Game Preview: VCU at George Washington [INSIDER]

VCU has entered must-win territory, where each and every game is absolutely essential toward VCU’s shrinking chances at a top-4 seed and a double-bye in this year’s A-10 tournament. The Rams will need some help in achieving that goal, but must first help themselves by essentially winning out in these next five.

Up first, GW, a team VCU defeated earlier in the season by 24 points, a Colonials group currently tied for dead last in the Atlantic 10 at 4-9 in league play. Must. Win.

VCU (15-11, 7-6)
GW (11-15, 4-9)

A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON

Ranked No.215 nationally by kenpom.com’s computer rankings, George Washington is having their worst season in 16 years under second-year head coach Maurice Joseph. Virtually all the players that made GW such a tough opponent since VCU has entered the conference have moved on via graduation or transfer, leaving MoJo an inexperienced roster that’s starting two freshmen and a sophomore.

With that lack of experience has come a lack of efficiency on both sides of the ball. The Colonials are among the 20 worst three-point shooting teams in the country and haven’t faired much better inside the arc, helping drag GW’s offense down to 13th among 14 A-10 teams in offensive efficiency. GW’s defense hasn’t bailed them out either, ranking 12th in league play on D thanks largely in part to teams shooting a blistering 39.1% from three against GW.

GW’s length hasn’t turned them into a great rebounding team, but has helped them lead the A-10 in defensive blocks percentage, blocking 13.7% of opponents shots in conference action. The Colonials blocked three Rams shots in the first matchup between these two, but when they weren’t connecting on those swats they were allowing VCU to finish a red-hot 64.1% of their attempts inside the arc.

The Colonials have been fairly competitive at home, putting VCU on upset alert today. GW is 3-3 at the Smith Center in A-10 play with two of those losses coming to teams that defeated VCU at home in a similar fashion (Rhody and Davidson) and the other coming by just two points to Duquesne. They played Miami tight earlier this year in the eventual 9-point loss, lost a close one to No.121 Rider and have an attention grabbing semi-home win in DC earlier this year over top-100 Temple at the Capital One Arena these two teams will play in in this year’s A-10 tournament.

Conclusion: GW is bad, but at home are just good enough to break VCU’s heart and send the Rams’s to 1-4 in their last five games.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

It’s hard to believe that VCU was actually a 40%+ three-point shooting team halfway through the non-conference. What looked like VCU’s most dangerous group of long distance shooters has regressed into a pretty average offensive group and one not good enough to consistently bail out what’s been a struggling defense.

VCU has been a middle of the pack A-10 offense in conference play thanks to ice cold three-point shooting (32.7%) and ranks seventh on the defensive side of the ball because the Rams have struggled to defend the three themselves. All that mediocrity has VCU exactly where they apparently belong, which is the middle of the conference at 7-6, just one game up on team No.9 at 6-7.

VCU has a chance however to pad the stats a bit thanks to a very winnable closing schedule. The Rams take on four sub-200 teams in their closing five games and host a St. Bonaventure group coming off a Friday night win over previously A-10 undefeated Rhode Island.

In order to win out the black and gold will need consistency outside of just Justin Tillman and De’Riante Jenkins.

Offensively Issac Vann has been one of VCU’s highest volume shooters, but is connecting on a rough true shooting percentage of just 46.8% and an effective field goal percentage of 43.3%. JUCO transfer Mike’l Simms has been equally inefficient at 45.2% in true shooting percentage despite taking 18.4% of the Rams shots while on the floor in conference play.

In short, VCU needs two of their highest volume guys (those two), to pack a little more punch on the offensive end. That would go a long way toward getting the Rams back toward the top of the conference on offense (and in the standings) and making VCU much more of a threat for making some noise in DC.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: VCU 76.9, GW 65.3
Scoring Defense: GW 70.7, VCU 75.3
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.4%, GW 47.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 51.7%, GW 52.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 35.2%, GW 30.6%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 34.3%, GW 37.7%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.2%, 48.9%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: GW 50%, VCU 51.8%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.8, GW 33.2
Turnover% Offense: VCU 18.8%, GW 19.4%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 18.3%, GW 17.3%

VCU WINS IF

It was a tale of two halves in the first meeting between these two. The Colonials connected on 70% of their attempts in the first half — yet still went into halftime down four — then were limited to 27.6% shooting in the second to get outscored that half by 20 points. In neither of those halves did GW really show an ability to slow VCU down, particularly inside the arc, meaning if VCU can string together two solid halves of defense they have a nice shot of leaving the nation’s capital with a win.

GW’s offense ranks 298th nationally in effective field goal percentage offense (and they don’t get to the stripe for that much better of a TS%), so on paper that should not be a tall task. Just defend GW like you’re expected to and take smart shots on offense and we’re one down toward a five-game undefeated goal we desperately need at this point in the season.

Kenpom: 72-70 VCU win with a 57% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 4PM at the Smith Center in Washington DC.

Watch: Stadium, Official game day headquarters at 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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