Game Preview: No.23 VCU v St. Joe's, Atlantic 10 Championship

[caption id="attachment_12569" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-12569" alt="Shaka Smart has led VCU to two A-10 finals appearances in his two seasons in the conference." src="" width="300" height="199" /></a> Shaka Smart has led VCU to two A-10 finals appearances in his two seasons in the conference.[/caption]

VCU will get their first shot at the 2013-14 Saint Joseph's Hawks outside of Philly today, this time in the 2014 Atlantic 10 Championship game. The No.2 seed, VCU, blew out both Richmond and George Washington to get here, the later without the services of the A-10's 6th Man of the Year, Melvin Johnson, who left the game after five minutes of play due to a season-ending knee injury. The No.3 seed, St. Joe's, took out bubble hopeful, Dayton, in their first game with a game-winning three-pointer, then pulled away from St. Bonaventure, 67-48, after being tied at 29 at the half. The Hawks won the only meeting between the two teams earlier this season, defeating VCU in Philadelphia in a tight game that saw a controversial Treveon Graham charge call erase a chance for the junior to tie the game on an and-1 play. VCU defeated St. Joe's twice last season including a 82-79 win in the A-10 quarterfinals.

VCU (26-7, 12-4)
SAINT JOSEPH'S (23-9, 11-5)[/HEADING=3]

The big difference from the VCU team in yesterday's game preview and the one we'll see today is the absence of Melvin Johnson. Johnson went down against GW after diving for a loose ball, injuring his knee in the process (MRI on Monday). With that loss the Rams lose their best three-point shooter at 39.5% as well as their third-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game. The team rallied around that loss yesterday however, and VCU saw increased minutes (32) from fellow 2012 top-100 recruit, Jordan Burgess. The brother of VCU legend Bradford Burgess helped VCU lock down on the Colonials, holding GW to just 24 second half points while grabbing a game-high four steals for VCU. It was Burgess' most minutes of the season and his highest scoring output (7 points) since February 6. VCU has also seen defensive star, Briante Weber, turn into a major offensive threat this tournament. Weber posted 16 points yesterday after scoring 18 points in 18 minutes against Richmond in the quarterfinals. Similarly shot-blocking star, Mo Alie-Cox, has been rock solid in the paint for VCU this tournament. He's given the Rams good minutes as Juvonte Reddic has seen heavy foul trouble this tournament (4 fouls in each game). Alie-Cox is averaging 7.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes per contest. He's shooting 62.5% for VCU this tournament.

The Hawks' Langston Galloway appears to be in a two-man race for tournament MVP with VCU's Briante Weber at the moment. Galloway buried a game-winning three-pointer in St. Joe's first game and is averaging 24.5 points per game this tournament while shooting 53.6% from the field. He is one of five Hawks who have logged serious minutes over the past two days, as St. Joe's has played a short rotation that has only included 10 minutes per game from sixth man Pap Ndoa. Their starters however have been some of the best in the A-10 this season. Do-it-all big Halil Kanacevic is leading the team this tournament with 14.5 rebounds per game, 6'8 senior, Ronald Roberts Jr. is averaging 11.5 points on 64.3% shooting, 6'6 A-10 Freshman of the Year, DeAndry Bembry, gave the Hawks with 15 points in their win over Dayton and point guard Chris Wilson has turned the ball over just once in Brooklyn. Add in Galloways scoring and the Hawks starters have gotten it done at the Barclays Center. But will they have the energy for one more against the running Rams?

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 75.4, St. Joe's 71.5</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 64.8, St. Joe's 67.1</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">St. Joe's 53.9%, VCU 48%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 47.3%, St. Joe's 47.9%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">St. Joe's 38.1%, VCU 35.1%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 29.9%, St. Joe's 34%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.9, St. Joe's 35.8</span>
Turnover Percentage Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 25.8%, St. Joe's 15.6%</span>
Turnover Percentage Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 17.5%, St. Joe's 18.7%</span>

Havoc visits the Barclays Center. The Rams pride themselves on their ability to grind teams down and will face a St. Joe's team that have played five guys virtually all tournament. The Hawks rank 12th in the A-10 in turnover margin (-2.03) while VCU is the best team in the nation at turning teams over. If both teams play true to those stats and VCU can continue their solid halfcourt D they've showed all tournament it will be VCU raising the trophy today.

The Hawks turned the ball over just 12 times against VCU in their last meeting and were a notch better in VCU in every other major statistical category as well. They out-rebounded the Rams by four, shot 2.2% better from the field and had seven fewer fouls in the tight win. They'll need a similar effort, but most importantly will HAVE to hold on to the ball if they want to win their first Atlantic 10 tournament championship since 1997 today.

PREDICTIONS[/HEADING=3] 72-66 VCU win with an 73% chance of victory.
Vegas: VCU 4.5-point favorite to win.

When: 1PM
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY.
Watch: CBS Sports Network. Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: <a title="FM 107.3" href="">107.3FM</a>
Live Tweets:¬†<a title="@VCURamNation" href="">@VCURamNation</a>​

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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