What to expect: under-the-radar UMass visits VCU

VCU hosts an under-the-radar Massachusetts on Thursday, January 14th at 9:00 PM in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

VCU-UMass-Front
  • What: VCU (19-5, 7-2) vs. Massachusetts (16-6, 6-3)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Thursday, February 14th at 9:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Virginia Commonwealth University hosts an under-the-radar Massachusetts on Thursday, January 14th at 9:00 PM in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

The Rundown

Thursday is the beginning of the final month of the regular season. For the first place VCU Rams, it promises to be quite an adventure. The Rams’ final seven opponents are all ranked in the top-100 of Ken Pomeroy’s ratings–the only other time that has happened was during VCU’s run to the Final Four. Here’s what the back end of the Rams’ Atlantic 10 schedule looks like:

Date Opponent Record (Conference) RPI BPI KenPom
2/14 vs. UMass 16-6 (6-3) 51 91 87
2/16 vs. GWU 11-11 (5-4) 119 110 83
2/19 @St. Louis 18-5 (7-2) 55 40 36
2/23 @Xavier 14-9 (7-3) 82 82 88
3/2 vs. Butler 20-5 (7-3) 15 43 37
3/6 vs. Richmond 15-11 (4-6) 77 107 93
3/10 @ Temple 16-7 (5-4) 41 57 77
    109-53 (41-24) 63 76 72

The Team

After making the semifinals of the 2012 NIT Tournament, Massachusetts has had a successful, but under-the-radar, 2013 campaign. Head coach Derek Kellogg returns most of the firepower from that experienced and highly athletic roster.

That experience and firepower is immediately obvious when the Minutemen get into transition. Their forwards use speed and length to get to the rim while floor general Chaz Williams dishes with accuracy and anticipation that borders telepathy.

They play the fastest tempo in the A-10. VCU also enjoys playing uptempo which was a big topic for Coach Shaka Smart:

“Well it will be interesting. It will make for a fast paced game and a game with a lot of transition plays. Both teams like to press. Both teams like to get out in transition. UMass has a terrific group of guys that can make shots. When we’re at our best, we have a lot of guys that can make shots so it will be interesting just to see how the styles of play fit together.”

Defensively, the Minutemen are willing to extend 90 feet in order to push tempo and force turnovers. Typically, pressing teams don’t like to be pressed. Expect both teams to feel uncomfortable on offense at times when they get a little taste of their own medicine. While the “nuts and bolts” of the two team’s styles differ, Thursday should be a highly entertaining battle between two teams that like to get up and down, and score.

The Star: #3 Chaz Williams

36 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 7.1 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2 SPG

Chaz Williams may very well be the best point guard in the A-10. He leads the league and is ranked 11th nationally in assists while also leading the Minutemen in scoring at 16.1 PPG. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, he is lightning quick and brilliant in transition. He can pass and score going full speed, and he is the team’s most capable 3-point shooter. Containing the junior point guard is a must if the Rams hope to win on Thursday.

Bonus fact: Williams played his freshman season at Hofstra. Despite averaging 31.7 MPG, he did not play against VCU. It was the only game he missed all season.

Supporting Cast

#23 Freddie Riley (SG, Senior) • Riley’s importance skyrocketed after junior shooting guard Jesse Morgan went down with an injury: the Minutemen need additional scoring options. When Riley delivers, UMass is a much better team.

#33 Terrell Vinson (F, Senior) • Vinson is Part 1 of the Minutemen’s dynamic duo of forwards. At 6-foot-7 he is a great defender in the half court, but he is quick enough for full court pressure. He’s a good 3-pointer shooter, efficient scorer, and he will be a handful for Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels.

#34 Raphiael Putney (F, Junior) • Putney is Part 2 of that duo. While he isn’t putting up the same gaudy stats, Putney is a quality stretch 4/5. He can defend the paint and he is a great rebounder, but he’s also capable of hitting 3-pointers.

#25 Cady Lalanne (F, Sophomore) • The Minutemen’s biggest player, Lalanne doesn’t fit their uptempo mold, but he offers a different dimension. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, and he will force Juvonte Reddic to be creative on offense.

The Prediction

Massachusetts is not designed like the teams that have beaten VCU this season. In addition to being on the road, the Minutemen will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to style. KenPom picks VCU to win 68-61 with an 86% chance of victory.

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Massachusetts Profile

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Enrollment: 27,269
  • All time series: N/A
  • Last meeting: N/A

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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