VCU is coming off one of the worst losses in program history, Richmond is having one of the worst seasons in program history, but on Wednesday, someone will have a good night. Let’s get into the preview…
VCU (11-7, 3-2)
Richmond (4-13, 2-3)
A QUICK LOOK AT RICHMOND
What a difference a year makes. Just 17 games in, the Richmond Spiders have matched last season’s loss total for the entire season and are in the midst of one of the worst stretches of Spider basketball the county of Henrico has ever seen.
Gone is last season’s A-10 Player of the Year, TJ Cline, as well as underrated bucket-getting guard, ShawnDre’ Jones, and with those departures — combined with a far too challenging schedule for this team — it’s been misery for Chris Mooney and Co. in what could be the head coach’s final season at UofR. The Spiders opened the season with two embarrassing home drubbings at the hands of Delaware and Jacksonville State (the Spiders trailed by 28 in both games and lost the later by 33), have been kicked around by a slew of top-100 opponents and most recently have picked up conference losses against A-10 cellar dwellers, Saint Louis and Fordham (both on the road).
Richmond seems to have always struggled defensively since VCU has joined them in the A-10 but are hitting a new low this year, ranking 246th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. Gone as well has been their typically efficient offense, down from 74th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency this past season (top-100 the past three seasons) to 208th this season. The Spiders 31.5% 3-point percentage is the lowest at UofR since Chris Mooney’s first year as head coach, all the way back in 2005-2006.
That however hasn’t stopped the Spiders from getting up the long ball, taking over 39% of their attempts from beyond the arc this season in what’s a scary similarity to poor shooting but high-volume three-point approach that went nuclear on VCU this past Friday (the Spiders are shooting an A-10 fifth best 35.8% 3-point percentage in conference).
Richmond native Nick Sherod — grandson of VCU legend, Edmond Sherod — has poured in the most threes for Richmond this season and almost buried VCU’s A-10 tourney run last season with one (almost). Sherod’s shooting a strong 39% on a team-high 77 attempts, just outpacing spark plug Jacob Gilyard, a 5’9 freshman averaging 10.6 points and a team-leading 3.6 assists on a Spider-high 35.8 minutes per contest. Gilyard and big man Grant Golden are the two new faces doing the most damage for Richmond. Golden collapsed during a game last season and was forced to miss the year with a heart issue, but has bounced back to lead the team at 14.9 points per game.
Stat to think about: Despite their struggles, Richmond has higher offensive and defensive efficiency ratings than VCU in A-10 play.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has been a volatile team all season long, going from really bad to really good, usually within the same game. The Rams were able to battle back from double-digit deficits against ODU (11), La Salle (15) and Duquesne (13) to pull out wins, and nearly managed to do more of the same against Michigan (11) and Texas (19), but in that sample alone, you hopefully see the problem.
The Rams have trailed by double digits in half of their games this season, but managed to get just hot enough to pull out wins in 1/3rd of those contests.
When VCU’s offense is clicking, the Rams are a ton of fun to watch, but typically that offense has to be clicking, because this Rams team has struggled defensively for the majority of the season, the 66 first half points allowed against Dayton offering a screaming example of that.
Will this group figure things out defensively? Hard to say. Like VCU’s performance from half-to-half, their defensive effort from game-to-game has been varied.
VCU’s A-10 defensive effective field goal percentage of 52.8% is actually 0.8% worse than their overall season percentage, but safe to say you can blame a huge chunk of that dip on a performance against Dayton that should likely be considered an outlier of sorts.
EFG%s allowed in A-10 games (team’s season EFG%)
Fordham: 54.8% (47.2%) W
St. Joe’s: 41.4%* (47.3%) OT L
La Salle: 48.4% (48.8%) W
Duquesne: 46.9% (49.3%) W
Dayton: 76.6% (56%) L
SJU finished with a 50.7% true shooting percentage that game thanks to 29 made free throws on 38 attempts. The Hawks season true shooting percentage however is 51.2%.
VCU can win games with shooters, but I think will have a hard time finding their name in any brackets this March if the defense stays their current course.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 78.1, UofR 67.4
Scoring Defense: UofR 75.1, VCU 75.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.7%, UofR 49.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 52%, UofR 55.6%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 36.8%, UofR 31.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 35.1%, UofR 37.3%
2-Point Field Goal%: UofR 51.6%, VCU 51.1%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 51.7%%, UofR 55.4%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.9, UofR 29.8
Turnover% Offense: UofR 17.8%, VCU 19.1%
Turnover% Defense: UofR 19.3%, VCU 18.2%
VCU WINS IF
Warning: like Dayton, Richmond has been a bad 3-point shooting team and a good 2-point shooting team, but one that gets up a good amount of threes regardless. 39.1% of the Spiders attempts are from beyond the arc. Not quite as high as Dayton, but a large enough percentage to hurt ya on a good Spider shooting night. Richmond is one of the smallest teams in the country, going from 5’9 to 6’4 the majority of their games through positions 1-4 and even 6’10 big man, Grant Golden, is getting up just under three 3-point attempts per contest, so the Rams’ ability to avoid a Dayton-like 3-point disaster is big. Offensively VCU just needs to do what the numbers suggest the Rams are capable of doing: torching the Spiders. Richmond is the lowest ranked defense VCU has played since Nov 13 when the Rams defeated North Florida 95-85. The other D VCU faced that was statistically on the same level as the Spiders was the season opener against Grambling State, a 94-point night from the Rams. Get enough defense (don’t have to be great, just serviceable), and score like you should, and we’re on win No.1 of what we all hope turns into a big Atlantic 10 win streak.
Kenpom: 81-70 VCU win with an 84% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 7PM at THE Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: Stadium (streamed here: www.facebook.com/StadiumCollegeBasketball/videos/802354016618023/), Official game day headquarters at the Buffalo Wild Wings location at 7801 W Broad St. Attend for a chance to win two tickets to VCU v Dayton on 2/10.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation