VCU sits atop the Atlantic 10 standings, tied with Dayton, Rhode Island and UMass at 9-3 in conference play. With just six games remaining there is no margin for error in the Rams’ quest for their first-ever A-10 regular season title. That quest continues tonight when VCU hosts Saint Louis in a rematch of the Rams’ 63-61 road win earlier this season.
No.25 VCU (19-6, 9-2)
Saint Louis (10-15, 2-10)
A QUICK LOOK AT SAINT LOUIS
Saint Louis is looking for their second road win of the season, the previous win coming all the way back on November 18 at Indiana State. The Billikens are just 2-10 in conference play just a season after starting their conference campaign at 12-0. Graduating all your starters will typically do that to a team, but after an 18-point loss at Fordham, it may be safe to assume the rebuilding process will take longer than expected for Jim Crews and Co. With that said, the Billikens pushed VCU to the wire in their last meeting, as the Rams needed a Treveon Graham game-winning layup with 0.9 seconds to play to escape Chaifetz Arena with the two-point win. The Billikens were able to hang with VCU by limiting the Rams offensively and limiting turnovers on the other end of the floor. VCU hit just 36.7% of their attempts the last time these two met, 30.4% from deep. SLU was 43.8% from the floor but hit just three of their 13 attempts from range. Saint Louis turned the ball over “just” 14 times on the night. There hasn’t been a ton of positives for SLU outside of moral victories like those. After an 8-4 start against a who’s who of lowly ranked teams, reality has smacked the Billikens with a 2-11 stretch that was only broken up by home wins over Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s, the later in overtime.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Not only is Treveon Graham good for big nights and a handful of game-winners, but perhaps he’s a solid good luck charm as well. VCU’s Freight Train returned to action in a crucial road win for the black and gold at George Washington, snapping a 12-game home winning streak for the Colonials that dates back to last season. Graham had just 10 points on 4-11 shooting but saw his teammates heat up with him back in the lineup, namely Melvin Johnson who hit five of his eight three-point attempts to lead the Rams with 17 points in the 79-66 win. It was VCU’s best offensive performance in a while, as the black and gold connected on 40% of their 30 attempted threes while hitting 51.9% of their shots inside the arc. VCU came up with the big plays to halt any attempt at a GW comeback, hitting timely threes to maintain momentum throughout the second half. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for VCU and avoided what would have been the Rams’ first three-game losing streak since the 2004-2005 season. The Rams had lost three of their previous four contests including their last two home games, first in the form of a 65-55 loss to Richmond, then in a double-overtime surprise L to La Salle, the later of the two coming without either Briante Weber or Treveon Graham.
Scoring Offense: VCU 73.8, SLU 60.8
Scoring Defense: SLU 65.4, VCU 65.5
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 49.7%, SLU 47.5%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.5%, SLU 51%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.7%, SLU 32.6%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33.6%, SLU 36.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.1, SLU 30.1
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.7%, SLU 21.3%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 14.9%, SLU 22%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 109, SLU 96.3
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 93.6, SLU 102.8
VCU WINS IF
VCU forced just 14 SLU turnovers the last time these two met. That’s a decent number for a team that doesn’t wear “HAVOC” on the back of their warmups, but a surprisingly low number for VCU against a team that ranks 324th nationally out of 351 teams at holding on to the ball on offense. I’ll be interested to see if VCU can improve on that tonight and am hoping for something in the 20-22 range (realistically). The Rams could also use another shooting night like the one they had at GW. When the Rams hit shots they can then set up their press, which means double the trouble for the Billikens.
SAINT LOUIS WINS IF
They certainly got close earlier this season by limiting turnovers and attacking the paint. The Billikens forced VCU to hit tough shots (which they didn’t do) the last time they faced, which turned into an easier rout from one end of the floor to the next (less press, less havoc), then hit 18 of their 35 attempts inside the arc (51.4%), taking just 13 attempts from distance — they hit just three of those. I’d expect to see a similar gameplan tonight in Richmond but SLU will need to do a better job from distance if they want to avoid the season sweep.
Kenpom: 75-57 VCU win with an 96% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 7:30PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: CBS Sports Net, 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