HAVOC! 6.0 visits Fordham on Sunday at 1:00 PM as VCU sets out to win its first conference title since 2009.
What: VCU (10-3, 0-0) at Fordham (5-6, 0-0)
Where: Rose Hill Gym. Bronx, New York.
When: Sunday, January 4th at 1:00 PM.
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: Rams Radio
Coach Smart has been unquestionably successful at VCU over the last five-and-a-half seasons, but the glaring weakness on his resume is the absence of a conference title as a head coach. After three straight second place finishes, this season is Coach Smart’s most promising opportunity to get over the hump.
The quest begins Sunday with a visit to the Bronx to play Fordham. Winning the conference in the now expanded 18-game format will require at least 14 Ws, so every road game that can be stolen from bottom-dwellers is essential. The quest to contend is a battle of attrition, and the distinction of hanging a banner will be decided by who can steal a home game against another contender.
Conference play is when basketball takes it to another level. While the Atlantic 10 is “down” this season, George Washington, Rhode Island, Davidson, and Dayton are all teams capable of going dancing and ultimately doing damage in March. The next few months promise to be stuffed with quality basketball.
Fordham is still a work in progress for fifth year head coach Tom Pecora who is 39-91 since moving to the Bronx from Hofstra. While his rebuild is behind schedule, things may have taken a favorable turn this week. Jon Severe, who averaged 17.3 PPG as a freshman last season, rejoined the team on Friday after missing eight of the first eleven games. He’s a capable, but inefficient scorer, who will join a core of of Eric Paschall (15.8 PPG), Mandell Thomas (13.3 PPG), and Christian Sengfelder (12.3 PPG).
Despite the high individual scoring averages, the offense is still second worse in the Atlantic 10. Fordham ranks a HAVOC!-saliva-inducing 341st in offensive turnover percentage and 323rd in 3-point shooting percentage.
Defensively, the addition of 6-foot-6 freshman Eric Paschall has enabled the other Rams to play more man-to-man defense. Last season, the squad was forced to use a 2-3 zone because of the lack of size outside of 6-foot-8 Ryan Rhoomes and an inability to stop dribble penetration. The improvement could enable the Rams to win more than 10 games for the first time since 2008.
THE STAR: #1 Mandell Thomas
13.3 PPG (31-75 2PFG, 10-40 3PFG), 4.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Thomas may finish the season 3rd on the team in scoring, but he went off for 25 points including 5-of-10 3-point shooting against VCU last season in the Siegel Center on a night when the rest of his team failed to make anything happen. He followed it up with a team-high 14 points against the Rams in the Bronx. His 3-point shooting has been down this season, but confidence against a familiar opponent combined with VCU’s inability to defend the 3-point line makes defending him on the perimeter an imperative.
#0 Antwoine Anderson (PG, Freshman) • After starting five straight games, Anderson came off the bench against South Carolina State on NYE. He ranks 26th nationally in assist percentage, but turnovers and fouls have been an issue.
#4 Eric Paschall (G/F, Freshman) • He’s the Rams’ leading scorer at 15.8 PPG. His shooting numbers are respectable (53.8 eFG%), but he’s been plagued by turnovers all season.
#43 Christian Sengfelder (F, Freshman) • Pecora recruited size this offseason and Sengfelder has paid off. He’s an efficient scorer but he’s unquestionably a role player.
#30 Ryan Rhoomes (F, Junior) • He’s the lone meaningful upperclassman on a team that suddenly looks like it has promise for the future. His main responsibility as the biggest man on campus is rebounding and playing defense. He’s playing his role better than anyone else on the team.
#10 Jon Severe (G, Sophomore) • Severe finished last season as the fifth highest scoring freshman in the country with 17.6 PPG. After missing time due to a suspension and personal reasons, Severe rejoined the team Friday. It will be interesting to see his role on Sunday, but he adds desperately needed 3-point shooting.
KenPom picks VCU to win 76-63 with a 90% chance of victory.
- Location: Bronx, New York
- Enrollment: ~15,000
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series VCU leads 3-0.
- Last Meeting VCU won 85-66.