Game Preview: VCU v St. Joe's - Senior Night [INSIDER]

A dominating performance on Tuesday night earned VCU their first ever outright Atlantic 10 regular season title, leaving tonight's Senior Night matchup against Saint Joseph's essentially a NCAA tournament seeding game. VCU has slowly climbed their way up the bracket (a 7 in CBS' latest bracketology and an 8 on ESPN), but a home loss against a tricky 13-17 Hawks team could do some damage to a VCU resume that has been simply perfect since Jan 26.
<h4>VCU (24-6, 15-2)
SAINT JOSEPH'S (13-17, 6-11)</h4>
Picked to finish second in this year's A-10 preseason poll, grabbing four first place votes in the process, it's fair to say the Hawks' season has been quite the major disappointment, even a disaster.

SJU came up just four points shy of defeating Rhode Island in last year's A-10 semis as the No.4 seed and with many talented returnees, carried high expectations into the year. Some key injuries combined with horrible shooting and a general lack of a defensive effort has dragged this team from a preseason contender down to simply attempting to avoid a bottom-4 finish and a Wednesday night game in Brooklyn.

Keeping true to their "good one year, terrible the next" pattern we've seen since the Rams joined the A-10 for the 2012-13 season, Phil Martelli's club appears to be on the down side of that rhythm, but have offered up just enough volatility to keep the attention of VCU heading into tonight's game.

Despite losing to the likes of sub-200s William &amp; Mary, UMass, La Salle and kenpom No.285 14, the Hawks have shown an ability to knock of talented teams as well, crushing ODU by 15, defeating Davidson and beating a SLU team VCU struggled with by 30 points.

You can chalk up a bit of that unpredictability to the Hawks dependance on the three.

SJU takes almost half of their attempts from long range, opting to shoot 45.2% of their shots from beyond the three-point line this year. The Hawks hit 47.6% of those attempts against ODU, 42.9% of their 28 threes in that blowout of SLU and a respectable 37% in a narrow win over Davidson, but just 17% in that loss to GW and play such a defense optional style (ranking 228th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and have the 11th-ranked A-10 defense, that the Hawks have managed to even blow games where they almost couldn't miss on offense, giving up 87 to William &amp; Mary in the loss and surrendering a 68.5% true shooting percentage to a UMass team that ranks 196th nationally in offensive efficiency.

In short, more often than not these dudes just haven't been able to put it all together.

Still, the Hawks posses enough talented players to upset a good team, getting 19 points per game out of talented sophomore, Charlie Brown, have returned Fresh Kimble (16 ppg) after missing most of A-10 play, have freshman Jared Bynum averaging double-digits and can get deadly minutes out of sophomore Taylor Funk, a 6'9 shooter having a down year after connecting on 39.4% of his threes as a freshman.

The Hawks are just 2-3 for their last five but have been competitive throughout, leading at Davidson at the half before falling late, fell to UMass thanks to a game-winning shot with 2.7 seconds remaining and lost by 1 point in overtime in an 86-85 home defeat at the hands of Rhode Island.

They are the definition of a trap game awaiting VCU on what will be an emotional senior night heading into next week's A-10 tournament in Brooklyn.
Avid game preview readers, I thank you for sticking with these things and with your dedication to the previews, I operate under the assumption you've got VCU's strengths, weaknesses and analytics virtually memorized via months of dedication to the team.

So a brief VCU breakdown for the newbies: VCU put together a solid enough non-conference showing that, combined with their A-10 regular season outright title, has them what APPEARS to be...comfortably in this year's NCAA tournament field. They did so with one of the nation's best defenses (currently ranked 5th nationally, but basically bounces around the 4-6 range) and an improving offense that, thanks to improved patience and shot selection (IMO), has the Rams the third ranked offense in Atlantic 10 play.

VCU's efficiency margin in the A-10 is currently +19.9, putting the Rams a good bit of the competition and with that, your favorite to win this year's Atlantic 10 tournament as well.

The Rams have one of just a handful of teams IN THE COUTRY to have led in the second half of every game they played and that includes a second half lead AT UVA, a team that will likely earn a No.1 seed heading into this year's NCAA tournament.

VCU is good, Mike Rhoades will be the A-10 Coach of the Year, but while goal No.1 (regular season championship) has been achieved, there is still much work to be done.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 71.4, SJU 70.4</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 61.1, SJU 72.2</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 50.6%, SJU 48.1%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 42.8%, SJU 51.8%</span>

3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SJU 32.5%, VCU 30.4%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 27.2%, SJU 36.2%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 54.1%, 47.5%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 43.8%, SJU 49.7%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 36.8, SJU 34.7</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SJU 13.4%, VCU 20.2%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 23.8%, SJU 15.7%</span>
<h4>VCU WINS IF</h4>
Again, over 45% of Saint Joseph's shots come from downtown. That offense will go up against a Rams D that ranks second nationally in three-point percentage defense. If VCU can keep SJU from catching fire from distance, as the stats suggest they should, that would bode well for the black and gold wrapping up a 16-2 A-10 season, something NO ONE thought was fathomable heading into the season, what would be the highest win percentage in conference play for any A-10 team since the schedule expanded to 18 games.

Get it done!

Kenpom: 75-59 VCU win with a 93% chance of a VCU Rams victory.

Game tips at 9PM 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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