Game Preview: VCU v Cal U (PA) [INSIDER]

Justin Tillman dominated Cal U last season, dropping a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 17 minutes as a freshman off the bench for VCU.
Justin Tillman dominated Cal U last season, dropping a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 17 minutes as a freshman off the bench for VCU.

VCU fans will get their first glimpse of what Will Wade and staff have planned for this season when the Rams welcome former Shaka Smart mentor, Bill Brown, and his Cal U (PA) Vulcans back to the Siegel Center for what has become and annual exhibition matchup. The Rams have had no trouble with Cal U thus far, dropping 92 points on the black and red in their last two meetings to cruise to easy victories. We’ll see if that streak continues Friday night.

VCU (0-0)
Cal U (0-0)

A QUICK LOOK AT CAL U (PA)

The Vulcans return a good bit of experience from last year’s .500 team, bringing back their top-two scorers in seniors Khalil Jabbie (12.5 ppg) and Richard Smith (11.3 ppg). Both were coincidentally their leading scorers against the Rams last season, combining for 24 points on 50% shooting. Gone however is Cal U’s only other double-digit scorer from last year’s team, Jake Jacubec, the Vuclans’ leader in minutes against the Rams — although he struggled hitting just one of his seven attempts — as well as 6’4 guard Arman Marks who averaged 9.9 points last season and was Cal’s other main deep threat outside of Jacubec. That’s bad news for a team that connected on just three of their 18 three-pointers against VCU last season. The Vulcans’ biggest challenge however will be in matching VCU’s size, bringing just one true big into the Siegel Center Friday night, the 6’8 240 Tony Richardson. Richardson struggled at VCU last season as a freshman and is one of just two Cal U players that stand above 6’6. The other, 6’9 sophomore Richard Smith, checks in at just 175 lbs but was effective last season with his team-high 13 points and three blocks.

Player to watch: Richard Smith. He’s the guy for Cal U this year so a good test for the Rams will be in attempting to collectively shut him down.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

VCU will likely try a ton of looks against the Vulcans but I would expect the starters to look exactly like the Black team’s starters from VCU’s Black v Gold game (Lewis, Johnson, Billbury, Tillman, Alie-Cox). Starting roles won’t matter much however as last season’s matchup saw only one VCU player play over 20 minutes, then-sophomore JeQuan Lewis who checked in at 20 minutes thanks to some PT vacated by the then-suspended Briante Weber. All but one Ram on last year’s team played double-digits, that player being recent transfer Antravious Simmons. This is a new coaching staff however so they may have different plans, but I would expect an almost hockey-style substitution pattern due to what I think will be another huge early lead (VCU led 46-14 at the half last season). Last year the Rams dominated in every statistical category so a good game for VCU fans could be in comparing results between the two teams. VCU out-rebounded Cal U last season by 18, turned them over 20 times and held the Vulcans to 29.1% shooting while connecting on 54.9% shooting themselves. Write those numbers down and feel free to compare and contrast.

Player to watch: Korey Billbury. The Oral Roberts transfer scored 14 points in VCU’s Black v Gold scrimmage for the winning Black team but told me he let the scrimmage atmosphere basically effect his game in the second half, somewhat shutting it down late. I’ll be looking to see if he attacks from start to finish in this one.

TALE OF THE TAPE (last year’s matchup)

Score: VCU 92, Cal U 43
Field Goal%: VCU 54.9%, Cal U 29.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 42.9%, Cal U 16.7%
Rebounds: VCU 48, Cal U 30
Turnovers: VCU 13, Cal U 20
Assists: VCU 22, Cal U 8
Steals: VCU 14, Cal U 8
Blocks: VCU 10, Cal U 5

VCU WINS IF

The Rams have won the last two contests with Cal U these past two seasons by an average margin of victory of 43.5 points. A lot has to go wrong to find a way to lose here, but wins like St. Thomas Aquinas’ 32-point beatdown of St. John’s Wednesday night will do nothing but give the Vulcans hope of a road upset. VCU has a lot of new faces to work in to new roles so Bill Brown’s squad will have to hope that’s enough to slow this VCU team down. I expect more of the same however and think VCU’s new emphasis on working the paint more than in years past will prove to be a nightmare for Cal U.

CAL U WINS IF

They shoot nothing but threes and make over 40% of them. Realistically this one should be a blowout so there’s next to no point in talking serious strategy of how they actually BEAT VCU, the game plan for the Vulcans will simply be to test themselves against a high-level team in a brutal environment. If they can fair better than they have the past two seasons there may be some DII hope for a Vulcans team that has compiled a 25-30 overall record the past two seasons.

Game tips Friday, Nov 6 at 7PM.

Follow @VCURamNation on Twitter for play-by-play coverage.

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