VCU makes the short drive across town to take on the Spiders of the University of Richmond tonight, hoping to avoid what would be the Spiders’ first season sweep of the Rams since the two become A-10 conference rivals. The Rams won all three games with Richmond last season but dropped their only meeting with Chris Mooney’s squad earlier this year, losing 64-55 at the Siegel Center and losing Briante Weber for the season in the process. VCU is 4-2 since that game, having lost two games without starter Treveon Graham but have bounced back to win their last three contests since his return. Richmond is looking to string together their longest winning streak in conference play with a third consecutive win tonight and have gone 3-3 since defeating the Rams.
No.22 VCU (21-6, 11-3)
Richmond (15-12, 8-6)
A QUICK LOOK AT RICHMOND
There has been but one major chance since the Rams last faced the Spiders, that being the loss of 6’9 reserve center, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. The talented shot-blocker from Atlanta sustained a concussion and a broken bone near his eye in a hard collision against Rhode Island that will have him sidelined indefinitely. ANO played just four minutes in that contest, a game the Spiders would just barely lose at home. Overall Richmond has played fairly well without him however, losing that game against a tough Rhody squad as well as an overtime road letdown at George Mason, but followed up with nice wins at St. Bonaventure and at home against George Washington, two teams one would imagine a solid big like Nelson-Ododa would very much come in handy in. They did however eek out just a two-point home win against perennial A-10 cellar dweller Fordham in that mix as well, so it’s hard to get a good read on how ANO’s absence might effect Richmond tonight. Despite their mediocre conference record, Richmond ranks as a top-five team in both adjusted offensive and adjusted defensive efficiencies in A-10 play. They rank third on offense in both two-point and three-point percentages and are the second best team at not turning the ball over in league play. On defense they have been the best team in the A-10 at defending the three despite a fairly undersized backcourt but rank 11th in the conference in defensive two-point percentage (VCU shot 15% from deep and 55.8% inside the arc the last time these two faced).
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has been riding their Freight Train to three consecutive wins and have have put together one of their best three-game scoring performances of the season — 79, 74 and 78 points, their best since the beginning of A-10 play. They’ve done this by hitting over 50% of their two-point attempts in all of their last three games while shooting 37.3% (28-75) from deep over that span. A key player in the later of those stats has been junior guard, Melvin Johnson. Johnson hit a cold patch without Graham in the lineup but appears to be heating back up, going a combined 9-20 (45%) from deep over VCU’s last three contests. Johnson has been joined by reserve shooting guard, Doug “Wild Man” Brooks, who is 5-8 from range over that span off the bench. VCU’s ability to wreak havoc on the offensive end is just as important as their ability to turn teams over, which, oh by the way, they’ve done 16.3 times per contest these last three including a Weber-less best 19 against UMass. Oh and then there’s also Mo Alie-Cox, who has been damn good. Alie-Cox is averaging 9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2 blocks and a steal per contest over these last three and has connected on 71.4% of his attempts over that span. Let that big dog eat.
Scoring Offense: VCU 73.9, Richmond 65.6
Scoring Defense: Richmond 60.8, VCU 65.3
Effective Field Goal% Offense: Richmond 52.3%, VCU 49.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: Richmond 47.4%, VCU 48.4%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.7%, Richmond 34.4%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Richmond 32.1%, VCU 33.7%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35, Richmond 28.7
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.7%, Richmond 21.5%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15%, Richmond 15.7%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 109.4, Richmond 107.3
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 93.9, Richmond 96.4
VCU WINS IF
I want to see VCU play like the bigger, badder team in this one. Richmond is not a great rebounding team, yet out-rebounded the Rams by 12 in their last meeting. Gotta flip that stat. VCU also hit over 55% of their two-point attempts against a Spiders but lost the game from distance where the Rams were just 3-20 from deep. I’d love to see the Rams attack the paint with their bigger guards, taking advantage of matchups problems like Kendall Anthony trying to defend guys like Treveon Graham or Jordan Burgess. Richmond does a great job of team defense however, so that’s clearly easier said than done.
RICHMOND WINS IF
I think the key for Richmond tonight is finding success offensively inside the arc. The Spiders have very capable three-point shooters but aren’t exactly the Davidson Wildcats when it comes to beating you from deep, and can shoot themselves out of a game just as easily as they can beat you from deep (such is the case with most teams). Richmond shot just 39.3% inside the arc in their three losses to VCU last season but hit 46.4% of their two-point attempts in their road win this season (not to mention got to the line where they hit 20-24 of their free throws). It seems as though Richmond has had great success in attacking the basket against VCU when they’ve tried to do so. If I’m the Spiders I don’t wait until the second half to try that tonight.
Kenpom: 66-65 VCU loss with a 47% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Robbins 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