Tonight marks the 75th meeting between the VCU Rams and Richmond Spiders. The Rams lead that series 46-28 and have won the last two against the Spiders including a thrilling overtime win earlier this season at the Robins Center. The Spiders come to the Stu tonight with a disappointing 14-11 record (6-7 in A-10 play) during a season that held high expectations for VCU’s crosstown rival. While they have failed to live up to those expectations, UofR brings a dangerous squad to the Siegel Center where they’ll be looking for their second consecutive Siegel Center win tonight. VCU will look to stop them while maintaining their current standing as one of three teams tied atop the Atlantic 10 standings.
VCU (19-7, 11-2)
Richmond (14-11, 6-7)
A QUICK LOOK AT RICHMOND
You’ve seen these guys once before and what you saw in that meeting was exactly what Richmond has been all year: a great offensive team with a terrible defense. VCU outscored the Spiders 94-89 in that contest, catching a bit of luck with Richmond going just 3-18 from three-point land, good for just 16.7% from deep, 20% below their season average. The Spiders own the A-10’s most efficient offense but check in at No.9 defensively. Richmond has been an improved offensive unit from an already dangerous scoring team last year but took a huge dive defensively with the loss of guys like shot-blocker Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (transferred to Pitt), plummeting from No.46 nationally to to No.233 this year. That defensive deficiency has hurt them already once this week, seeing the Spiders fall at Davidson 83-79, but doing so against a Davidson team that was without one of the nation’s leading scorers in Jack Gibbs (24.9 ppg) as well as talented role player Jordan Barham (9.4 ppg). The Wildcats — a defensively-challenged unit themselves — hit just under 54% of their attempts against Richmond, dropping Richmond to eighth in the A-10 standings. The Spiders have struggled against the top teams in the conference so far this year, going 1-6 against the top half of the conference up to this point and also recently dropped a home contest to a young and rebuilding George Mason team. What’s new with the rotation? Not much. Mooney’s team goes about seven deep with the trio of Allen, Cline and Jones being the biggest threats with Davis and Wood being capable scoring options as well. Richmond doesn’t turn the ball over, finishes at an extremely high rate inside the arc (FIFTH nationally in two-point percentage) and had held three of their last four opponents under 70 points, two of those under 60. Long story short: great offense, bad defense, but a much more dangerous team than their record suggests.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has bounced back from a two-game losing streak to put together two very impressive performances. The Rams dominated Saint Louis 85-52 before doing the same against Rhode Island, beating a talented Keany blue Rams squad, 83-67. With that the Rams are off to their best Atlantic 10 start since joining the conference, something many media members did not see coming after the losses of stars Treveon Graham and Briante Weber, head coach Shaka Smart, promising freshman Terry Larrier, as well as the entire 2015 recruiting class, which included two top-100s. To borrow a line from the Dayton Flyers, this VCU unit has simply been a “True Team”. When playing within the system, which as been more often than not, the Rams have been insanely efficient. VCU ranks No.1 in the A-10 in offensive efficiency and No.2 in defensive efficiency. The Rams effective field goal percentage of 54.8% is and 8.2% improvement over last season’s numbers, and I repeat, that was WITH Treveon Graham. Three of VCU’s highest usage guards (Johnson, Lewis, Billbury) are shooting over 40% from deep while five VCU bigs (Alie-Cox, Tillman, Gilmore, Hamdy Mohamed) are connecting at over 50% inside the arc. Guys are just getting it done. Defensively the Rams have continued to wreak havoc, ranking fourth nationally in turnover percentage defense at 24.1%, a number that is actually better than last year’s team and I repeat, WITHOUT Briante Weber. All-in-all Will Wade has just done a tremendous job and is a legit candidate for A-10 Coach of the Year.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 78, UofR 78
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.7, UofR 73.8
Effective Field Goal% Offense: UofR 55.7%, VCU 51.7%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 49%, UofR 50.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 37.9%, UofR 36.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 35.1%, UofR 35.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.7, UofR 32.8
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.1%, UofR 17.7%
Turnover Percentage Offense: UofR 14.9%, VCU 16.8%
VCU WINS IF
The Rams survived a shootout against the Spiders in their last game but did so in an off three-point shooting night for Richmond. VCU HAS to defend better this time, particularly inside the arc after giving up 64% two-point shooting to the Spiders. Chris Mooney and his staff have been more aggressive with their defensive adjustments as of late, getting somewhat away from their matchup zone that teams have been dissecting all season. I don’t expect another 94 points from the Rams so I think a statement defensive effort may be necessary to pull off the season sweep of our crosstown rivals.
RICHMOND WINS IF
If the three is falling for Richmond they are incredibly tough to defeat. Allen, Cline and Jones are going to score for UofR, but the Spiders have picked up their best wins of the year when Marshall Wood contributes. Wood dropped 22 on GW, going 7-8 behind the arc in a 98-90 2OT road win. He had 18 against California, going 4-5 from three-point win in Richmond’s only other win over a kenpom top-100 team this season. A big three-point night from Wood would go a long way against the black and gold this evening.
Kenpom: 82-71 VCU win with an 83% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA.
Watch: ESPN2, Official watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation