Game Preview: Rams look for season sweep in tonight's home matchup against Richmond

The Capital City Classic or whatever they are calling it these days is back as VCU gets set to take on Richmond in a rematch of last month's 12-point road win. This will be a bit of a new-look Spiders squad as well, with Richmond Head Coach, Chris Mooney, taking a leave of absence to address a heart issue. A rival, but a great guy who has become good friends with Mike Rhoades and Co., not to mention just a staple of the Richmond, VA community, Mooney will no doubt have the support of Ram fans and Spiders alike in that battle.

VCU RAMS (21-7, 12-3)

Obviously the huge change here is the absence of Chris Mooney. In his place though interim Head Coach, Peter Thomas, is off to a pretty fantastic start. Thomas has been HC for just one game, but that one happened to be a win over a Saint Louis squad many expected to compete for an A-10 title. The Spiders scored 81 points in regulation in that contest, their second best in A-10 play this season. A huge part of that was the absolute air raid Thomas unleashed in the win. The Spiders took an insane 37 threes in the win, hitting 17 for a hard-to-beat 45.9% night from distance. They also got to the stripe where they would outscore SLU 16-6 on the night.

Defensively though, the Spiders did struggle somewhat. SLU finished 60% of their attempts inside the arc and a strong 40% outside of it, they just didn't have enough D themselves to survive the Spider onslaught. And that side of the ball has certainly been the biggest challenge for Richmond this season. The Spiders rank 12th out of 15 A-10 teams in conference action in defensive efficiency and 14th in effective field goal percentage defense.

Offensively Richmond has a bit better in-conference (seventh), finishing 53.1% of their attempts inside the arc (fourth in the conference) and ranking No.1 in-conference in turnover percentage offense.

VCU's defense has been pretty darn consistent all season and currently ranks tops in the Atlantic 10 in in-conference defensive efficiency. The challenge has been consistent three-point shooting. The good news is VCU has been able to win some tough games while being absolutely abysmal from three (won at SLU by eight while shooting 23.5% from three, won at Davidson by a bucket after hitting zero threes), so when the Rams know you're in trouble.

That has been exactly what has happened in VCU's last two. The Rams hit 38.5% of their threes against Fordham and dispatched the Bronx Rams by 19. They hit 57.9% of their threes at Saint Josephs, the result? A 25-point win.

That's pretty much been the predictive factor for this year's VCU team. If VCU is bad from three, they can still beat you. If they are ok to solid from three (30%-35%) they are likely going to beat you pretty easily. If they shoot well from three (38%+), you are likely getting crushed.

The Rams rank fourth from distance in conference play at 36.4%.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 70.5, UR 70</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 62.8, UR 68.5</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UR 51.9%, VCU 51.4%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 47.3%, UR 50.4%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UR 34.2%, VCU 33.7%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 33%, UR 34.1%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UR 52.4%, VCU 51.8%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 46.1%, UR 49.8%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 32.9, UR 32.7</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">UR 17.1%, VCU 20.5%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #008000;">VCU 25%, UR 16.9%</span>

<span style="color: #000000;">VCU WINS IF</span>[/HEADING=3]
...If they win the three-point battle. Now, they've obviously shown the ability to win without winning that one statistical category, but what concerns me most heading into this contest is if the Spiders are now a new three-point kamikaze squad under their interim head coach and if VCU is going to throw up another at Davidson type of night in a rivalry game where a win puts the Rams one more win away from at-least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title.

Also could you imagine how insanely dangerous VCU could be if both Jayden Nunn and Ace Baldwin put it together on the same night? Both have 30-point games within the past five contests. If and when they click on the same night, watch out...

Kenpom: 71-61 VCU win with an 81% chance of a Rams victory.

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

Watch: ESPN2

Listen: <a href=";pname=1248&amp;campid=header&amp;cid=index.html">Fox Sports 910 AM &amp; 98.5 FM</a>
Live Tweets: <a href="">@VCURamNation</a>

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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