep in a tough road environment (although let’s be honest, there were a ton of VCU fans there). One good half does not make you a champ however, so it will be up to VCU’s youth to prove that was no fluke Saturday at Olean.
Scoring Offense: VCU 73.9, SBU 68.7
Scoring Defense: VCU 64.7, SBU 65.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 50.4%, SBU 47%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.4%, SBU 48.6%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 35%, SBU 33.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33.5%, SBU 37.9%
Rebounds per game: SBU 37.8, VCU 34.6
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.4%, SBU 20.2%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.3%, SBU 17.7%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 109.2, SBU 103.2
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 91.9, SBU 99.5
Strength of Schedule Ranking: VCU 6, SBU 173
VCU WINS IF
I’ll go with the same thing I said against George Mason and hope it’s good luck: Must. Hit. Shots. The Rams have done a much better job inside the paint as of late, shooting over 52% in their last three contests. They hadn’t shot that well in A-10 play season opening the conference season at Fordham. VCU could still stand to improve from deep as they really haven’t had a good three-point shooting night since going 12-23 (52%) in a blowout of Saint Joseph’s on January 10. They say shooters have the mentality of being either hot or due. Ours haven’t been hot, so here’s to hoping we really are due against a St. Bonaventure team that has struggled to defend the arc.
ST. BONAVENTURE WINS IF
The Bonnies will take this one at home if they limit VCU’s extra opportunities. VCU was killed on the glass by George Mason, 43-27, but the Rams were able to win the turnover battle by 10, while holding Mason to poor shooting percentages. If St. Bonaventure is able to have more success holding on to the ball against the Weber-less Rams than Mason did, and can out-rebound them as they will be expected to do, well they are halfway there. Youssou Ndoye makes it real hard for teams to score in the paint so if the Bonnies can make a cold-from-distance VCU squad beat them from deep, they could pick up their second big win in a row.
Kenpom: 71-66 VCU win with an 71% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the Reilly Center in Olean, NY
Watch: NBC 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