Meeting for the third time this season, rivals Richmond and VCU played in Friday’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinals with the winner advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round. And as was the case in the two regular season meetings the Rams controlled the flow of the game, racing out to a 16-point halftime lead in a game they would go on to win by the final score of 71-53.
VCU “only” forced 14 Richmond turnovers, five fewer than their average on the season, but the Rams made the Spiders pay for those mistakes. VCU scored 21 points off of those turnovers, and that along with their domination on the glass led to the comfortable margin of victory. VCU rebounded 47.6% of its missed shots with Mo Alie-Cox, Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic grabbing four offensive rebounds apiece, and those 20 offensive rebounds were converted into 22 second-chance points.
Briante Weber played just 18 minutes but still led three Rams in double figures with 18 points, and he was also one of the players given the task of harassing Richmond guard Kendall Anthony. Anthony, who scored 31 points in the first meeting between the two teams, scored just seven points on 2-for-15 shooting in Brooklyn. Next up for VCU is the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between George Washington and UMass.
Stony Brook hung around and, truth be told, outplayed Virginia Commonwealth in the first half of tonight’s game between the America East favorite and Atlantic-10 challenger.
Despite trailing 36-35 at the break, the Sealwolves controlled the pace of play and managed the game well with point guard Carson Puriefoy coming off the bench providing valuable minutes. They had 13 turnovers in the first half, but out-rebounded VCU 20-9. You can bet head coach Steve Pikiell was pleased with the effort.
Eventually, the havoc defense took its toll. It wore Stony Brook out, they had no answer for its relentlessness, and eventually succumbed to it by a final score of 81-63.
The Rams began the second half on a 22-4 run, all but putting the game away midway through the half. Stony Brook would never get within single-digits the rest of the way.
It was a challenge for Stony Brook to just get into their offensive sets, and even when they did, getting the ball inside to sophomore phenom Jameel Warney was a tall task. As active and tough as the Ram forwards are — particularly Juvonte Reddic — when Warney catches the ball on the low blocks, there aren’t many guys who have the ability to stop him; he’s that good. Warney finished with 12 points, four points below his season average.
It was an extremely balanced effort on the offensive end for VCU as five players scored in double figures, led by Treveon Graham with 20 points.
Perhaps most impressive, however, was Briante Weber’s stat line: 14 points, nine assists, and seven steals — the seven steals were a season-high.
This was a good test for the Rams to conclude the non-conference portion of their schedule. Stony Brook is solid, and has a good shot at finally earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their program history.
When VCU forces 20+ turnovers (21) and shoots better than 40% 3PT (well, 39.1% tonight), they are awfully tough to beat.
In a thrilling game down in Richmond, Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams outlasted a tough Eastern Kentucky team in overtime, beating the Colonels 71-68.
Treveon Graham led four players in double-figures with 15 points and Rob Brandenburg knocked down four threes, including a huge three to kick off the overtime period. That would be the only points scored in the extra frame until the final minutes, as both teams traded stifling defensive possessions and forced charges.
EKU is a good team. They’ll battle it out with Belmont — another team that gave VCU fits — for the Ohio Valley Conference title. But if VCU is really going to be a top 25 team, if they really are the favorite to win what’s shaping up to be a strong Atlantic 10, they shouldn’t be getting pushed to overtime at home by Eastern Kentucky. By anyone, really.
All things considered, the Rams haven’t been all that impressive early on this season. They got blown out by Florida State. They were beaten by Georgetown. They struggled against Long Beach State and they were down 12 in the second half against Belmont.
So what’s up with VCU?
Well, they still aren’t great defensively in the half court, but that kind of comes with the territory when you press as much as VCU does. They gamble that they’ll be able to get more steals than you’ll get layups, and that in the process they’ll wear you down. In fact, they’ve gotten better on that end of the floor now that they are a better defensive rebounding team.
Where VCU is hurting a bit this season is offensively. They’re turning the ball over more this year. They aren’t getting to the offensive glass as often. Without Troy Daniels on the floor, they don’t have a knock-down three-point shooter on the roster. They’re more reliant on their defense forcing turnovers, allowing them to score in transition. Last year, 18.2% of VCU’s offensive possessions came in transition. This season it’s 23.2%. Last year, they scored 0.900 PPP in the half court, in the 85th percentile nationally. This year, they’re scoring 0.848 PPP, a pretty significant drop off.*
The thinking in the preseason was that VCU may struggle with the new foul calls affecting their defense, but in reality it hasn’t.
Excuse the coach-speak, but who on this VCU team is a ‘bucket-getter’?
*(Stats via Synergy)
VCU uses 22-2 second half run to end Belmont’s 23-game home win streak
Entering Sunday the Belmont Bruins were the owners of the nation’s longest home court win streak, winning 23 straight games at the Curb Events Center. With No. 24 VCU being the first-ever ranked opponent to visit the arena, it was clear that the streak would be put to the test. And sure enough the Rams were able to use their advantage inside to pull away from Belmont, winning 81-68 with Juvonte Reddic leading four players in double figures with 18 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
Using their “havoc” defense VCU was able to force 21 Belmont turnovers, but at only a plus-8 in points off of turnovers (21-13) converting those opportunities isn’t where Shaka Smart’s team did its best work. The Rams were most effective in the paint, as they outscored Belmont 40-22 in the points in the paint category. VCU gained separation with a 22-2 second half run and the Rams were also more efficient during the game’s final 20 minutes, shooting 61.5% from the field (14-for-18 2PT) and scoring 1.19 points per possession.
The Rams scored 22 of their 40 paint points and three players scored at least nine points during the game’s final 20 minutes. Melvin Johnson and Treveon Graham, who’s come off the bench in each of the last two games (health reasons), scored 16 points apiece and freshman JeQuan Lewis added 12. Lewis’ output may be the biggest development going forward, especially when considering the offensive production the Rams tend to receive from Reddic, Johnson, Graham and guard Briante Weber.
Lewis entered Sunday averaging 3.9 points per game, going scoreless in two contests and reaching double figures just once (in a win over Winthrop). Against Belmont the freshman shot 4-for-7 from the field while also dishing out three assists, scoring nine of those points in the second half. If Lewis can build on his outing Sunday, that gives VCU a needed scoring option off the bench.
Would it be realistic to expect double figure outings from Lewis on a consistent basis? Not yet, and VCU doesn’t have to with the scoring options they already have. But the Rams do need something from those other reserves as they approach Atlantic 10 play, and if Lewis can step up VCU will be better for it.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.
The final installment of our Top 20 player rankings focuses on the big men, and for all the talk of college basketball being a “guard’s game” post presences are a necessity if a team’s going to win a national title. With NBA Draft eligibility rules being what they are, national champions more often than not have at least one elite big man. Some are bruisers who do the majority of their work inside, while others possess the ability to step out on the perimeter and score as well.
Here’s our list of the Top 20 big men in college basketball:
1. Julius Randle (Kentucky): The 6-foot-9 freshman has the build of a pro already, and the talent is there as well. Incredibly difficult to stop around the basket, Randle is also capable of knocking down perimeter shots. Given how difficult it is to match up with Randle, it’ll be interesting to see how John Calipari utilizes the most talented player on his star-studded roster.
2. Doug McDermott (Creighton): The senior forward, who averaged 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season, will be in the Big East and national Player of the Year discussions in his senior campaign. With range well out beyond the three-point line, McDermott shot 54.8% from the field and 49.0% from three in 2012-13.
3. Mitch McGary (Michigan): McGary’s (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) played his best basketball at the most important time of the year for the Wolverines, who reached the national title game for the first time since 1993. The 6-foot-10 big man averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 boards in the tournament.
4. Aaron Gordon (Arizona): Gordon’s an elite athlete who finishes above the rim with authority. If Gordon’s able to consistently knock down perimeter looks in addition to his ability to score inside, look out. The key? Gordon needs to embrace being a big man at the college level.
5. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville): Harrell, a role player for last season’s national champions, is expected to play a starring role for the Cardinals as a sophomore. Harrell (5.7, 3.6) is a very physical interior player, and he was dominant at times with the United States Under-19 team in this past summer’s World Championships.
6. Adreian Payne (Michigan State): Payne’s been a tantalizing player for much of his time in East Lansing, and he began to show signs of putting it all together during the latter portion of his junior season. Payne, who averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 boards per game last season, can also knock down perimeter shots when left open. Consistency is the key for Payne.
7. Isaiah Austin (Baylor): The 7-foot-1 Austin may be one of the most skilled players in the country, as he can handle the ball on the perimeter as well as score from just about anywhere on the floor. The question for Austin (13.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who’s healthy following offseason shoulder surgery, is whether or not he’s better equipped to handle physical play on a nightly basis in the Big 12.
8. Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee): Pound for pound one of the strongest players in America, Stokes averaged 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game without Jeronne Maymon (knee) available to help him out in the paint. With Maymon healthy, look for Stokes to be even better as a junior.
9. Cory Jefferson (Baylor): Jefferson went from being a role player to being an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Currently fifth in school history in blocked shots for a career (117), Jefferson (13.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg) shot 61% from the field as a redshirt junior.
10. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky): Cauley-Stein (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg) was one of the bright spots in what turned out to be a tough season for the Wildcats. An excellent athlete, the 7-foot big man was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection and he’s expected to play a starring role for Kentucky this season.
TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW
11. Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State): It can be argued that Nash should be listed with the wings, but his versatility allows the Cowboys to use him in a variety of ways. He’s already a handful off the dribble and on the block, but he needs to be a better shooter.
12. James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina): Anyone’s guess as to how long P.J. Hairston will be out of the lineup, but regardless of the shooter’s status, McAdoo needs to be a key figure for the Tar Heels this season.
13. Alex Kirk (New Mexico): A good argument could have been made for Kirk winning Mountain West Player of the Year last season over teammate Kendall Williams. Kirk posted averages of 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in 2012-13.
14. Jerrelle Benimon (Towson): The reigning CAA Player of the Year was outstanding for the Tigers in 2012-13, posting averages of 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
15. Joel Embiid (Kansas): Embiid’s received high praise from many and he’s yet to play a college game. A bit raw offensively, Embiid will likely do the majority of his damage on the defensive end to start the year.
16. Augustine Rubit (South Alabama): Rubit’s a bit underrated nationally, but the fact of the matter is that he was one of the nation’s most productive big men last season. The Sun Belt Player of the Year averaged 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds.
17. Dwight Powell (Stanford) : Powell’s expected to have a big year for the Cardinal after averaging 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Powell earned first team All-Pac-12 honors and was named the league’s Most Improved Player.
18. Juvonte Reddic (VCU): The last line of defense for the Rams, Reddic emerged as the Atlantic 10’s best big man in 2012-13, averaging 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
19. Akil Mitchell (Virginia): Tony Bennett’s big man is one of the most underrated players in the ACC. He averaged 13.1 points and 8.9 boards as a junior and should be a major part in Virginia’s push for an ACC title.
20. Ryan Anderson (Boston College): Anderson is a major reason that BC is expected to surprise a lot of people in the ACC. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.0 boards as a sophomore.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
The Atlantic 10 was not immune to conference realignment, as five teams have moved either in or out of the conference this season with a sixth team (Davidson) joining the A-10 for 2014-2015. The conference lost Butler after its one-year stint, as well as Charlotte, Temple and Xavier. For all the losses the conference still fields VCU — a top-25 team to start the season — and several teams that have expectations of going to the NCAA tournament, including La Salle, Saint Louis and UMass. The conference has a lot of momentum following a year that saw all five bids advance, and despite the losses of four programs, the Atlantic 10 has another promising season on the horizon.
IN: George Mason OUT: Butler, Charlotte, Temple, Xavier
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW:
1. Despite the losses, the league is still strong: The conference is down, but not out after losing two of the five teams that secured NCAA tournament bids last season. If you take the four departing schools out the equation, the Atlantic 10 still had five teams that finished in the RPI top 100 last season, and that’s before you take into account the expected improvement of Rhode Island, Dayton and George Washington.
3. UMass got their star back: UMass point guard Chaz Williams had a chance to skip his senior year and play in Turkey, though decided to return because of unfinished business both in the classroom and on the court. That’s enormous news for Derek Kellogg, as Williams is one of the best point guards in the country and a huge part of the Minutemen’s attack.
4. Guards. Lots and lots of guards: The back courts in this conference will be great to watch, especially the teams at the top of the league. We know about VCU’s guards and La Salle’s back court is no longer a secret thanks to their Sweet 16 run, and Williams is joined by Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon at UMass this year. Rhode Island, St. Joe’s, Dayton, St. Louis. There’s plenty of back court talent here.
5. The Atlantic 10 has its games on the NBC Sports Network this year: 25 regular season games can be seen on the NBC Sports Network. The full schedule of games can been seen here.
PRESEASON ATLANTIC 10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chaz Williams, UMass
Coming off another productive year, the senior point guard has one more shot at an NCAA tournament. He averaged 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game last season as a junior, and this year will have familiar pieces and new weapons to utilize. Cady Lalanne and Raphiael Putney return in the UMass front court and Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon is eligible after sitting out last season. Williams can not only grab player of the year honors, he can also advance UMass to the Big Dance for the first time since 1998.
THE REST OF THE ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM
Tyreek Duren, La Salle: Leading the La Salle perimeter attack this season after a junior campaign averaging 14.2 points a game
Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis: The senior forward helped the Billikens capture the A10 title with 14.0 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
Juvonte Reddic, VCU: Shaka Smart will look to Reddic to man the VCU frontline. The senior forward shot 57 percent from the field a season ago, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
Xavier Munford, Rhode Island: The Rams are looking to make the next step in the rebuilding process and Munford can help in his last season at URI. With Munford is the top scorer returning to the conference this season.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Isaiah Armwood, George Washington
Derrick Gordon, UMass
Treveon Graham, VCU
E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island
Tyrone Garland, La Salle
BREAKOUT STAR: Tyrone Garland, La Salle
Garland, who transferred into the program from Virginia Tech, was a lightening bolt for John Giannini’s team last season. His “Southwest Philly Floater” is the reason they made it to the second weekend of the Big Dance. But with Ramon Galloway gone and graduated, Garland’s role for the Explorers will have to expand. If they are going to make a push for the A-10 title, Garland will need to have a big season. We expect just that.
COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Derek Kellogg, UMass
Kellogg is under pressure this season, but he isn’t necessarily on the “hot seat”. Kellogg is now in his sixth season and is still looking to take his alma mater back to the NCAA tournament. UMass was on the wrong side of the bubble this year, but with the returners he has the Minutemen have realistic chances to be one of the 68 teams come March.
ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … The league lost Butler, Temple and Xavier and still got five teams into the tournament.
I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT: The guard play in the league. Seems like everyone has an all-conference caliber player in their back court.
FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:
1. VCU: Shaka Smart returns Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic, two all-conference caliber players. The Rams a couple pieces in their back court, but there is still plenty of depth on the roster. Point guard play, and the new hand-checking rules, will be the keys to their season. 2. UMass: Five A-10 teams received bids to the tournament last March, but the Minutemen were on the outside looking in. This season UMass has a favorable conference schedule — home games against La Salle, Saint Louis and VCU — which could help them finishing higher in the conference standings. 3. Saint Louis: The Billikens return leading scorer Dwayne Evans, as well as Mike McCall, Jordair Jett and Rob Loe, who were key components to Saint Louis’ top scoring defense in the A-10 a season ago. 4. La Salle: The Explorers made the deepest run in the tournament of any conference team last spring, but lost Ramon Galloway, the team’s leading scorer. Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland return to lead La Salle’s perimeter attack. 5. Richmond: Darien Brothers is gone, but the Spiders have the next three top scorers from a season ago back in the mix this year. 6. Rhode Island: Dan Hurley is still building up that URI program, and this is the season they can make the jump. The Rams add Gilvydas Biruta from Rutgers and have a freshman tandem of Hassan Martin and E.C. Matthews in the lineup this year to go along with Xavier Munford, who poured in 17. 4 a game in 2012-2013. 7. Dayton: Archie Miller’s team should improve even without Kevin Dillard. Matt Kavanaugh returns from suspension and Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford and Dyshawn Pierre all return as starters. 8. St. Joseph’s: Phil Martelli’s team finished 10th in the conference a season ago after being pegged as the preseason favorite. This year, three seniors — Langston Galloway, Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic — will lead the Hawks. 9. George Mason: The newcomers to the the conference returns a lot of talent from last year’s 22-win team, including Sherrod Wright. 10. George Washington: Eight freshmen or sophomores are on the roster. Isaiah Armwood provides a nice player inside, and Mo Creek joins the team from Indiana. 11. St. Bonaventure: Roster features a lot of newcomers to go along with seniors Charlon Kloof, Matthew Wright and Marquise Simmons and junior Youssou Ndoye, though none of them averaged double figures last year. 12. Fordham: Jon Severe, a three-star recruit and Rivals150 in the Class of 2013, should be fun to watch for Fordham. 13. Duquesne: Jim Ferry is still putting the pieces in to place, but does have Derrick Colter coming back after a strong freshman season in the Dukes’ back court.