Game Preview: VCU at George Washington [INSIDER]
VCU is in a very weird spot right now. Their backs are against the wall, they are playing for their lives, yet are also tied with both Saint Joseph’s and Dayton atop the Atlantic 10 standings. Saturday’s game against George Washington isn’t 100% make-or-break, but it’s about as close to that as it gets and here’s what’s at stake: a VCU win at GW locks the Rams into a top-four seed in this year’s A-10 tournament (meaning a double-bye and a three-game path to a title as opposed to the more difficult four). VCU would pick up a big top-50 road win to boost their tournament resume while also remaining in control of their regular season A-10 title destiny. Lose however and the Rams may find themselves falling off the bubble and in a two-game must-win stretch against two very tough opponents to remain in the A-10’s top-four. Saturday is huge.
VCU (20-8, 12-3)
GW (21-7, 10-5)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Colonials are riding a three-game winning streak that has them very much alive in the race for a top-four seed. A loss to VCU however could do them in thanks to having lost their head-to-head tie-breaker against a St. Bonaventure team that currently leads them by one game in the standings. Based off remaining schedules, odds are Saturday is a must-win for George Washington if they want to avoid a Thursday game in Brooklyn. The Colonials will come into this one with some confidence however after already having beaten VCU once this season, doing so on the road no less, GW’s first A-10 conference win against the Rams since the black and gold joined the conference. Mike Lonergan’s team escaped the Stu last game by dropping 43 second half points on the Rams and holding VCU to just 39% from the field on the night. GW is the type of team that has given the Rams trouble all season. They are long and skilled, going 6’6, 6’9 and 6’10 in the front court, all of whom are skilled and experienced. They shoot the three well, defend well, rebound like crazy and don’t turn the ball over. They are 12-2 at home this season including a big win over the nation’s current third-ranked team, the UVA Cavaliers, but have also dropped two recent home contests, one to Richmond in double-overtime, the other to the Saint Joseph’s team VCU will hope to keep pace with these next three games.The Colonials have won their last three in impressive fashion, downing a tricky Duquesne team on the road by 8, destroying La Salle at the Smith Center by 40, then heading to Richmond to beat the Spiders by 12 on their home court. GW has been one of the best A-10 rebounding teams, the No.1 three-point shooting team in conference play, defends the paint and does a great job of owning the whistles, ranking 2nd in the A-10 in defensive free throw rate and first on the offensive end.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Despite two puzzling road losses at UMass and George Mason, VCU has been statistically the most balanced team in A-10 play. The Rams have been the most efficient offense since entering conference play and own the league’s second most efficient D. Only VCU and Saint Joseph’s can claim to be within the top-six in the A-10 in both categories. VCU’s achilles heel however has been teams that look and play like GW. The Rams saw a bit of that in the upset at Mason, getting dominated by 6’11 rebounding machine Shevon Thompson alongside 6’7 245 Jalen Jenkins and 6’8 236 Marko Gujanicic. VCU was out-rebounded by 10 in the loss and held to 42.9% shooting inside the arc. VCU failed to loosen up the Patriots D by going just 5-22 from deep. Still, the pieces are there to beat any A-10 team, home or away. What VCU has yet to really prove they are capable of doing on a consistent basis however is win ugly. The Rams are just 1-5 in games where they score under 70 points this season and are 6-8 in games where they score under 80. They’ll be taking on a Colonials team on Saturday that gives up an average of 68.2 points per game.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 78, GW 75.4
Scoring Defense: VCU 67.3, GW 68.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51.6%, GW 50.2%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GW 48.4%, VCU 49.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 37.8%, GW 36.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GW 33.3%, VCU 35.6%
Rebounds per game: GW 38.6, VCU 36.9
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 23.5%, GW 17%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 16.8%, GW 17.1%
VCU WINS IF
Recent history suggests this VCU team can’t afford a rock fight, so the Rams will need an efficient offensive effort to pull out a tough road win. VCU was held to just 37% shooting inside the arc the last time these two met (16-43), contributing to the three-point loss. The Rams are at their best when they are finishing at a high clip inside the arc, but again, have had a very hard time doing that against large teams like GW. They’ll need to change that tomorrow at Foggy Bottom.
GW WINS IF
If the Colonials can win the battle of the paint, they will be well on their way to tracking down VCU and that top-four seed. The Rams have the shooters to hurt you from deep but have struggled to win games when held under 50% inside the arc. If GW can render Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman ineffective for their second consecutive game, the Colonials will be right back in the A-10 hunt and perhaps on the good side of the NCAA tournament bubble as well.
Kenpom: 73-71 GW win with a 45% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 12:30PM at the Smith Center in Washington, DC
Watch: NBC Sports Network, Official watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation