The second annual Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic will be played at the Richmond Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, with the doubleheader matching four of Virginia’s 14 Division I men’s basketball programs. In the opener Hampton takes on James Madison, with the Dukes looking to round into shape after winning the CAA tournament and making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993.
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At 3-9 on the season Matt Brady’s team has struggled due to factors such as Andre Nation’s 15-game suspension and the fact that they’re averaging less than a point per possession (0.95). In the Pirates, JMU will face a team that has also had issues when it comes to offensive efficiency. However, with senior forward Du’Vaughn Maxwell and sophomore guard Deron Powers leading the way offensively Hampton’s (5-6) been able to do enough defensively to compete on most nights.
The nightcap is the game that will receive most of the attention however, with the hometown team (VCU) looking for a sweep of the Commonwealth’s ACC schools when they take on Virginia Tech. With the new legislation regarding contact some have assumed that Shaka Smart’s team would have a difficult time adjusting defensively given how active their “HAVOC” system is. But that hasn’t been the case, as VCU’s averaging 20.2 fouls per game (up from 19.7 last season) and they still rank 32nd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (45th last season) and first in forced turnover percentage per Ken Pomeroy.
Offensively VCU’s still a work in progress, with newcomers and players who may not have enjoyed prominent roles last season looking to mesh with established veterans such as Treveon Graham, Briante Weber and Juvonte Reddic. The Rams will look to take the next step against a Virginia Tech squad that’s 7-3 and can use every win they can get prior to the start of ACC play. Jarell Eddie leads three Hokies in double figures with an average of 19.3 points per game, and the obvious key for Virginia Tech on Saturday will be their turnover count.
Naturally that number (Virginia Tech averages just over 13 turnovers/game) will rise some against a team like VCU, but how much that figure rises and the kind of turnover that is committed will have a major impact on the outcome. Dead-ball turnovers, while unfortunate, are a much better outcome for Virginia Tech than the live-ball turnover that VCU has been known to feast off of. Virginia Tech doesn’t do a good job of forcing turnovers itself (346th in forced turnover percentage), making this area one of huge importance.
The doubleheader, in addition to providing area fans with some quality entertainment, will also serve as a fundraiser for the state’s food banks. Last season the Classic raised nearly $50,000, with the funds being divided amongst seven food banks. So while two teams will leave the Richmond Coliseum with wins, even more will benefit from the action.