Game Preview: VCU at George Washington [INSIDER]

VCU heads to the Foggy Bottom today for a matinee matchup against former Rams assistant, Jamion Christian, and his GW Colonials. The Rams are coming off their first loss in over a month while George Washington enters this one following an upset win over the Dukes of Duquesne University. Winner moves to 3-1 and stays toward the top of this year's A-10 standings in what is sure to be an unpredictable season of hoops.
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VCU (9-3, 2-1)
GW (3-7, 2-1)[/HEADING=3]

It's been a rocky start to the second season for Jamion Christian as an Atlantic 10 coach, but one that has seen a slight reversal of fortunes since conference play began. The Colonials, coming off a 6-12 year to begin Christians' tenure, welcomed LSU transfer, Jame Bishop, to the nation's capitol, but before he could almost unpack his bags, said goodbye to a couple of players who looked to play a somewhat large role in Bishop's hopeful success. Two of the team's returning double-digit scorers from last season, Maceo Jack and Jameer Nelson Jr., opted to transfer after GW's first seven games, what was a 1-6 stretch for the duo as a part of this GW squad, while senior big man via Mount St. Mary's, Ace Stallings, decided to leave the team. With that group the Colonials suffered losses to the likes of Hampton (kenpom No.328), Delaware (266) and William & Mary (287) to name a few, but without the trio the Colonials have actually gained a bit of momentum. The Colonials blasted Fordham in their conference opener, 71-47, then fell to Duquesne by 12 before avenging the loss to the fringe-top-100 squad (No.102) a day later, 75-73.

The trimmed GW roster posted one of their most efficient offensive performances under Christian, led by a career-high 29 points out of sophomore, Jamison Battle. It is however, worth noting Duquesne shot an abysmal 43.5% (on 23 attempts) from the free throw stripe in the 2-point loss.

Still, GW is 2-1 and the host of tonight's matchup, their first in 10 days since having to cancel a matchup against UMass due to the recent attack on the Capitol building just three miles away.

Led by Bishop and his fairly efficient 19.7 ppg average, GW has made nice strides on the offensive side of the ball from last season. The Colonials average 1.02 points per possession, up from 0.992 the previous season, a rankings jump that has them the nation's No.153 offense this season, up from 236 last year, Bishop and Battle doing most of the heavy lifting there, but joined by Vanderbilt transfer (and Syracuse before that), Matthew Moyer, who is averaging a 10.6-point, 10.1-rebound double-double on the season. The Colonials rank 76th nationally in effective field goal percentage, but like VCU, have struggled with turnovers, checking in at 216th nationally in holding on to the ball.

Defensively they have yet to make the same improvement and in fact, have actually gone backward a bit. The Colonials rank a brutal 291st nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up 80+ points three times so far this season to teams ranked 181 or below on kenpom.

They are an incredibly young team that due to in-season transfers, are down to a very thin bench. Their key group however has great size, with GW going with a core group that stands 6'2, 6'6, 6'7, 6'9 and 6'9.

The Rams have jumped out to a bit of an unexpected start for a team picked to finish 9th in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, but have shown some signs of regression as of late, giving a sense of deja vu to Ram fans that saw a conference slide from the black and gold last season.

The Rams sit at 59th in kenpom's current ranks, up from a No.73 finish this past season, but since A-10 play began have looked a bit out of sorts.

VCU ranks 20th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency on the season, limiting opponents to 0.915 points per possession, but in conference play against a questionable group of opponents (St. Joe's, George Mason and a tricky Rhode Island squad), have seen that number balloon to 0.951, currently good for fifth in the conference, what would likely be 6th had the nationally-ranked Saint Louis Billikens played a game.

Offensively the Rams have regressed even more in-conference. On the season VCU ranks 109th nationally in offensive efficiency at 1.045 points per possession, a number that has dipped to 0.947 in-conference, seeing the Rams 9th in the again and again, a number that would mostly likely put them at 10th if Saint Louis hadn't been sidelined in conference due to COVID protocols.

One huge issues on the offensive side of the ball that has been consistent throughout has been turnovers. VCU ranks 225th nationally on the season in turnover percentage offense, handing it over one of every five trips down the court. In-conference that number has gotten even worse, up from 20.5% overall to 21% in A-10 games. The black and gold have paired with that a poor interior scoring percentage. VCU has hit 54.1% of their shots inside the arc on the season, but just 47.7% in-conference, ranking them 10th (again, likely 11th with SLU) in conference games.

Rebounding has been a problem on both sides of the ball and throughout the season. VCU ranks 190th nationally in total rebound percentage on the year. They were outrebounded by Rhode Island by 15 in their recent loss at the Siegel Center.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 75.9, GW 73.8</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 65.8, GW 73.5</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 53.2%, GW 52.6%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 45.4%, GW 50.2%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 34.5%, GW 34.2%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 30.2%, GW 33.5%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 54.1%, GW 53.2%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 45.4%, GW 50.1%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">GW 35.9, VCU 33.8</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">GW 20.3%, VCU 20.5%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 25.5%, GW 17.7%</span>

George Washington got a combined 45 points out of guards Bishop and Battle in their recent win over Duquesne. VCU was dominated by Rhode Island largely via their inability to contain the backcourt duo of Fatts Russell and Jeremy Sheppard, who posted a combined 43 points. So that is a huge matchup to watch. Can VCU's guards sit down and defend what are sure to be two high-volume guards for GW? That has been an issue at times throughout the season (Rhody, JMU, Penn State to an extent, WVU...but, that's WVU, so understandable I suppose).

The second key is getting back to passing up good shots for great ones. Games ago I felt like a saw a VCU team that I hadn't seen in a long time (since probably March of 2011), a group that kept the ball hot until it reached the highest percentage shot available for the best potential shot. It just hasn't felt like that in a while to me and with such an effective field goal percentage dip in conference games, the stats would suggest that as well.

Kenpom: 77-67 VCU win with an 82% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 2PM at the Charles E Smith Center in Washington DC.

Watch: ESPN+

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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Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of and
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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