Game Preview: VCU v GW [INSIDER]

It feels like a lifetime ago since we were fortunate enough to watch VCU in the Siegel Center, but after nearly a month away from that sweet Stu excitement, we're finally back tonight when the Rams welcome Jamion Christian's GW Colonials. Can the former Rams assistant pull off a huge upset in Richmond or will Mike Rhoades and Co. reel off their seventh-straight victory?
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VCU (9-4, 2-0)
GEORGE WASHINGTON (4-9, 0-1)[/HEADING=3]

A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGE WASHINGTON[/HEADING=3]
It's been a bit of a struggle for the former one-year VCU assistant since taking over GW back in 2019. Jamion Christian is a combined 21-41 in Foggy Bottom and has his lowest rated team (272nd on kenpom) he's coached in the nation's capital and in fact his lowest rated team in his decade as a head coach. That is a good bit surprising to me considering the "on paper" talent he has at GW.

Christian's squad is headlined by a slew of major conference transfers with fairly legit high school resumes. He started things off last season by playing LSU transfer, James Bishop, heavy minutes. The team's current leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, Bishop ranked No.155 nationally out of high school prior to committing to Will Wade's Tigers squad notorious for their success on the recruiting trail. Bishop was recently joined in the backcourt by Chesterfield native, Joe Bamisile (14 ppg). Now a sophomore, Bamisile started his career at Virginia Tech following a high school career that saw him climb to No.78 nationally in ESPN's 2020 recruiting class rankings. Those two are joined in a heavy rotation by UConn transfer, Brendan Adams and Maryland transfer, Ricky Lindo Jr., playing huge minutes on a team using one of the shortest benches in the nation (ranking 319th nationally in bench minutes).

Still, despite their pedigree, GW has yet to turn what high school scouts saw as serious potential in DI college success. The Colonials flashed some promise early in a matchup against Maryland, only to find the Terps were a good bit overrated and that that success didn't translate to matchups against lesser-ranked teams. Christian's squad has three sub-200 losses on the year (plus three more to sub-175s) and lost their next two top-100 matchups by an average margin of 21.5 points including a home L this past weekend to Dayton by 25.

So what's been the biggest issue?

You know how VCU has struggled offensively at times, particularly pre-Baldwin? Well George Washington has had a full complement of players all season, have faired much worse than the Rams (ranking 315th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency) and don't have an elite VCU defense to help the problem.

Despite all their recruiting stars out of high school, Christian and Co. have yet to find a way to translate that into efficient scoring. The Colonials rank 298th nationally in effective field goal percentage offense, a stat made worse when you consider it's agains the nation's 267th-ranked strength of schedule. GW has played just two top-100 defenses this season (Maryland at No.58 and Dayton at No.83) entering tonight's contest against VCU's second-ranked defense in the country.

GW ranks 251st nationally in 2-point percentage offense, 318th nationally in 3-point percentage and 313th at free throw percentage, so clearly, shooting is an issue. What hurts as well is the Colonials have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation on both sides of the ball, meaning when those shots aren't falling -- and usually they aren't -- they do little to make up for it.

It's a puzzling team. Either high school recruiting services completely missed on this batch of players or GW is one of the worst-coached teams in the country. I imagined there are some CAA and Big South coaches who could maybe win conferences with this roster.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU[/HEADING=3]
So we all know that VCU is pretty darn good defensively. Agreed? The Rams rank second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency via shining in just about every defensive statistic outside of rebounding. The good news is VCU has shown some offensive improvement late as well.

One huge obvious reason for that is the return of Ace Baldwin.

The Black and Gold are a perfect 5-0 with Baldwin in the lineup, no doubt a good bit easier to be against a much more manageable schedule (average kenpom opponent ranking before he returned: 96...average ranking of opponent since his return: 171). Still, VCU's offense is showing growth and even minimal improvement there when matched with an elite D can do serious damage in the A-10, especially considering how hard the black and gold played kenpom No.1 Baylor without Baldwin and with players adjusted to new roles.

Speaking of new roles, how much more comfortable does Marcus Tsohonis look off the ball now that Baldwin is back? The Washington transfer is shooting 62.5% from three over his last four contests and is now up to 42.1% on the season (note: that's even better than Bones Hyland's season average this past year). He dumped a season-high 17 points in just 13 minutes of action this past weekend against La Salle, connecting on five of his six threes on the evening. Tsohonis struggled to hit threes early as a Ram, going his first four games without one despite two strong seasons of three-point shooting prior to that, but has now clearly gotten into rhythm and is showing A-10 fans what VCU saw in the former Husky. His 30.8 A-10 player efficiency rating through two games leads the Rams.

Some VCU COVID protocols sideline Rams starting big Levi Stockard, but in his absence freshman, Jalen DeLoach, used the added opportunity to breakout a bit. The Georgia native has a 69% true shooting percentage through two A-10 games and a team second-best 56.4% on the season (surprisingly only behind fellow freshman, Jayden Nunn). DeLoach has led the Rams in total rebound percentage in conference play as well as blocks percentage. He has hit a career-high nine points in two of his last three contests, doing so in under 20 minutes of action both times.

TALE OF THE TAPE[/HEADING=3]
Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">GW 64.5, VCU 61.8</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 57.1, GW 71.5</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 48.2%, GW 46.3%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 41.4%, GW 48.4%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 31%, GW 29.3%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 24.3%, GW 30.4%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 49%, GW 47.6%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 44.1%, GW 49.7%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">GW 33.8, VCU 32.5</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">GW 18.6%, VCU 22.6%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 27%, GW 19.6%</span>

VCU WINS IF[/HEADING=3]
This will sound odd to Ram fans after seeing the stats and the record, but this is just one of those games that makes me weirdly nervous. I think the Colonials are playing sooooo far below their potential that they are just an absolute landmine waiting to hit an A-10 contender. That said, stopping the backcourt duo of Bamisile and Bishop, seems to go a long way. It is a serious duo of volume shooters, so keeping them inefficient is a huge key to victory. Take their loss to kenpom No.240 UMass Lowell for example. The 11-point home L to the American East squad saw Bamisile and Bishop combine to shoot 10-28 from the field, Bishop committing seven turnovers in the process (both posted inefficient offensive ratings of 80 or worse). The Rams' ability to keep them frustrated will go a long way toward keeping Ram fans pleased tonight and feels like just about everything for moving on to a 3-0 start in A-10 play while keeping VCU's winning streak going at seven.

Kenpom: 71-54 VCU win with a 94% chance of a Rams victory.

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

Watch: MASN/ESPN+

Listen: <a href="https://www.iheart.com/live/fox-sports-910-richmond-2461/?autoplay=true&amp;pname=1248&amp;campid=header&amp;cid=index.html">Fox Sports 910 AM &amp; 98.5 FM</a>
Live Tweets: <a href="https://twitter.com/vcuramnation">@VCURamNation</a>
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Natty
Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of VCURamNation.com and A10Talk.com.
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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