Game Preview: VCU v George Mason
VCU looks to get back on track in a senior night season finale against in-state rival George Mason. The Rams have lost their last three games, the longest losing streak since 2004 and the first three-gamer under head coach Shaka Smart. George Mason is coming off a blowout loss of their own, having dropped a 16-point home decision to George Washington. VCU has been considered a lock for NCAA tournament action but a loss tonight might be the final straw that officially moves VCU squarely on the bubble. A solid win on the other hand could give VCU a much-needed confidence boost headed into what is most likely a Thursday A-10 tournament opener against either Fordham or George Mason. A VCU win paired with a shocking SLU victory at Richmond could even bump the black and gold into the top-4, avoiding that Thursday contest but I wouldn’t go betting the mortgage on that outcome.
VCU (21-9, 11-6)
George Mason (9-20, 4-13)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE MASON
The Patriots are completing yet another disappointing season under head coach Paul Hewitt, having won just four conference matchups, two of which came against A-10 cellar dweller Saint Louis. The Fightin’ Hewitts are in the bottom four in conference play at both effectively hitting shots and defending them. Outside of their ability to rebound nothing has really gone right for this George Mason squad. JUCO transfer Shevon Thompson (12.7 points, 11.4 rebounds) has been a nice addition but has been surrounded by an inconsistent supporting cast that is most likely playing their last season under Hewitt. Mason does have three decent wins over the likes of Iona, La Salle and Richmond, the later of the two having combined for a 3-0 record against VCU. Mason is certainly capable but will have to win as a rather large underdog today as Vegas is currently giving them 14 points. The Rams won the first meeting between the two ,72-60 in Fairfax in a game that neither Briante Weber or Treveon Graham played in. VCU did however trail at the half in that game and didn’t pull away until under three minutes to play.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The wheels appear to have come off for the Rams when you look at their record over these last three, but a funeral for Coach Smart’s squad may be premature at this point. The downward spiral came to a head Thursday night in VCU’s biggest loss in years against a Davidson team that will most likely secure their first A-10 regular season title in just their first season in it. The Rams offensive woes continued in that one but were paired with a junior varsity defensive effort that led to the 27-point blowout. As frustrating as this stretch has been for Ram fans I think the reaction to VCU’s struggles may be somewhat unfair at this point — meaning assuming they are somehow instantly one of the worst teams in this conference. Yes, VCU’s offense has resembled something similar to my YMCA game after a day of bicep and tricep workouts, but the fact remains the current A-10 No.2 (tied for first record wise) Dayton Flyers and No.4 Richmond (tied with VCU in terms of record) both just barely escaped the Rams despite VCU’s extreme lack of offense in those games. VCU had a very really opportunity to win both games at the end but came up on the wrong side of two close ball games, the first of which VCU played at Richmond without the services of Justin Tillman or Michael Gilmore, two promising young bigs. What I’m getting at is this: I’m just as frustrated as you are with our season-long struggles on offense, but understand that outside of the Davidson game VCU has been right there with the very best teams in this league. To me the Rams are like a villain from any classic horror movie right now. Teams may think VCU is dead but before you know it the black and gold are back up and coming at you with an axe and you are running for your life.
Scoring Offense: VCU 72.3, George Mason 64.5
Scoring Defense: VCU 65.7, George Mason 69.1
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 48.9%, George Mason 44.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.9%, George Mason 50.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 33.2%, George Mason 31.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 34.3%, George Mason 35.6%
Rebounds per game: George Mason 36.4, VCU 35.2
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.1%, George Mason 18.9%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.4%, George Mason 21.3%
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: VCU 106.8, George Mason 100.8
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: VCU 93.4, George Mason 104.2
VCU WINS IF
ACL, if they play aggressive, confident and loose. VCU just needs to get back to making this fun for themselves. Play hard, play as brothers, listen to the coaches and use this as a first step toward a magical March run. VCU’s 2011 team had the worst end of a regular season that I can remember (home blowout losses to ODU and Mason, followed by a senior night loss to James Madison with a road loss at Drexel thrown in the mix) then ended up being VCU’s most memorable team by playing with nothing to lose on the way to this school’s first and only Final 4 appearance. The 2014-15 VCU team has the talent to go on a big run like that, but they’ll need to match the spirit and attitude of the 2011 group to get there. Tune out the doubters and make sure your dial is set to Coach Smart radio and good things will happen.
GEORGE MASON WINS IF
They don’t. VCU is winning this thing.
Kenpom: 75-60 VCU win with a 93% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 5:30PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
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