After a wild Wednesday night of action that saw VCU move into the No.4 spot in this year’s A-10 standings, VCU will look to hold on to that position and the Atlantic 10 tournament double-bye that comes with it when welcoming the conference’s hottest team into the Siegel Center tonight. That team is not the league’s official regular season champ, Rhode Island; it is instead the team that beat that Rhody team just two games ago, winners of nine straight: St. Bonaventure.
VCU (16-12, 8-7)
ST. BONAVENTURE (21-6, 11-4)
A QUICK LOOK AT ST. BONAVENTURE
In so many ways this Bona team is almost identical to last year’s group that the Rams needed an assist from the Bona student section with 0.4 seconds to play to defeat.
Back are backcourt killers, Jaylen Adams (20.2 ppg, 48.5% from 3) and Matt Mobley (18.3 ppg, 37.4% from 3). Gone are senior bigs Denzel Gregg and David Andoh. This year’s junk yard dogs instead come in the form of JUCO transfer Courtney Stockard (11.2 ppg, 6 rpg) and fellow 6’6 junior, LaDarien Griffin.
This year’s Bona group is much better beyond the arc than last year’s team on both sides of the ball, up almost 5% on of the offensive end and limiting teams to about 4% fewer makes from long range on D and those are essentially your key differences from this year’s squad and last season’s.
This year’s Bonnies got off to a rough 2-4 conference start thanks to challenging road games at Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, Rhode Island and Davidson — all teams who own wins over VCU — but have been winning ever since and with a win combined with a Davidson loss today, would move into sole possession of second place in the Atlantic 10 standings.
St. Bonaventure is 7-4 in true road games this season, which includes top-100 wins at Buffalo and Syracuse. The Bonnies play one of the faster tempos in the conference, but have been challenged against the higher tempo teams they’ve played including a seven-point road loss at Saint Joseph’s before later defeating the Hawks in Olean by a basket.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
You are very familiar with the Rams, so instead of telling you who these guys are again, I’m going to take this opportunity to warn of what I think will be this team’s fate if we don’t make a change (I suggest on defense) against a certain level of opponent.
VERY IMPORTANT NUMBERS
VCU v top-50 teams: 0-6
VCU margin v top-50 teams: -11.7 points per game
VCU v 51-100 teams: 1-1
VCU margin v 51-100 teams: -2 points per game
VCU has won just 12.5% of their top-100 games this season and the one game they won (versus No.58 ODU), trailed by 11 in the second half. Four of the Rams’ top-100 losses have also come within the friendly confines of the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
There are just three top-100 teams in the A-10, but surprise surprise, they are ranked 1,2 and 3 in conference play.
Yes, there’s a chance someone knocks those teams off in the conference tournament and a chance the black and gold knock off Bona today (which is the lowest ranked top-100 opponent we will have played), but if I told you you had a 12.5% chance to succeed doing what you were doing, would you continue to do that, hoping you’d succeed this time, or would you take a shot on something new, roll the dice?
I’m of the opinion VCU’s ultimate fate is a pre-final A-10 tournament loss (what would be our first ever) if we don’t try something new defensively against the better teams in the conference (the top-100s). A Twitter friend hit me back on that thought suggesting it would likely do more harm than good, which may prove true, but also I would simply reply that a loss is a loss (30 points has the same effect as 2 at this late in the season) and that if we don’t take that gamble, the end result will be quite predictable.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: BONA 77.4, VCU 76.3
Scoring Defense: BONA 69.7, VCU 75.5
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.4%, BONA 51.7%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: BONA 48.2%, VCU 51.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: BONA 39.6%, VCU 35%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: BONA 31%, VCU 35%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.2%, BONA 48%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: BONA 49.3%, VCU 51.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.6, BONA 35.6
Turnover% Offense: VCU 16.4%, BONA 19.1%
Turnover% Defense: BONA 20.8%, VCU 18.1%
VCU WINS IF
The four teams that beat Bona this season all pretty much shredded the Bonnies’ interior D. Dayton finished an insane 77.3% of their twos, Davidson 70% of their’s, St. Joe’s 60.7% and Rhody checked in at “just” 51.2% of their’s but got to the stripe for 24 free throws to dump 87 on Bona.
With the conference’s third-ranked two-point offense, that is something VCU has proven capable of replicating. The huge question is will the Rams own defense allow them to keep pace with the league’s current No.3 rated offense. The Bonnies shoot a ton of free throws and have the nation’s 24th most accurate three-point shooting offense.
Long story short, VCU likely needs their A game on both sides of the ball today, which would mean a bit of a defensive outlier performance from the nation’s currently 171st-ranked D, to pull off the upset at home today.
Kenpom: 79-76 VCU loss with a 37% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 8PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: CBS Sports Network, 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