RECON: @ VCU (11-6) Sunday, 3 p.m.
By: Jonathan May, Contributor
Date & Time: 1/24/16 3:00 PM
Records: VCU 14-5 (6-0), St. Bonaventure 12-5 (4-2)
Venue: Siegel Center, Richmond, VA
For a great overview of VCU, check out our Q and A with Michael Litos, the voice of VCU Basketball. The thing that sticks out about the VCU Rams is that they are led by somebody other than Shaka Smart. The new face of VCU Basketball is now Will Wade who was the former lead man at Chattanooga and had great success there. Wade has gotten the Rams back on track after starting this season at 5-5 (though they played a tough schedule). Smart and “HAVOC” may be gone but the threat of facing an elite opponent on their home court still remains for a reeling Bonnies squad. To get a read on the Rams as of late, VCU beat Duquesne on Wednesday by 22 to seal their 6th win in the A-10 so they’re rolling right now.
Last Time: February 7th, 2015. In what was a great game throughout, the contest is remembered for the final possession and the clutch hand of Marcus Posley who hit a second straight game winner at the buzzer to knock of 18th ranked VCU.
The Skinny on VCU: VCU has been known for their patented, “HAVOC,” defense but they are starting to surprise people offensively as well. Still, the defense is simply fantastic by any measure and metric. Michael Litos gives a pretty good take on the offense:
“This team is scrappy. They play inside-out. Mo Alie-Cox is a big part of the offense and has really learned how to pass out of the post and owns a jump hook. Alie-Cox will get some help from Hamdy. Yeah, just plain Hamdy. It’s weird, really, to see this team play offense. JeQuan Lewis has settled down into a role as a scoring point guard. VCU can win when he scores–29 points against Richmond and 19 at St. Joe’s–and it can win when he does not (two points at SLU and three points vs. Fordham). Korey Billbury is a velvet steamroller–a straightline driver to the hole, but shooting 40% from three. Oh, and there’s that Melvin Johnson guy, who is on pace to break the school record for career three pointers made and one of the best scorers in the conference.” -Michael Litos
The brighter the green, the better. The Rams are second in the nation in steal percentage and 4th in the nation in generating turnovers on the defensive end. Without a doubt, this will be the stiffest test the Bonnies guards will face all year. -screen grab from Kenpom.com
Screen grab courtesy of Bbstate.com
The Keys to Victory:
- I think first and foremost, Mark Schmidt has to continue the trend of not letting his teams dwell on past performances. Last Tuesday, the game was over at half. Yet, Schmidt needs to turn to the fact that Bonnies finished down only 6 points and fought back. Use that momentum, even though it was against a relaxed defensive front, to start out the game strong on the road. The Bonnies cannot come out flat again from the jump or VCU will pound them into the ground.
- The Bonnies have sealed some wins this season due to some clutch and frequent foul shooting. Free throws have been a vital part of the offense this year and to win on the road in the A-10, the Bonnies need to shoot well from the charity stripe and knock down three pointers. Both things that Litos says worries him about SBU.
- Flowing from key number two, the Bonnies need to get to the free throw line and get easy points, rather than relying on a hot scorer that the Bonnies have relied on many times this season. Also, it’s no surprise in college basketball but road teams often find themselves at a disadvantage from the line, let’s hope that trend doesn’t stay true and the game is called relatively evenly which could give Schmidt’s club a chance to steal one at the stripe.
The Gut Feeling: I wasn’t overly confident in the Bonnies holding serve against Dayton and Sunday doesn’t look promising either. The Siegel Center is not the RC and that alone is playing into VCU’s hands. The Bonnies lack of post size is starting to become a concern to me, just as it was back in September during prediction time. This 4 game stretch is as brutal as they come in the A10 and the Bonnies are feeling it in all phases. What could help is the weather, even though the game has been moved to Sunday. Downtown Richmond may not be very accessible for fans and the Siegel Center may not be at full capacity. Every little bit will help the Bonnies and if the place isn’t as loud as normal, that’s a plus. I know it’s a stretch but being able to communicate on the floor against a pressure defense could be a huge advantage to the Bonnies guards. Take out all the possible circumstances surrounding the game, VCU is simply a better team and have been during their recent winning streak. But, just as Duquesne fans feared they couldn’t have faced the Bonnies at a worse time, maybe SBU will stun the home Rams and pull off a huge upset. Ultimately, the Bonnies will bounce back from Tuesday and play inspired basketball but VCU will do enough to seal this one to go 7-0 in conference.
The Prediction: VCU 84, St. Bonaventure 73