VCU and St. Bonaventure will finally tip it up today after winter storm Jonas wreaked some havoc of its own on hoops schedules along the East Coast. Will a foot of snow outside be enough to cool down a red-hot VCU team looking for their 10th consecutive win? Or can VCU down the Bonnies and continue their winning ways and sole claim to first place in Atlantic 10 play? We’ll find out in a matter of hours, but first here’s a preview of today’s action.
VCU (14-5, 6-0)
St. Bonaventure (12-5, 4-2)
A QUICK LOOK AT ST. BONAVENTURE
Mark Schmidt seems to always have his team from Olean, NY competitive in A-10 play and a threat to take down any of the top teams on any given year. This season the Bonnies have already claimed scalps from the likes of Rhode Island and Davidson but are looking for their first top-100 road win when they visit the Siegel Center this afternoon. Bona downed VCU in Olean last season thanks to a game-winner from this year’s leading scorer (18.5 ppg), Marcus Posley, doing so against a Rams team adjusting to a roster that for the first time was without both Briante Weber and Treveon Graham. The VCU team they’ll face today will once again be without that duo but are a much-improved version thanks to first-year head coach Will Wade who has elevated the duo’s supporting cast a season after their graduation. The biggest difference between that Bona team and this year’s version is the lack of the recently-graduated 7′ Youssou Ndoye. The Bonnies defense has taken a bit of a hit so far without Ndoye’s shot-blocking presence but have helped make up for that with an improved offense that has gone from 252nd nationally last season in effective field goal percentage to 110th this season. A good bit of that bump has come from the impressive play of super sophomore, Jaylen Adams, who has become one of the best three-point shooters in the conference, hitting the deep ball at a 45.9% clip. Adams is a talented piece and gives Bona a very dangerous trio when combined with Posley and 6’7 senior Dion Wright (15.8 ppg, 8.6 rebs), not-to-mention 6’7 junior Denzel Gregg who’s averaging double-digits himself at 10.1 ppg, so make that a foursome. Overall the Bonnies have some nice height but are lacking in beef, which could be part of the reason St. Bonaventure ranks 241st nationally in two-point defense and 295th in defensive rebound percentage. Their frontcourt will no doubt be tested via Mo Alie-Cox and Co. today. Their strength has been on the perimeter, both shooting and defending the three well while also doing a nice job on in winning the turnover battle up to this point in the season.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams look to be clicking as of late but you wouldn’t know it from Will Wade’s post-game reviews of his team’s play. While the black and gold have turned into a deadly offensive unit, Wade has voiced some displeasure with his team’s defensive approach, particularly in taking pride in the halfcourt. VCU is averaging 91.7 points on offense over their last three games but gave up 50% shooting or better inside the arc in their last two contests (all-be-it to two teams who have been very good offensively these last few seasons). They did however hold those two opponents to just 12-36 from three-point land (33.3%), something Coach Wade essentially attributed to luck/bad shooting, hinting that if the Rams didn’t do a better job they wouldn’t be so lucky against this St. Bonaventure team today. Wade’s perfectionist attitude could be one reason VCU currently ranks No.1 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency in conference play, something no VCU team has done since the 2008-2009 Rams lead the CAA in both stats under then-head coach, Anthony Grant. VCU’s biggest weakness in Atlantic 10 play however has been in allowing too many offensive rebounds (the Rams rank 10th in defensive rebound % in A-10 play), something Wade mentioned following VCU’s 22-point win over Duquesne due to 16 Dukes offensive boards. VCU will look to shore that up while facing a St. Bonaventure team that currently ranks 10th in offensive rebound percentage during A-10 play. Another big night from Justin Tillman could help there. The sophomore has seen increased minutes due to an injury to Jordan Burgess’ hand and currently ranks 4th in defensive rebounding percentage during A-10 play. Offensively he currently leads the conference at cleaning up missed shots and at 77.1% shooting in conference games (No.1 in the A-10), is a deadly weapon for VCU down low.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.7, BONA 77.5
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.3, BONA 71.8
Effective Field Goal% Offense: BONA 51.1%, VCU 50.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 49.1%, BONA 49.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.4%, BONA 36.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: BONA 31.4%, VCU 34.1%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.8, BONA 35.4
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.8%, BONA 20.4%
Turnover Percentage Offense: BONA 16.9%, VCU 17.1%
VCU WINS IF
St. Bonaventure has struggled defensively as of late, giving up 85 or more points their last two contests. That’s a bad sign against a VCU team that as I mentioned before, currently ranks No.1 in the A-10 in adjusted offensive efficiency. If the Rams can add the defense Will Wade is looking for to that, watch out. Defending the three will be of utmost importance against a Bona team that gets a relatively high percentage of their points from beyond the arc (31.4% of their scoring comes from downtown).
ST. BONAVENTURE WINS IF
The Bonnies are the nation’s second best free throw shooting team, hitting 78% of their attempts as a team. That could certainly come in handy against a VCU team that has been known to pick up a foul or two. A high number of freebies combined with some decent three-point shooting could prove to be the formula for a road upset today and a happy trip back to Olean, NY.
Kenpom: 80-70 VCU win with an 83% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 3PM at the Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation