Game Preview: VCU v George Mason [INSIDER]

It’s senior night at the Stu and the black and gold will hope to gift Justin Tillman, Johnny Williams and Khris Lane a going away victory for their contributions to the program. Playing the role of party pooper however is the George Mason Patriots, a team that is now surprisingly tied with VCU at 8-8 in the conference standings and looking for a last-minute leapfrog heading into next week’s A-10 tournament. The Rams defeated GMU with relative ease earlier this season, but will be looking to avoid an emotional letdown tonight (a la Rhody versus Saint Joseph’s last night) in hopes of maintaining a shot at a No.4 seed in this year’s Atlantic 10 tournament.

VCU (16-13, 8-8)
GEORGE MASON (14-15, 8-8)

A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE MASON

GMU comes to the Stu tonight on a bit of a wave of positive momentum, winner of four of their last five contests and five of their last seven to turn a 3-6 start into an even .500 A-10 record. Two of those recent wins came on the road as well, with Dave Paulsen’s team picking up victories at Richmond and Saint Joseph’s, two places the black and gold failed to record victories themselves.

The Patriots are an incredibly young team (340th nationally in experience) and will start two freshmen and two sophomores alongside senior leading scorer Otis Livingston.

Mason has struggled with consistency on offense thanks partially to taking a relatively high number of efficiency lovers least favorite shot: the long two. GMU takes just 30% of their shots at the rim versus 32.9% 2-point jump shots and takes 36.5% of their attempts from beyond the three-point line. The Patriots hit a good number of their twos against VCU in the previous meeting between these two (55.9% of their 34 attempts), but connected on just four of their 20 three-point attempts in the 84-76 Rams win.

Mason has hit over 41% from three in three of their last five contests including a red-hot 52% in a monster win against Dayton.

Scary stat for VCU: The Patriots have held six of their last seven opponents to under 50% inside the arc on offense. GMU’s ability to keep VCU from getting easy buckets inside could make for a surprisingly tough game tonight.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

The Rams are essentially heading in the opposite direction of George Mason, having started the A-10 season 6-3 before losing five of their last seven contests, three by double-digits and two of those taking place at the Siegel Center.

All in all it’s been just a rough conference season for VCU (and a rough season overall), checking in at an extremely disappointing 11th in the A-10 in offensive efficiency thanks to a frigid 32.3% three-point offense that ranks 13th in the league, just ahead of A-10 cellar dweller Fordham. The Rams have been held below 50% shooting in four of their last seven and were limited to an abysmal 41% or less in all four of those games, including 37.2% at George Washington, the league’s current 11th-ranked defense.

VCU’s two wins over the last seven games came by four points at kenpom No.205 UMass and an overtime home win over No.160 Dayton.

Woof.

There just aren’t really any opportunities to spin any of this in a positive way. VCU has quite frankly regressed as the season has gone on, with perhaps the lone bright spot coming from senior big man, Justin Tillman, who on any other VCU team may have a case for Atlantic 10 player of the year thanks to his conference play double-double average of 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in-conference on 57% shooting.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: VCU 75.9, GMU 71.8
Scoring Defense: GMU 75.2, VCU 75.3
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.2%, GMU 49.6%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: GMU 51.2%, VCU 51.8%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.7%, GMU 33.4%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GMU 33.8%, VCU 35.1%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.3%, GMU 49.4%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 51.3%, GMU 51.5%
Rebounds per game: GMU 37, VCU 36.6
Turnover% Offense: GMU 18.8%, VCU 19.3%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 18.3%, GMU 15.9%

VCU WINS IF

Let’s start on D. The Rams fell in their most recent home contest to St. Bonaventure, but actually flashed a little defense in the loss against a very talented Bona team, limiting the Bonnies to just 68 points, the first time Mark Schmidt’s squad has been held below 70 since Syracuse limited them to 57 way back on Dec 22. So everything starts with that type of defensive effort, not the one we last saw against George Mason when VCU give up 47 second half points to the Patriots. The Rams absolutely must limit Mason’s threes. If GMU gets hot from distance and limits VCU’s interior scoring (easier said than done), watch out.

Kenpom: 80-72 VCU win with a 76% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: MASN, 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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