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Guy, Jerome lead No. 4 Virginia over VCU, 57-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined to score 29 points as No. 4 Virginia held off Virginia Commonwealth 57-49 on Sunday.

Guy scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, while Jerome put up 11 of his 14 after the break.

Virginia (9-0) missed 13 of its first 15 shots after the break and VCU (7-3), coming off its road upset of Texas on Wednesday, led 37-36 midway through the second half.

Isaac Vann led the Rams with 10 points as VCU played its closest contest with Virginia since its 59-56 victory in 2013. Since then, the Cavaliers have won three straight.

Kihei Clark played with a cast on his injured left wrist but still started the game and logged 33 minutes, scoring nine points and dishing out four assists for Virginia.

BIG PICTURE

Coming off its upset of Texas and former coach Shaka Smart, VCU impressed again, sticking close to Virginia for much of the afternoon. While the Rams lost for the third straight time to the Cavaliers, this was the closest of those matchups. … Virginia struggled offensively, but its defense and two stars lifted it to what should be considered a quality win on its NCAA resume come March.

Wednesday’s Things To Know: Texas drops third straight, Amir Coffey shines for Minnesota and Fran Dunphy faces Villanova for final time

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There wasn’t a game between ranked opponents Wednesday evening, but the night wasn’t without drama or excitement. Any night in which  Zion Williamson throws an alley-oop off the backboard to R.J. Barrett is a good night. Here’s what else you need to know from Wednesday’s action.

TEXAS IN TROUBLE?

There weren’t exactly monumental expectations for Texas coming into this season. Still, with Kerwin Roach, Dylan Osetkowski, Matt Coleman and Jericho Sims all back, the idea was the Longhorns would be pretty good. At least good enough to keep mentions of Shaka Smart’s 50-50 record in three seasons in Austin to a minimum. That theory is being tested early.

Texas lost its third-consecutive game Wednesday, the second-straight at home to a mid-major, with Smart’s former program, VCU, outlasting the Longhorns 54-53 at the Erwin Center. The Longhorns lost to Michigan State, no shame there, to start this slide, but after a loss to Radford and now the Rams, both of whom ranked outside the KenPom top-100, there is a bit of reason for alarm.

The Longhorns’ shooting is abysmal with a 28.9 percent mark from 3-point range and an effective field goal percentage of 47. They’re giving up a ton of offensive rebounds with opponents grabbing 31.7 percent of their misses, a rather astounding number for a team giving Osetkowski, Sims and Jaxon Hayes big minutes in the frontcourt. It also seems like some frustration may be setting in:

 

Texas is playing good defense – KenPom has them at 11th in adjusted D – and there is plenty of time to get things right, but Purdue is looming Saturday so things may get uglier before they get better. And both Texas and Smart have to hope things do eventually get better.

 

AMIR COFFEY SHINES IN GOPHERS WIN ON EMOTIONAL NIGHT

Amir Coffey looked like a star in the making for Minnesota after a freshman season in which the 6-foot-8 Hopkins, Minn. native and son of a former Gopher averaged 12.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. However, a shoulder injury robbed him of the second half of his sophomore season, the second major injury of his career after he broke his leg and tore his ACL in high school. Given that, it was probably fair to wonder what type of player would return to Williams Arena.

The junior looked like a superstar Wednesday as he scored a career-high 32 points while tallying six rebounds and six assists as the Gophers erased a double-digit second-half deficit to beat No. 24 Nebraska, 85-78, in Minneapolis.

It was unquestionably a breakout game for Coffey, who had played well for much of the season to this point, but had produced nothing like this, topping a personal-best in the scoring department that he set as a freshman.

It was a major win for the Gophers, who were on the cusp of losing for the third time in four games and starting the Big Ten slate 0-2. It was especially important – and poignant – as Gopher guard Dupree McBrayer played while mourning the death of his mother, Tayra, who died Monday after a battle with cancer.

PHILLY FAREWELL

Temple has a full season to go, but there was a sort of finale Wednesday for coach Fran Dunphy, who is retiring at the end of the season. He coached his final game against Villanova, a 69-59 loss to rival Philadelphia school and reigning national champions.

The Owls haven’t beaten Jay Wright’s program since 2012, but neither has any other Big 5 team. Temple was the last to do it, exactly six years ago to the day.

Villanova seems to have righted the ship after a rocky couple days in November in which Michigan blasted them by 26 and Furman beat them by eight in OT with both games coming at home. SInce, they’ve won five-straight, including wins against Oklahoma State and Florida State on neutral courts. They’ve got St. Joe’s and Penn before a big showdown with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 15.

2018-19 Atlantic 10 Preview: Turnover at the top creates wide-open league race

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Atlantic 10 Conference.


Since sending a combined 11 teams to the NCAA tournament in 2013 and 2014, the Atlantic 10 has put just 12 combined teams into the tournament in the four years since.

In those four years, the league has been the target of more powerful conferences.

First, in realignment and expansion. More recently in pilfering head coaches like Shaka Smart, Archie Miller and, this offseason, Dan Hurley.

The conference was fortunate to get three teams into the Dance last year after a fluky A-10 tournament title run.

That mark may be difficult to repeat this year unless the top of the league exceed expectations.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Turnover at the top

Predicting the contenders of the A10 in recent years hasn’t been much of a chore with the likes of Rhode Island, VCU, St. Bonaventure and Dayton fixtures at the top. This year doesn’t promise the same continuity. Rhode Island is down four starters and a head coach, VCU is still finding footing in the wake of Shaka Smart and Will Wade’s departure, the Bonnies lost their backcourt and Dayton is rebuilding since the loss of Archie Miller. The top crop this year features some familiar names that look to be back on an upswing like St. Louis and George Mason along with traditional contenders St. Joseph’s and Davidson, but the league doesn’t have any heavyweights and may be without much depth either.

Travis Ford (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

2. Built Ford tough?

St. Louis has gone 29-37 overall and 15-21 in the two years since Travis Ford took the helm after eight years leading Oklahoma State, but this would seem to be the season when things could take a major leap forward. The Billikens are adding transfers Traimaine Isabell, Jr. (Missouri and Drexel) and Dion Wiley (Maryland) along with four-star recruit Carte’Are Gordon to a core that already included Javon Bess (all-A-10 defense), Hasahn French (all-A-10 rookie) and Jordan Goodwin (11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds).

Ford’s teams have always played defense, and he got the Billikens to buckle down on that end last year after struggling to do so in his debut season, but if St. Louis is going to win the A-10 and make some noise nationally, it’ll have to improve on offense. They went from being one of the worst offenses in the country in 2017 to merely poor last year based largely on hitting the offensive glass — a good idea when you’re one of the weakest shooting teams in the country. If the Billikens can hold the line defensively and make big a leap on the other end, they’ve got the talent to be quite good.

3. Davidson’s next star(s)

Every sweet-shooting guard Davidson ever has, from now until eternity, will likely have the unfortunate fate of being compared, or at least mentioned in relation to, Steph Curry. Such is life when an under-the-radar recruit evolves into a transformational, generational player under your watch. Fair or not, expect to hear plenty of Curry talk when it comes to sophomore Kellan Grady. The 6-foot-5 guard shot 37.2 percent from 3-point range and had a true-shooting percentage of 61.1 percent while scoring 18 points per game.

Grady, obviously, isn’t Curry, but he’s a damn good player with a potential NBA future. Before that, though, he’ll be tasked with helping get Davidson back to a second-straight NCAA tournament and compete for its first league title since 2015. He won’t be doing it alone, though, as Jon Axel Gudmundsson is back after a sophomore campaign in which he shot 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. They’ll both need to be at their best to replace Peyton Aldridge and the 21 points he scored every night.

4. Rhode Island rebuild

Dan Hurley took Rhode Island from eight wins in his first season of 2012-13 to a combined 51 wins and two NCAA tournaments the last two years. Now, though, he’s gone, off to Connecticut to try to return the Huskies to prominence, and so, too, are four starters off last year’s squad. Rhode Island bet on itself when finding Hurley’s replacement, promoting David Cox, who spent four years on Hurley’s staff (including two as associate head coach), to the first chair.

Cox also helped preside over a recruiting class that will be carrying a heavy load, but is well-regarded. It’s highlighted by top-100 forward Jermaine Harris and three-stars Dana Tate and Tyrese Martin. Returning guard Jeff Dowtin should help lead the way after averaging just under 10 points per game as a role player and lone returning starter, but the Rams have quite a bit of work ahead of them replacing the likes of Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews.

Phil Martelli (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

5. How high can healthy Hawks fly?

St. Joseph’s finished the year on a tear, winning seven of its last nine games and nearly upending Rhode Island in the A10 tournament. That, along with a fourth-place finish in the regular season standings, is an admirable season, but one in which the Hawks couldn’t have helped but wonder what might had been if Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown, who combined to play one game last season, had been healthy.

Both are now back to a team that sustained minimal losses from a season ago. Kimble, who broke his foot one game into the season, averaged 15.5 points per game as sophomore wile Brown put up 12.8 as a freshman before a broken wrist robbed him of 2017-18. Their return along with four starters, including Taylor Funk (11.8 ppg), means St. Joe’s has championship aspirations and eyes on its third NCAA tournament in six years.

PRESEASON ATLANTIC 10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: KELLAN GRADY, Davidson

So now that we’ve previously established that Kellan Grady is not, in fact, Stephen Curry, let’s talk about what exactly he is.

Grady was a fringe top-100 recruit in the 2017 class, and picked Davidson over other A10 programs and more than a handful Power 5 offers. The decision to follow in his idol’s footsteps – the Boston native picked up NBA league pass as an 11-year-old to follow Curry’s rookie season – paid off in a major way during his own rookie campaign. He went for more than 20 in his first two games (hitting seven 3s in his debut), erupted for 30 on Christmas Day against Akron and then 39 in a three-OT thriller against St. Bonaventure. He did all that while playing aside A10 player of the year Peyton Aldridge, who, while being an excellent player, took 30 percent of Davidson’s shots while on the floor. His departure means more looks for Grady. That could mean that Grady’s stay at Davidson is one year shorter than Curry himself.

THE REST OF THE ATLANTIC 10 FIRST TEAM

  • JOSH CUNNINGHAM, Dayton: A former top-150 recruit who began his career at Bradley, blossomed in his junior year, averaging 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 64.6 percent from the floor.
  • OTIS LIVINGSTON, George Mason: The 5-foot-11 point guard from New Jersey put up 17.3 points per game last year for the Patriots.
  • LUWANE PIPKINS, UMass: The Minuteman went from 10.2 ppg as a freshman to 21.2 ppg as a sophomore thanks in large part to shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range.
  • JAVON BESS, St. Louis: The Michigan State transfer emerged as a major contributor last year and could be even better with an improved team around him.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • JEFF DOWTIN, Rhode Island
  • CHARLIE BROWN, St. Joseph’s
  • CARTE’ARE GORDON, St. Louis
  • JON AXEL GUDMUNDSSON, Davidson
  • GRANT GOLDEN, Richmond
Josh Cunningham (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

BREAKOUT STAR

Carte’Are Gordon is the rare top-75 recruit to call the A-10 home, which makes him interesting enough, but Gordon’s ability to do stuff like render a backboard to mere smithereens means there’s a decent chance your Twitter feed features a healthy helping of Gordon highlights, especially if St. Louis is the class of the conference.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE

Fordham isn’t exactly a traditional power or a program with exactingly high hoops standards, but the Rams have gone in the wrong direction the last two years under Jeff Neubauer. He posted a 17-win season after taking over for Tom Pecora, who had five-straight losing seasons, in 2016, but the Rams regressed to 13 wins in 2017 and down to nine last year. The recipe for improvement – unless you’re at Duke or Kentucky, which is decidedly not the case here – does not include eight freshmen on the roster, as Neubauer has this season.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

The Atlantic 10’s trouble continued without strength beyond the top, limiting it to three NCAA tournament teams if all goes well.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …

While the league may not have its historical depth, there’s plenty interesting with St. Louis, George Mason, St. Joe’s and others, but the excitement the A10 generates this year is going to come from Kellan Grady. He’s a potential superstar.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • Dec. 22, St. Louis vs. Florida State
  • Dec. 29, George Mason vs. Kansas State
  • Dec. 8, St. Joseph’s vs. Villanova
  • Dec. 29, Davidson vs. North Carolina
  • Dec. 8, Dayton vs. Auburn
Otis Livingston II (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

PREDICTED FINISH

1. ST. LOUIS: Year 3 under Travis Ford should bring the level of success the Billikens were hoping for when they became Ford’s post-Oklahoma State landing spot. With a solid group of returners meshing with talented newcomers, St. Louis should be the class of the Atlantic 10.

2. ST. JOSEPH’S: Phil Martelli’s group was competitive last year despite losing two of its top players for essentially the entire season. WIth Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown back and healthy, however, the Hawks should be in position to be more than a fly in the ointment – they should be among the A10’s best.

3. DAVIDSON: Replacing A10 player of the year Peyton Aldridge is no easy task, but coach Bob McKillop has a potential first-round draft pick in Kellan Grady, but also dynamic backcourt mates Jon Axel Gudmundsson and KiShawn Pritchett. There are frontcourt questions, but none loud enough to doubt the Wildcats much.

4. GEORGE MASON: Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer (son of former NBA player Jeff) give the Patriotsa significant one-two scoring punch and Virginia transfer Jarred Reuter could help solidify a defense that struggled.

5. UMASS: It was a struggle for Matt McCall’s team in his first season in Amherst, but things are looking up in Year 2. Luwane Pipkins can get buckets with the best of them, but the Minutemen will need to clean up the defense to really make an A10 run.

6. ST. BONAVENTURE: The Bonnies won 13-straight to end the regular season and get an at-large bid before knocking off UCLA in the First Four last year, but the losses of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley means they’re due for a step back this season.

7. RICHMOND: The Spiders limped to the finish line last year, dismissed second-leading scorer De’Monte Buckingham and lost Khwan Fore to Louisville, but Grant Golden should be one of the best in the conference and keep the Spiders competitive.

Mike Rhoades (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

8. VCU: Star guard Marcus Evans suffered a second Achilles tear this summer, but is still hopeful to play this season. With his health in doubt, however, the Rams could be in for bumpy ride in Mike Rhoades’ second season.

9. DAYTON: Josh Cunningham leads a group of four returning starters that should make things better for Anthony Grant in his second season with the Flyers, though frontcourt issues could hold them back.

10. RHODE ISLAND: The Rams welcome a solid recruiting class and David Cox represents stability on the coaching staff, but Rhode Island’s losses are simply too much to suffer without ensuing struggles.

11. DUQUESNE: Keith Dambrot is counting on five Division I transfers to get things off the ground in his second season in Pittsburgh after a 13-year run at his alma mater Akron.

12. GEORGE WASHINGTON: Yuta Watanabe exhausting his eligibility would have been a tough blow by itself, but Jair Bolden transferring to South Carolina makes this an especially tough hill to climb for coach Maurice Joseph in Year 3.

13. LA SALLE: Ashley Howard had heaps of success across town on Jay Wright’s national championship staff, but he’s got a significant rebuild job ahead of him with the Explorers.

14. FORDHAM: Joseph Chartouny transferring to Marquette was a huge loss that will loom large for a Rams team that struggled mightily last year.

VCU’s Marcus Evans suffers second Achilles injury

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VCU’s Marcus Evans has suffered another Achilles injury.

A year after tearing his left Achilles, the junior guard suffered a tear of his right Achilles while playing pickup basketball last week, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The severity of the injury is unknown, but Evans is undergoing a surgical procedure Monday.

“We won’t know until after the surgery, because some are quicker than others,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades told the Times-Dispatch. “Others take longer.”

Evans played his first two seasons under Rhoades at Rice before joining him at VCU. With the Owls, Evans averaged 21.6 points as a freshman and 19.0 points per game as a sophomore. He also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

“He has experience from dealing with the last one, so that will help him jump right into rehabbing it,” Rhoades said. “And he’s a determined young man, and he’s being tested again. But I know he’s a tough kid, and he’ll rehab really hard and get back when he’s ready.”

Evans was cleared to practice about five months after his injury a year ago, making VCU hopeful he can he can get on the floor this season.

“The one thing is guys are going to get a lot of reps this summer handling the basketball,” Rhoades said. “And then when Marcus comes back I think it’s only going to help us.”

“Unebelievable is Believable Here” — A documentary of VCU’s run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament

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They almost didn’t make it.

After losing to Old Dominion in the CAA tournament and sitting at 23-11, it looked like Virginia Commonwealth would be on the outside looking in of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Many of the college basketball pundits didn’t give them a shot of attaining an at-large bid. The Rams, who were one of the final teams to make the field of 68, were relegated to the First Four in Dayton. They soundly beat USC in Dayton on Wednesday, then headed off to the United Center in Chicago to take on the No. 6 seed Georgetown.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“Unbelievable is Believable Here” is a documentary written and directed by Philip Wall, which chronicles VCU’s magical run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

From the film’s website:

An official selection of the 2014 Richmond International Film Festival, this feature documentary (94 minutes) follows the journey of the 2010 – 2011 VCU Rams’ basketball team through their historic and improbable NCAA Tournament run. Featuring behind the scenes footage and exclusive interviews, this feature-length documentary takes an in-depth look at the team and their trip to the Final Four.

This film has not yet been released. For those who fell in love with that Ram team — every  college basketball fan should raise their hand because we all did — this film looks like a must see. Below is the official trailer.

Late Night Snacks: Baylor, George Washington, and VCU close out the non-conference with convincing wins

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IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) George Washington 73, Georgia 55 — In their final game of the non-conference, the Colonials bounced back from a loss against Kansas State to handily beat Georgia. GW moves to 12-2 with the win, and have an impressive resume with wins against Manhattan, Miami (FL), Creighton, Maryland, and Boston University. It’s the best start to the season since 2005-06 when they went 26-1 in the regular season. The Atlantic-10 is wide open this season, so continuing to build the resume is of importance for GW.

2) Baylor 80 , Savannah State 50 — Taurean Prince came off the bench to lead Baylor with 15 points. Assuming nothing crazy happens over the rest of the weekend, the Bears should remain in the Top 10 in next week’s AP Poll.

3) Southern Mississippi 66, Drexel 49 — Drexel is feeling the adverse side effects of playing without Damion Lee. The Dragons, after beginning 7-2 with impressive showings in losses against UCLA and Arizona, have dropped three of their last four games to conclude the non-conference play with an 8-5 record. Considering conference realignment poached some of the CAA’s top teams, Drexel still figures to challenge for the league title. Southern Miss, meanwhile, enters Conference USA play with a 13-2 record. They and Louisiana Tech are the favorites to win the league. 

STARRED

1) Mount St. Mary’s had perhaps the shooting performance of the season. Usually, when a team has a higher 3PT% than a FT%, they have shot the ball well. In tonight’s 104-84 win over a solid Norfolk State team, The Mount went 18-25 3PT (72%) and 16-23 FT (69.6%). Coming off the bench, freshman Will Miller was a perfect 5-5 from distance for 15 points in just 11 minutes.

2) South Carolina was hardly stellar tonight against South Carolina State in an 82-75 win, but the win pushes the Gamecocks to above .500 for the non-conference. Once sitting at 2-5, they have rattled off five wins in their past six games — three of them being good ones: Akron (2x) and St. Mary’s. Brenton Williams led the way tonight with 19 points on just seven shots.

3) Briante Weber was a menace tonight in Virginia Commonwealth’s win over Stony Brook as he forced seven turnovers, while dishing out nine assists. Just vintage VCU kind of stuff.

STRUGGLED

1) Stony Brook guard Anthony Jackson struggled against Virginia Commonwealth’s defense, as many guards tend to do. In an 81-63 loss, Jackson shot 2-8 and committed six turnovers to just one assist.

2) Bethune-Cookman players not named Clemmye Owens had a night they’d like to forget. Owens was 7-16 FG and 5-11 3PT, accounting for 19 of Bethune-Cookman’s 51 points in a 14 point loss to Northern Illinois. Aside from Owens, B-C shot 9-38 (24%).

3) Georgia concludes their non-conference schedule losing to George Washington, and falling to an even 6-6 on the season, despite playing an extremely weak schedule. It was an ugly offensive output by the Bulldogs as they had just four assists on 23 buckets, and turned the ball over 20 times.