My goodness. When the buzzer sounds Saturday night, we are already halfway through the conference season. I suggest contacting your dentist ASAP. If you've already ground your teeth to the dentin layer and have no fingernails left, you're going to need backup. We're getting into the true gut-wrenching, teeth-clenching part of the season.
Fordham dodged New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, DC, and northern Virginia traffic to make it down for Saturday's 7pm tip. The Rams bring their 2-4, 6-14 record with them.
It was a slow start for Tom Pecora's team. That happens when you have four freshmen and seven underclassmen in your nine-man rotation. Plus, Fordham had just one home game prior to December 23 and played just three home nonconference games.
The only comp game was an 81-63 loss at Lehigh on December 4. In conference, Fordham lost close games to St. Joseph's (66-62), as well as UMass and Charlotte.
Turnovers, as always, are the area to watch. Because Fordham is so young, they are vulnerable. Those Rams are 12th in the A10, turning the ball over on 20.7% of their possessions. But also keep an eye when VCU has the ball. Our Rams coughed it up 19 times against Rhody, but Fordham is 15th in the A10 in terms of causing turnovers (13.3% turnover rate).
Ken Pomeroy likes VCU to win 87-61, giving the good guys a 98% chance of winning.
Three Facts
<li>Fordham head coach Tom Pecora visited the Siegel Center seven times as head coach of Hofstra. He is 0-7.</li>
<li>Star forward Chris Gaston has posted 54 double-doubles in his career (but may be slowed by a knee injury).</li>
<li>Fordham beat Rhode Island last Saturday. Coupled with VCUs midweek win over Rhody, this matchup determines the A10s King of the Rams for 2012-13.</li>
<span style="text-decoration:underline;font-size:12pt;">Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I&#039;m Watching</span>
1. War Paint. Scott Day turned over a rock and found that VCU is 9-0 when scoring 35 or more points in the paint. I say that has less to do with passing the ball to to Juvonte Reddic in the post and more to do with the effectiveness of havoc. I have a long post coming next week on that factor which connects the dots, but it&#039;s safe to say this is an optic, and stat, to note.
2. The Rebounding Manual. Fordham is 15th in the A10 in hitting two-point shots. They are 12th hitting three point shots. Combined, they are dead last with an effective field goal percentage of 44.2%. There&#160; will be available rebounds. However Fordham is also fairly big, so VCU players are going to have to focus on the fundamentals of rebounding--get your fanny on a guy--in order to take charge of the rebounding challenge.
3. Briante Weber. I made pancakes for breakfast this morning, and when I was pouring milk into the mix I noticed the missing person on the side of the carton was wearing a headband. Go figure. Weber is 2-16 from the field in the past four games. That&#039;s bad, but I can live with it. I&#039;m bothered by his strengths not being there. In those four games Weber has committed 12 fouls and five turnovers while netting just five steals and three assists. It&#039;s high time Bri returned with a five-steal, five-assist night.
4. Starters Minutes, First Half. Shaka Smart went deeper into his bench, earlier, against Rhody. That helped everyone havocize better in the second half. If we can reach halftime Saturday and have only <span style="text-decoration:underline;">two</span> starters play 15 minutes (but not more than 16) we will be in good shape.
5. VCU Basketball. It&#039;s getting the game going in VCUs style of play, which includes incredible effort and awe-inspiring enthusiasm. There&#039;s no statistic for that. It&#039;s about how you want to play basketball, the old aggressive, confident, and loose we saw during the Final Four run.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;font-size:12pt;">We Don&#039;t Work For Free</span>
Branden Frazier (16.4ppg, 5.1apg, 4.0rpg)
is a load at point guard. Frazier looks to make a play every time he
touches the ball, whether it&#039;s to score or pass. He&#039;s knocked down 37
threes and has range out to Danielsville. Frazier is averaging 18.2ppg
in six A10 contests.
Tough call on 6-7 forward Chris Gaston
(14.0ppg, 8.1rpg), who missed their last game with a lingering knee
problem. Gaston was an all conference selection and has 54
double-doubles in his career. He has pure talent but can be a selfish
Mandell Thomas (7.1ppg, 2.8rpg
but 11.8/4.5 in A10 play) is a freshman combo guard who has played
better, and more, as the season wears on. Thomas plays hard on the
offensive end and can rip a three.
Travion Leonard
(6.2ppg, 4.1rpg but 7.8/5.1 in A10 play) is similar in that he&#039;s a
freshman who is getting better, but his biggest asset--he is 6-8 and 275
pounds. Leonard is a load and has great feet for his size.
Ryan Canty
(6.7ppg, 7.1rpg) is a 6-9 freshman post player who runs well and is a
quick leaper. Canty is a very good athlete for his size so VCU will have
to play physical on him.
Bryan Smith
(8.3ppg, 3.4rpg) is also a combo guard who has regressed, but he can
shoot (35-106 from three). The goal for VCU--keep Smith from getting
into a rhythm. When Smith plays well, Fordham wins games.
Jermaine Myers (3.6ppg, 2.1apg) is a freshman backup point guard who will also try to make plays and is aggressive.
Stop me if you&#039;ve heard this before, but Ryan Rhoomes
(3.6ppg, 4.8rpg but 4.5/6.8 in A10 play) is a 6-8 freshman big who is
playing more and better than early season. Rhoomes is physical but foul
Finally, Jeff Short (5.2ppg, 1.9rpg) will see spot time at guard when Fordham goes to a smaller lineup.
<span style="text-decoration:underline;font-size:12pt;">The Message</span>
This is one of those games where it&#039;s about VCU and not the opponent. I don&#039;t mean that in a disrespectful way at all. Rather, the good guys have a more talented and more experienced team playing at home.
The things that occur when we&#039;re playing our best--pressure and execution via selflessness and enthusiasm--are what must occur. As I mentioned in bullet number five above, we need to see VCU basketball, and then we can enjoy homecoming.
It&#039;s that simple.