George Washington travels to VCU Wednesday night for the first matchup in a two-game series this season. The teams traded wins last year, both picking up road victories. This year’s GW team however looks almost entirely different from last season’s, two of the only noticeable returning players coming in the form of 6’9 do-it-all big, Tyler Cavanough, as well as 6’9 junior, Yuta Watanabe. Gone are the big three trio of Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald, as well as head coach Mike Lonergan. New coach Maurice Joseph takes the reigns and will look to keep the Colonials toward the top of the conference but are off to a 1-2 Atlantic 10 start.
VCU (13-3, 3-0)
GW (9-7, 1-2)
A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON
As I mentioned, four very important pieces are gone from last year’s team that proved to be a big challenge for the Rams, not to mention role players Alex Mitola and Paul Jorgensen. That group accounted for 63.1% of GW’s points in the Rams win in DC in the last meeting between these two and 73.6% of the points in VCU’s home loss to the Colonials last season. Last year’s group started 13-3 and 2-1 in the A-10, this year’s is 9-7 and 1-2 and are coming off a home loss to Richmond, a game they trailed by as many as 23 points. The Colonials have talent, but young talent. 6’10 freshman Collin Smith and and sophomore guard Jordan Rolland are perfect examples. Both have posted 20-point performances but have at times disappeared this season. Ram fans should keep their eye on both as the two should have bright futures in the Atlantic 10. Another unfamiliar face to look for is Seton Hall transfer Jaren Sina. Sina leads GW in three-point shooting at 38.8% and has hit a team-high 33 threes this season. And that has basically been GW’s bread and butter offensively this year. The Colonials hit 36.1% of their threes (ranking 130th nationally in the stat) and get 34.9% of their points from threes, making them the 74th most dependent team in the country on the three. They do a ton of their damage from the free throw line as well, a major boost for an offense that struggles to connect inside the arc. GW ranks 311th nationally in two-point percentage offense. Defensively those numbers are flipped, as the Colonials have been much better at defending the paint than the three-point line. But perhaps the main difference statistically between this year’s Colonials and last season’s is in their inability to hold on to the ball on offense. GW ranked 72nd nationally in turnover percentage offense last season but have fallen all the way to 281st, turning the ball over roughly three more times per game than they did the previous year. Another great sign for the Rams is this Colonial group has not turned teams over on defense.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has won their last seven games with a diverse group of scorers that has one mission: attack the basket relentlessly. The Rams have averaged 48 two-point attempts per contest in the A-10 and have finished 53.5% of those attempts. That is an incredibly defeating stat for opposing defenses, knowing precisely what is coming and not being able to do a damn thing about it (it’s like when your older brother used to slap you around and your only defense was screaming “MOOOOOOM”). With that approach, VCU has three representatives in the A-10’s top-seven in field goal percentage: Mo Alie-Cox, Justin Tillman and Johnny Williams. Alie-Cox and Tillman are two of the team’s double-digit scorers on the season, joined by leading scorer JeQuan Lewis who is hitting a red-hot 42.2% from three. As pointed out by the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Tim Pearrell, 10 VCU players have scored in double-digits this season with four posting 20-point performance games, a list that does not include Mo Alie-Cox who has several 20-point games throughout his career. The Rams have however been haunted by turnovers throughout the season. VCU is currently turning the ball over 19.9% their possessions, ranking 236th nationally in the stat a season after ranking 60th. It is VCU’s most turnover-prone offense since the 2008 NIT group.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 75.4, GW 69.4
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.4, GW 68.8
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 53.5%, GW 48.1%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.8%, GW 49.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: GW 36.1%, VCU 36%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 35.9%, GW 37.8%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 53.3%, GW 44%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 45.7%, GW 45.7%
Rebounds per game: GW 39.1, VCU 35.2
Turnover% Offense: VCU 19.9%, GW 20.8%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 22.7%, GW 15.7%
VCU WINS IF
As you can see from all that green above, VCU, on paper, has a lot going for them in this one. The two stats I’ll be looking at as always are two-point offense and the turnover margin. Starting with the turnovers, VCU’s turnover issue has haunted them this season but Wednesday night they’ll face a GW team that ranks 320th nationally in turnover defense. In theory, that should help the Rams. As for two-point offense, the Rams will take on a GW team tonight that ranks 78th nationally in two-point percentage D, holding teams to 45.7% inside the arc. Those numbers however can be somewhat deceiving based off strength of schedule in that department. GW has played just four top-100 two-point percentage offenses this season, losing all but one of those matchups (a win over Davidson). They did however make things very interesting in a tough road game at Miami, holding the nation’s 92nd-ranked two-point O to 41.9% inside the arc. If VCU can come closer to matching Richmond’s performance, a recent win at GW where the Spiders his a ridiculous 64.9% of their twos, the Rams have a great chance of moving to 4-0 in A-10 play while extending their win streak to eight games.
GW WINS IF
For starters GW will need to be strong in their defense of the paint, because VCU is going to attack it. I’ve littered this post with the importance of VCU’s two-point offense, so the Colonials will need to keep VCU as close to 40% from two as possible (the Rams were held to 41.3% inside the arc against UMass but shot 47.1% from three). The second key will be in the turnover battle. The numbers aren’t promising there for GW so they’ll need things close against a Ram team that can still wreak havoc on opponents, checking in at 20th nationally in turnover percentage D. Lastly GW will need to hit that deep ball. 39% of GW’s attempts this year have come from long range. When those things fall Maurice Joseph’s squad is a lot more capable of picking up big wins. GW