What a difference a year makes. VCU and Saint Joseph’s will meet for the first time since last season’s Atlantic 10 title game, a dominating 87-74 win for the Hawks. The SJU power trio of Bembry, Miles and Brown combined for 69 of their team’s points in the win. Add eight points from freshman Pierfrancesco Oliva and you’ve got a foursome accountable for 89% of last season’s championship winning total. All four are gone, leaving Saint Joseph’s in full rebuild mode and looking every bit the part at 3-9 in Atlantic 10 play while VCU shares a league-leading 10-2 record with Dayton. But as bad as Saint Joseph’s has been, they might just be on their way to being even worse. Here’s the preview…
VCU (20-5, 10-2)
SAINT JOSEPH’S (10-14, 3-9)
A QUICK LOOK AT SAINT JOSEPH’S
Ram fans will likely not recognize the Hawks team that will come flapping into the Siegel Center tomorrow night. Gone are all of the key seniors that made them such a tough 2015-16 opponent and with every passing week it seems as if the remainder of the team is dropping like flies as well. The trend started this offseason with the aforementioned Oliva, seeing his sophomore campaign ending before it even began due to injury. Early in the season it was James Demery (13.2 ppg) who would go down for 10 games before returning in time for A-10 play. Twelve games into the year it would be then-leading scorer Shavar Newkirk (20.3 ppg) to exit the season with an unfortunate injury. Newkirk’s departure handed the leading scorer baton to Lamar Kimble (15.5 ppg), who just this week announced his season would end prematurely as well. The Hawks began the season young (40th youngest team in the country) and is ending it in even worse shape. Those piled up injuries have resulted in a current four-game losing streak, a streak made even more unbelievable due to the fact three were at home and all three of those were to teams currently in the bottom half of the conference. Lamar Kimble averaged 19.8 points over those four contests and the Hawks will play their first game without him at VCU. So who does that leave? Well, Charlie Brown of course. No, I’m not making a joke, freshman Charlie Brown led the Hawks with 15 points in a full 40 minutes of play at UMass. A 6’7 freshman, Brown has been one of the league’s best three-point shooters and has posted an impressive 115 offensive rating in A-10 play. Brown is joined by Demery (13.2 ppg) as the pulse of what remains of Saint Joseph’s while Phil Martelli adjusts to what remains of his roster. Saint Joseph’s is a solid rebounding team but struggles in virtually every other statistical category. Their offense is a train wreck (306th nationally in effective field goal percentage) and their defense hasn’t been much better, giving up over 81 points per game during their current four-game losing streak.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams are riding a six-game winning streak that has been one part talent, one part hand of God. Four of VCU’s last six have come against teams in the top-six of the A-10, teams VCU is competing for for A-10 tournament seeding as well as a regular season title. Only two of those however have been any bit comfortable, the Rams destroying La Salle 90-52 and most recently pulling away from Davidson for a 74-60 win, the games that bookended this current run. In between however have come four close contests including two road wins that are best described as miracles (VCU’s 0.4 wins over both St. Bonaventure and GW). The key ingredient that likely makes this VCU team a complete nightmare for opponents is some offensive consistency, particularly from three-point land. The Rams have attacked that basket all season long and currently rank second in Atlantic 10 play with a 52.5% two-point percentage. Behind the line it’s been another story, with VCU currently ranking 13th in conference action, shooting just 33% behind the three-point line. The good news is the Rams don’t shoot a high number of those, meaning they typically aren’t shooting themselves out of games — they are playing to their strength. But that has a tendency to make VCU somewhat one-dimensional, meaning if you can effectively clog the paint on VCU, you can make things interesting. Player to watch: junior Justin Tillman has been phenomenal for the Rams. The Detroit native has three consecutive double-doubles and is averaging a 14.8-point, 10-rebound double-double in A-10 play.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 75, SJU 70.6
Scoring Defense: VCU 65.6, SJU 72.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.5%, SJU 46.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 47%, SJU 51.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.5%, SJU 32.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33%, SJU 35.6%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.9%, SJU 45.9%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 45.7%, SJU 49.7%
Rebounds per game: SJU 37.3, VCU 36.3
Turnover% Offense: SJU 16.9%, VCU 19.1%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 21.8%, LAS 17.8%
VCU WINS IF
If VCU gets going on offense, if they get that basket attack rolling…ring the bell. Saint Joseph’s shot selection has been horrendous this year, the result being an offensive effective field goal percentage of 46.1% in conference play, good for dead last in the A-10. We’ll see how much better that offense is without leading scorer and top assist man Lamar Kimble against the A-10’s No.2 defense on Tuesday night.
SAINT JOSEPH’S WINS IF
Look, Fordham beat VCU, so we all know to not look past any opponent at this point in the season. The Hawks rebound well and have some size, which in the past has bothered VCU. If SJU can clog the paint and somehow get some shots to fall (who knows, maybe losing Lamar Kimble will be some blessing in disguise for them)…you never know.
Kenpom: 76-63 VCU win with an 89% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
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