Game preview: VCU v George Washington [INSIDER]
VCU will look to extend their winning streak to 13 with a stiff home test Saturday afternoon against the Colonials of George Washington. Mike Lonergan’s squad is big, talented and is the only A-10 team outside of VCU that currently ranks within the top-five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in conference games. The Rams swept GW last season and have defeated the Colonials by an average margin of victory of 22.7ppg in their three Siegel Center contests as Atlantic 10 rivals.
VCU (17-5, 9-0)
GEORGE WASHINGTON (17-5, 6-3)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Colonials look a lot like last season’s GW squad but swap top guard Kethan Savage (transferred to Butler) for 6’9 238 Tyler Cavanough (transferred in from Wake Forest), which means they look a hell of a lot different in one way as well. GW was always a big squad, seeing a lot of their damage come from 6’6 wing Patricio Garino and 6’10 265 Danish monster, Kevin Larsen. But the addition of Cavanough gives them yet another big body but one who can step out and shoot the rock (39.2% on threes this season). Naturally this has had a positive effect on rebounding. GW has been the best offensive rebounding team in A-10 play and No.2 as a rebounding defense. Offensively they love to bang, ranking dead last in conference two-point percentage but tops in free throw rate. About 1/4 of GW’s scoring comes from the free throw stripe, making them the 14th most dependent team on free throws in the country. They get to the line and they knock em down. They also don’t typically turn the ball over, which will be tested tomorrow morning in a sold out Siegel Center White Out. Did I mention they beat UVA earlier this season? They did. That’s a real good win right there. Did I mention they lost to Saint Louis? They did. That’s a real bad loss right there. For the most part GW has been a consistent squad, but did have that major SLU let down, as well as a 21-point road drubbing at DePaul (a very mediocre team). The Colonials have played just one top-100 road game, a seven-point loss at Dayton, a game they actually led with a bit over seven minutes to play. “That Animal” awaits with another tough road challenge Saturday at noon.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams haven’t lost since December 19, which seems like a season ago. VCU has ran out to a big 12-game streak and a perfect 9-0 A-10 start thanks to an offense that is currently the most efficient in Atlantic 10 play. The black and gold have scored 80 or more points in nine of their last 12 since that Cincinnati loss. JeQuan Lewis has been sensational, Melvin Johnson has played like a conference Player of the Year, Mo Alie-Cox has played like a do-it-all team leader (who’s also a monster of a man), Korey Billbury has been a human Swiss Army knife and a huge offseason pickup for VCU, Justin Tillman has led the A-10 in THREE statistical categories including an impressive field goal percentage of 79.6%, Doug Brooks has come alive and leads the Atlantic 10 in steals percentage (how very Briante Weber of him) and did I mention Jordan Burgess just hit the court for the first time in basically a month!? Things seem to be coming together, particularly on offense where VCU has been lights out. They are scoring inside the arc at a rate they haven’t touched in a good while and killing teams from deep. Defensively the Rams have been wreaking havoc, mostly of the halfcourt variety, turning teams over 23% of their possessions in A-10 play. When they aren’t turning conference foes over they have done a solid job of defending, rankings sixth in both two-point and three-point percentage D, something I know Will Wade would like to see improved.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 78.5, GW 76
Scoring Defense: VCU 67, GW 68.5
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51.3%, GW 49.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GW 48.1%, VCU 49.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.2%, GW 34.6%%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GW 33%, VCU 34.5%
Rebounds per game: GW 38.5, VCU 37.2
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.3%, GW 17.1%
Turnover Percentage Offense: GW 16.4%, VCU 16.8%
VCU WINS IF
They defend without fouling. Free throws have been such a huge part of GW’s offense this season while VCU has been prone to picking up a large amount of fouls. Combine those two stats and that’s an on-paper disadvantage that I don’t particularly care for. Avoid fouls and make GW hit some of those twos for once. Like VCU under Will Wade, GW under Mike Lonergan will throw a ton of defensive looks out there. No matter what looks VCU sees they’ll need to play within “the formula” — no frustrated “hero” threes, no off-balanced long twos or ugly drives. VCU is at their best when they are patient and playing within the system. Swing for base hits and not home runs on offense and the Rams have a very good chance of picking up their 13th consecutive win.
GW WINS IF
See above. Teams who can get to the charity stripe at a high rate like GW have such an advantage because they get an easy opportunity for points while also putting their opponents’ best players on the bench. VCU has some depth but can’t afford to see the likes of JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox, two key pieces to “the formula”, watching this game from the sidelines. They can also help themselves considerably by dominating the glass. One good way to negate VCU’s turnover advantage is to make up for those lost shot attempts with second-chance points via offensive boards. VCU has been a so-so defensive rebounding team and will face a GW squad who grabs 34.3% of their own misses.
Kenpom: 77-67 VCU win with an 82% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 12PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: CBS Sports Network, Official watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation