Will Wade

Virginia Commonwealth's Mo Alie-Cox holds up his uniform in front of the Saint Joseph's student section as Saint Joseph's Isaiah Miles, right, walks off the court following an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Philadelphia. VCU won 85-82. (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: VCU looks to retain grip on A-10’s top spot

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: VCU at Davidson, 6:00 p.m.

There were questions as to how VCU would adjust to life under new head coach Will Wade, and at this point in the season it’s fair to say that the Rams have been just fine. VCU is 7-0 in Atlantic 10 play, and while they’ve been solid defensively throughout the season the Rams have also been the A-10’s most efficient offensive team in league play. They’ll face a significant test in the form of Davidson and its high-scoring guard Jack Gibbs, who scored 40 points or more in three games this season, but the triumvirate of Melvin Johnson, JeQuan Lewis and Korey Billbury has been very productive for the Rams. A win at Davidson keeps VCU in sole possession of first place, with Dayton currently 7-1 and Saint Joseph’s 6-1.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Wright State at Oakland, 8:00 p.m.

Valparaiso has company atop the Horizon League standings, as Billy Donlon’s Raiders are 7-1 in conference games and have won ten of their last 11 games. Friday night they visit one of the nation’s most electrifying guards in junior Kay Felder, whose ability to both score and distribute the basketball makes him a tough matchup for any opponent the Golden Grizzlies encounter. But the key for Oakland will likely be their ability to defend, as Wright State has four players averaging at least 9.6 points per game led by sophomore guard Mark Alstork (12.2 ppg). The Raiders aren’t a prolific scoring team, but their ability to defend makes it imperative that Oakland get stops at a higher rate than it has thus far.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. The final weekend in January bring about the start of Ivy League back-to-backs, with tonight’s schedule including Harvard hosting Cornell. The Crimson have won the last three league titles, and with Columbia and Yale both off to 2-0 starts not losing any more ground is important for Tommy Amaker’s team (1-1 in Ivy League play).

2. One of the northeast’s best rivalries will have its latest installment, as Manhattan visits Iona. The Gaels (7-3 MAAC) are tied for second with Siena, a game behind first-place Monmouth, with the Jaspers a game back in the loss column at 5-4. With A.J. English leading the way one would expect Iona to take care of business due to their offensive firepower, but these match-ups tend to be close affairs.

3. Another key matchup in the Horizon League is Green Bay’s game at rival Milwaukee, with both sporting 5-3 records in league play. The Panthers, who have been the Horizon League’s most efficient offensive team in league play, have five players averaging double figures led by senior forward Matt Tiby (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg).

4. Kent State looks to remain atop the MAC East standings as they visit Ohio, with the Bobcats having won two of their last three. The teams have already met once this season, with Xavier Pollard scoring 23 points and Kellon Thomas 20 in the Golden Flashes’ 89-82 win January 16. In conference games only Northern Illinois has been better than Rob Senderoff’s team when it comes to defensive efficiency.

5. Penn looks to avoid an 0-2 start in Ivy League play as they visit undefeated Yale. James Jones’ Bulldogs, who have won six straight games, have a very good guard in leading scorer in Makai Mason and their front court tandem of Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears combines to average 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.

VCU pulls in four-star 2016 wing De’Riante Jenkins

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VCU and new head coach Will Wade landed a huge commitment on Saturday as four-star wing De’Riante Jenkins decided to close things out. The 6-foot-5 Jenkins had cut his list to seven schools earlier in the week and canceled upcoming official visits to Rutgers and Clemson to pledge to the Rams.

Regarded as the No. 61 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Jenkins is a long and athletic wing who is a good passer and he can also handle the ball a bit. Jenkins is the first commitment for VCU in the Class of 2016 and his decision is incredibly important because it shows that the Rams can still pull in top-100 players without Shaka Smart. A nice system fit for VCU, Jenkins should thrive getting up and down the floor for the Rams.

This spring and summer with the Upward Stars in the adidas Gauntlet, Jenkins averaged 16.1 points and 5 rebounds per game in 10 contests. Jenkins shot 49 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free-throw line.

VCU lands former Minnesota commit, three-star power forward Jonathan Nwankwo

Will Wade (AP Photo)
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Jonathan Nwankwo, a former Minnesota signee, committed to VCU on Friday night.

The commitment was reported by both Evan Daniels of Scout.com and Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com.

The 6-foot-9 Nwankwo received his release from his National Letter of Intent on May 18. He becomes the second pledge in as many days for new VCU coach Will Wade. On Thursday, former St. John’s commit Samir Doughty picked the Rams.

The two join Gerron Scissum, JuCo transfer Ahmed Hamdy Mohamed and Oral Roberts graduate transfer Korey Billbury (eligible immediately) in VCU’s incoming class.

It’s been an interesting offseason for these two programs. After Shaka Smart left for Texas, VCU signee Jordan Murphy, a three-star small forward, got his release and committed to to the Golden Gophers in mid-May. Three weeks later, the opposite occurs, as the ex-Minnesota pledge lands with the Atlantic 10 program.

Nwankwo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals.