Game Preview: VCU v No.10 SLU (GOLD OUT)

[caption id="attachment_12148" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href=""><img class="size-medium wp-image-12148" alt="VCU fans will welcome SLU to the Siegel Center for the first time since the two teams met in the 2010 CBI finals." src="" width="300" height="200" /></a> VCU fans will welcome SLU to the Siegel Center for the first time since the two teams met in the 2010 CBI finals.[/caption]

Saint Louis comes to the Siegel Center for the first time since the 2010 CBI tournament finals. The atmosphere will be quite different however as the Rams will sellout their 49th consecutive contest in hosting the Atlantic 10's top team, a team that defeated VCU in a two-point win just two weeks ago. SLU is coming off their first loss of the season, a surprise seven-point home loss to A-10 cellar dweller, Duquesne, while VCU returns to Richmond after destroying Fordham in the Bronx.

VCU (21-7, 9-4)
SLU (25-3, 12-1)[/HEADING=3]

The Billikens come into tonight's game after having had a 19-game winning streak snapped by the unlikeliest of squads, losing to Duquesne University in the Dukes' fourth conference win of the season. Prior to that they had flirted with disaster on a number of occasions, eeking out two overtime wins against George Mason (3-10), defeating La Salle (5-8) at the buzzer and winning at Rhode Island (3-11) by a single point to start their Atlantic conference season. Yet behind a stout defense, they managed to win all of those games and defeated VCU in Chaifetz while also blowing out Richmond at home and Saint Joseph's on the road. Tonight's game will no doubt be their most daunting road challenge however, having faced no top-50 kenpom teams away from their home arena all this season. On the court the Billikens have buttered their bread with a shutdown defense all season, ranking fourth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They also check in at fourth in defending the long ball and have held opponents to 43.5% shooting inside the arc, good for 25th nationally. They haven't experienced the same success on offense but do shoot over 50% inside the arc -- 50.1% for a 107 national ranking. They have struggled to hit the long ball but as VCU discovered in their last meeting, have guys who can deliver the dagger when left open (see: Loe, Rob).

The Rams stumbled out of the gates in the first half against Fordham but managed to balloon a two-point halftime lead into a 19-point blowout in which the Rams rested their starters the majority of the second half as they cruised to victory. VCU struggled to hit shots early (34.5%, 14.3% from deep) but caught fire from deep in the second (9-15) while dominating Fordham on the glass, 19-7 to finish the game. That manic offensive personality has bitten VCU against the top of the conference in games this season, so some consistency on offense will work wonders for the Rams against Saint Louis tonight.  That consistency needs to start at the top, as VCU leading scorer Treveon Graham has shot under 40% in eight of VCU's 12 Atlantic 10 contests.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 76.2, SLU 70.9</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SLU 60, VCU 66.4</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SLU 49.8, VCU 47.8%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SLU 43.3%, VCU 47.9%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 35%, SLU 32.6%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SLU 28.4%, VCU 29.6%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.9, SLU 36.7</span>
Turnover Percentage Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 25.9%, SLU 21.5%</span>
Turnover Percentage Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 17.3%, SLU 18%</span>

Simple answer, but difficult to do against SLU: hit shots. VCU has the top scoring offense in the Atlantic 10 despite the fact they are the 12th worst shooting team in the conference. That stat explains both the potential and frustration of this team. When the Rams hit shots they are able to set up their press, and when the Rams set up their press "The Animal" (the new nickname for the Siegel Center) comes alive. If VCU hits shots there is not a team in this conference who can touch them, that's a fact. The A-10's top scoring team has limitless potential due to an effective field goal percentage (47.8%) that has plenty of room for growth. Problem is VCU's 28-game sample suggests those shots just aren't going to fall. If they do, we'll see the biggest March change since the Rams turned an awful February of 2011 into a magical Final 4 run just a month later.

The Billikens held VCU to just 38.5% shooting from the field but allowed the Rams a 16-shot advantage due to 17 SLU turnovers and 12  VCUoffensive rebounds. Jim Crewes' crew needs to hold on to the ball and not allow themselves to be effected by the usually effective VCU crowd. Once again, easier said than done, especially after a confidence shattering home loss to a conference bottom feeder in Duquesne. If SLU's senior dominated lineup (five senior starters) can weather that storm their defense combined with Jordair Jett's ability to score in the lane could give VCU their first home loss of the season.

PREDICTIONS[/HEADING=3] 69-65 VCU win with a 69% chance of victory.
Vegas: VCU 4.5-point favorite to win.

When: 6PM
Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center ("The Animal"), Richmond, VA.
Watch: ESPN2. 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>

This game is an official sold out GOLD OUT.​

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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