Game Preview: VCU at St. Bonaventure [INSIDER]

VCU is a team trying to win an Atlantic 10 regular season championship. St. Bonaventure is a looking to bounce back after a rough start to the year by fighting their way back into the top-4 as a sneaky double-bye contender for this year's A-10 tournament. How each accomplishes those goals is by winning key matchups like the one we'll see today in Olean.
<h4>(VCU 16-6, 7-2)
(ST. BONAVENTURE 9-13, 5-4)</h4>
There are essentially two St. Bonaventure teams to consider when heading into today's game. The first is a Courtney Stockard-less Bonnies that opened the season with disappointing losses to the likes of Niagara, Bucknell and Georgia State. The second is Mark Schmidt's group with their star player, a team that still has it's warts, but has been a much tougher out.

The Bonnies began their seasons 1-5 without Stockard, but have been a .500 team with him in the lineup. Of their eight losses since his return, six have come at the hands of kenpom top-100 teams, the two others (Mason and Rhody) both in the form of road Ls. With Stockard, St. Bonaventure was a competitive group on the road against underrated Vermont (83-76 2OT loss) and Northeastern (64-59 Matthews Center L). They haven't resembled a true Atlantic 10 contender, but very much look like a top-4 hopeful and a spoiler for any team competing for an A-10 title that sees their path go through Olean, NY.

But Stockard isn't the only reason this team has gotten better. The young Bonnies that starts three freshmen has seen a bit of maturation as the season has progressed, particularly from freshman big man, Osun Osunniyi.

Coming off a 22-rebound performance in a win at Duquesne, the Larry Sanders-esque late bloomer has a 7'8 wingspan that he has used to become one of the nation's elite shot blockers. That paint patrol has made him arguably the frontrunner for A-10 defensive player of the year, currently leading the conference in defensive box plus/minus.

Osunniyi is joined by freshman star, Kyle Lofton. Lofton's 14.8 points per game is just behind Stockard's 15.9, but the freshman ranks tops on the team in assists (3.8 per contest). The Hillside, NJ native has been a steady presence at the point and an efficient slasher for Marck Schmidt's squad. What he hasn't been however, is a reliable shooter from long range (29.2%). Like VCU, the Bonnies have struggled from distance on the season, their 31.6% three-point percentage ranking 294th nationally, a number that's only gotten worse thanks to their 27.7% mark in conference.

They have typically done a solid job of playing to their strengths, doing most of their offensive damage inside the arc while generally staying away from the three ball. That could however, make things difficult today against VCU's 17th-ranked (nationally) interior D.
Speaking of defense, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the Rams limited a struggling GW offense to 50 points in VCU's first road game this week.

Limited offensively from deep (15% on their 20 three-point attempts), VCU ground down the Colonials in the 60-50 victory in Foggy Bottom, avoiding what would have been a terrible resume loss for perhaps the conference's only at-large hopeful. It was the black and gold's fourth road win of the season and fifth in-conference that they led by double-digits.

VCU has been competitive away from Richmond all season, but has struggled to finish at times, watching big road leads at ODU, Davidson and Rhode Island eventually turn into losses. The Rams' best win of the season came away from home, taking down NET No.37 Texas (kenpom No.27) in Austin, with VCU leading UVA late in Charlottesville as well, proving this is a team that can pull off the big road win, but more often than not has struggled to finish those contests (1-4 on the road against kenpom top-150 teams).

VCU's defense is statistically one of the best ever to wear the black and gold, defense we've seen carried into conference play as the A-10's most efficient D in Atlantic 10 games. The offense has been slightly better in-conference (1.01 points per possession versus a sub-1 showing in the non-conference), but has overall been handicapped by turnovers -- 21.5% of possessions in-conference, ranking 13th among 14 teams -- and the league's 10th-ranked three-point shooting offense.

The Rams have shot under 25% from distance in three of their last four contests.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 69.7, BONA 66.9</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 62.9, BONA 66</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 48.7%, BONA 47.9%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 42.6%, BONA 49.4%</span>

3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">BONA 31.6%, VCU 29.4%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 26.2%, BONA 33%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 52%, BONA 48.2%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 44.4%, BONA 49.4%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.1, BONA 34.4</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">BONA 19.2%, VCU 20.7%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 23.2%, BONA 20.7%</span>
<h4>VCU WINS IF</h4>
If havoc travels.

The Bonnies have looked improved and this is a home game for them, but this is also a contest between the nation's 259th-ranked offense (St. Bonaventure) and the seventh-ranked defense (VCU) where three freshman will play heavy minutes for Mark Schmidt's squad.

St. Bonaventure has been fairly turnover prone on the year, but have looked much-improved in-conference. If VCU can get the Bonnies to that 20%+ offensive turnover rate the displayed out of conference and not the solid 16.8% they've had in the A-10, VCU can continue to nip at the heels of Davidson in the race for the Atlantic 10 regular season championship and stay in solid position for an at-large bid, should they need one.

The Bonnies rank 101st nationally in bench minutes played on the year, but in important A-10 games have really shortened the rotation, meaning the Rams will have an opportunity to wear down guys like Lofton, Stockard and senior LaDarien Griffin, three guys that have each played 40 or more minutes in games at one point this season. But that also means the Rams will need solid bench minutes against what will be a good amount of time against the Bonnies starters.

Wear em down, turn em over, make the smart play on offense and head home with a W.

Kenpom: 61-57 VCU win with a 64% chance of a VCU Rams victory.

Game tips at 2PM at the Reilly Center in Olean, NY.

Watch: CBS Sports Network
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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