What to expect: #14 VCU at #24 UVA

It’s VCU’s most anticipated non-conference game of the season. The Rams fight the Cavaliers Tuesday night for Commonwealth bragging rights.

  • What: VCU (1-0, 0-0) at Virginia (1-0, 0-0)
  • Where: John Paul Jones Arena
  • When: Tuesday, November 12th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: ESPN2
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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The Rundown

Just a few months ago, Coach Shaka Smart and Coach Tony Bennett were both assistant coaches under Billy Donovan at the FIBA U19 World Championships where the USA won gold. Now the two young coach meet as opponents for the first time ever.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s game, there are sure to be some mentions of Coach Smart’s 2012 comments about the CAA and the ACC in Virginia. In case there’s any trash-talking, here are two things to remember:

  1. UVA lost to George Mason, Delaware, and ODU(!) last season.
  2. VCU is 7-3 in the last three NCAA Tournaments while UVA is 1-2 in the past decade.

Last season was a mixed bag for the Cavaliers. They beat Duke, UNC, Wisconsin, and Maryland twice, but went 0-3 against the CAA and lost to Wake Forest, Clemson, and Florida State. UVA was one of the first teams out of the NCAA Tournament last season, and the Cavaliers lost to Iowa in the third round of the NIT. Before losing to the Hawkeyes, the Cavaliers had won 19-straight home games.

Despite last season’s shortcomings, the Cavaliers find themselves in the preseason top-25–and with good reason. The Cavs return their top five scorers, and they have the leading returning scorer in the ACC in senior Joe Harris and the leading returning rebounder in the ACC in senior Akil Mitchell.

The Team

In an era when it seems like every team is trying to “get out and run,” Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers have played slow and methodically while also attracting plenty of top-100 recruits. What stands out about the Cavaliers is the size of their perimeter. Point guard Michael Brogdon is 6-foot-5, and their other two guards, Joe Harris and Justin Anderson, are both 6-foot-6.

Defensively, size will create some interesting match-ups for the Rams. Melvin Johnson and Rob Brandenberg guarding Joe Harris could cause headaches, but the Rams are so good at overcoming size with speed, length, and athleticism.

Offensively, the Cavaliers pass the ball more than Hickory High School after Gene Hackman gets mad in Hoosiers. Fans of VCU’s high-octane offense may find themselves wanting to catch a few Zs when UVA has the ball unless the Rams can speed up the Cavaliers. VCU needs to force the ball into the hands of secondary ball-handlers and shut down UVA’s passing lanes.

Defense is where the Cavaliers get things done. Friday, they held JMU to 14 first half points. According to KenPom.com, they had the 24th best defense in the nation last year. They force players into taking midrange shots, and they contest everything. They are extremely disciplined defensive rebounders, and they ranked 16th in defensive effective field-goal percentage. Every point VCU scores in transition will be one less point they need to score against UVA’s stingy man-to-man defense.

The clash of styles will be dramatic, and dictating tempo and style will be extremely important. When HAVOC! happens, it’s tough to beat the Rams, but HAVOC! needs to happen.

The Star: #12 Joe Harris

Anyone who watched UVA beat Duke last season knows what senior Joe Harris is capable of doing in JPJ Arena. Harris scored 35 points and grabbed seven rebounds while being the emotional leader of the Cavaliers. He’s great at catching and shooting, and he hit 77 3-pointers at 42.5% last season. His size will create issues in the half-court but he won’t dismantle the press with his ball-handling.

Supporting Cast

#15 Malcolm Brogdon (PG, Sophomore) • Brogdon is a major reason why this team has high expectations. A capable ball-handler with size, Brogdon missed last season, and he is primed to make an immediate contribution. He has a solid 3-point shot but it has yet to be seen if he has figured out his freshman turnover issues.

#1 Justin Anderson (G, Sophomore) • Anderson has the skills to be UVA’s breakout player this season. A 6-foot-6, 230-pound guard with some speed, Anderson’s presence could dictate Smart’s rotation because of his size.

#13 Anthony Gill (F, Sophomore) • A transfer from South Carolina, Gill led the Cavaliers in scoring against JMU. He finished with 13 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting, but the match-ups were in his favor. Terrance Shannon and Treveon Graham need to win the battle at the 4.

#25 Akil Mitchell (F, Senior)Juvonte Reddic spent time with Mitchell this summer at the LeBron James Skill Academy. He’s an excellent rebounder, especially on the defensive end, and he is efficient offensively. The Reddic-Mitchell matchup should be a highlight of the game.

#23 London Perrantes (PG, Freshman) • FRESHMAN POINTGUARD. Despite his age, Perrantes is capable of playing with poise, but the Rams need to capitalize when Brogdon heads to the bench.

#10 Mike Tobey (C, Sophomore) • The only Cavalier with an exceptional post game, Tobey scored an efficient 10 points in 18 minutes against JMU but didn’t grab a single defensive rebound.

The Prediction

Dictating style means everything in this game. If the Rams can speed up the Cavaliers and turn this into a track meet, VCU will probably win. If the Cavaliers can handle HAVOC!, run their offense, and keep VCU out of transition, then UVA will probably win.

The 2012-13 Rams probably wouldn’t have won this game, but the 2013-14 Rams have several new dimensions and several new gears. VCU wins by four.

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Virginia Profile

  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Enrollment: 21,186
  • Conference: ACC
  • All time series: UVA leads 10-1.
  • Last meeting: UVA 86-70. 11/13/98.


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Aaron Williams

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

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