Game Preview: VCU at St. Bonaventure [INSIDER]

Justin Tillman led VCU with an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double in tonight's win including a clutch overtime and-one to help seal the game.
Justin TIllman has averaged 17.3 points and 9 rebounds over VCU’s current three-game winning streak.

YOUR VCU Rams have climbed to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings with a three-game win streak against three current top-5 A-10 teams, moving the black and gold to 7-2 in conference play. The black and gold have a huge opportunity today, taking on a St. Bonaventure team that sits at 6-3 in the conference standings. I win in the only meeting between these two this season would essentially move VCU to three games ahead of the Bonnies and would give VCU head-to-head tie-breakers over both La Salle and St. Bonaventure, two teams tied for 5th in the A-10 standings. With Davidson already three games back of VCU at 5-5, today’s outcome could help give VCU a little cushion for the race for a top-4 seed and a huge bye game come Atlantic 10 tourney time in Pittsburgh. A win would also give the Rams a nice RPI road win which could help vault VCU into an eventual top-30 RPI position, key for getting VCU into yet another NCAA tournament bracket.

VCU (17-5, 7-2)
ST. BONAVENTURE (14-7, 6-3)

A QUICK LOOK AT ST. BONAVENTURE

The Bonnies aren’t really being talked about as an NCAA tournament team but nearly were one last season after finishing with a share of last year’s A-10 regular season title alongside VCU and Dayton. Ram fans remember how tough that Bonnies group was and will be reminded of just how much talent is still in Olean today. Gone are Marcus Posley and Dion Wright, two Bona’s top players from last year’s group. But back are NBA prospect Jaylan Adams and underrated bigs Denzel Gregg and David Andoh. And the Bonnies have added one of the A-10’s best additions as well in Central Connecticut transfer Matt Mobley. Mobley joins Adams to make up arguably the A-10’s best backcourt, both with offensive ratings over 115 and true shooting percentages hovering around 60%. The duo is as flat-out deadly and a huge reason the Bonnies adjusted offensive efficiency is basically identical to last year’s group. Defensively the numbers basically matchup as well, meaning the Bonnies team is somehow flying under the radar and are very much a threat to win this year’s Atlantic 10. A win today would be the Bonnies first top-100 victory of the season and would likely grab this year’s group a ton more respect. And that’s basically the main knock on this year’s St. Bonaventure group. Can the Bonnies beat good teams? So far St. Bonaventure is 0-4 against kenpom top-100 teams and lost a road contest at No.107 Richmond as well by a margin of 17 points (however, WITHOUT the services of Jaylen Adams). That top-100 record includes two home losses as well. The Bonnies dropped a one-point L to our old friends UNCW (ranked 58th nationally), then later were hammered by Dayton, 90-74. The Bonnies also needed a late home comeback against a struggling Saint Joseph’s team, rallying from down 18 to beat a mediocre Hawks team in a home game. It’s a weird group. The numbers suggest these Bonnies team is as good as last year’s. But the results seem to suggest otherwise, not only the 0-4 top-100 showing but with bad losses to No.230 Little Rock and No.172 Canisius as well.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

VCU’s past three wins have been big for both their A-10 seeding and their NCAA tournament resume. A win today would put VCU in an almost commanding position at this point in the season. For starters, it would make things very difficult for La Salle and St. Bonaventure to knock the Rams out of the A-10’s top-four, as the black and gold would own head-to-head tie-breakers over both. It would essentially put the Rams three games ahead of the Bonnies and two ahead of La Salle. But it would also go a long way toward locking up a top-30 RPI that could come in handy should the Rams need it on selection Sunday. The Bonnies currently rank No.100 in the RPI and would become VCU’s only top-100 road win so far this season. VCU started the season by winning their first four road games before dropping their last two for a 4-2 true road game record. They are without a top-100 road win so far and if they hope to match last year’s three top-100 roadies, may need to pick this up one, on paper the “easiest” top-100 road opportunity left on their schedule (only three top-100 road opportunities remain). In order to do so they’ll need a better offensive showing than the ones they have typically put together on the road this season. The Rams have averaged 71.3 points per contest in road games but were held under 70 points in four of their six true road contests. The black and gold have averaged 80.6 at the Siegel Center and 67.3 in neutral court games. Point being VCU needs to find away to see their offense translate on the road. In order to do so they’ll need better shot selection than we saw in a bad loss at Fordham and better finishing than the 35.4% shooting VCU posted at Davidson, the Rams last two road games.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: SBU 79.3, VCU 75.7
Scoring Defense: VCU 65.9, SBU 73.8
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 53.1%, SBU 51.1%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 47.7%, SBU 50.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: SBU 36.5%, VCU 34.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33.2%, SBU 37.5%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 53.5%, SBU 49.5%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: SBU 46.7%, VCU 46.7%
Rebounds per game: SBU 36.9, VCU 35.6
Turnover% Offense: SBU 18.1%, VCU 19.1%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 22.6%, SBU 20.5%

VCU WINS IF

How does VCU get their offense to translate on the road? This St. Bonaventure team statistically (adjusted defensive efficiency) is the second worst defense VCU will have faced on the road all season. The worst VCU saw was a George Mason team the Rams would score 73 points on in a nine-point road win. This St. Bonaventure team however is a much more gifted offense, meaning another sub-70-point road performance likely doesn’t end well for the Rams. So far defense has translated on the road better than VCU’s scoring, so I’d like to see if the black and gold will pack their offense on this business trip as well. VCU will also need to defend without fouling. This St. Bonaventure team gets 23.8% of their points at the free throw stripe, good for 19th nationally. They draw fouls and they hit free throws. That could be bad news for a Rams team prone to cheep fouls. Stay out of foul trouble and take efficient shots and I think VCU can pull off a nice road win.

ST. BONAVENTURE WINS IF

If the Bonnies can defend the Rams anywhere close to what Davidson and Fordham did, they win this game. Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley have the ability to absolutely punish defenses, both averaging over 19 points per contest, so if Mark Schmidt’s squad can sprinkle some defense in with all that fire power, the Bonnies will have picked up their best win of the season…by a mile. So far the Bonnies have managed to defend inside the arc quite well this year but have yet to play a team that attacks the basket quite like the Rams. If Bona hits shots like they usually do while defending the paint, it’ll be a tough afternoon for the Rams.

Kenpom: 76-74 VCU win with an 54% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 4PM at the Reilly Center in Olean, NY

Watch: CBS Sports Network, Official game day headquarters are Baja Bean Co. in the Fan and Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

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