What to expect: Smart one win away from career-best start

HAVOC! underperformed expectations early in the season, but after a lot of growth and a transformative week, VCU is one win away from its best start since 2007.

  • What: VCU (16-4, 4-1) vs. Fordham (8-11, 1-5)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Wednesday, January 29th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS 6.3
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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After impressive wins on the road against Dayton and La Salle, Virginia Commonwealth University hosts Fordham on Wednesday in the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

The Rundown

It’s tough to remember when the collective psyche of VCU fans hit rock bottom. Was it during the Rams’ dismantling at the hands of Florida State that VCU fans could only follow intermittently thanks to weather? Was it the unwatchable 61 foul whistle-fest three days later against Georgetown? Was it an inexplicable snowy loss to Northern Iowa?

Don’t look now, but the Rams are one win away from their best start since 2007. A win on Wednesday will push the Rams to 17-4 which is the best record at VCU since the Rams started 19-3 en route to a CAA Title and a win over Duke–only this season the Rams’ SOS ranks 60th compared to 142nd in 2007.

Forget top-25 rankings and unreasonable 2nd week expectations, VCU turned a corner this week and coaches around the A-10 have many more reasons to fear the Rams now than they did around Christmas time.

The Rams still have flaws but they made huge progress in patching up the two biggest wholes in the armor that is HAVOC!: an inability to score in the half-court1 and a dearth of leadership/seniors (Juvonte Reddic is back & Rob Brandenberg made three of the most important plays of the game on Saturday).

While it is tough to remember the bottom, Ram fans are probably feeling pretty good about HAVOC! right now. It’s time for VCU to continue getting better, avoid their annual tradition of losing back-to-back conference games, and take care of business in their next three games–all of which are at home. Taking care of business starts Wednesday in a nothing-to-gain, everything-to-lose (in terms of rankings and seedings) game against Fordham.

The Team

Like many teams in the A-10 basement, Fordham has a solid offense and talented guards. Two teams have scored more than 67 points against #2 Syracuse this season: California (81) and Fordham (74). They aren’t shooting the ball well, but they rank 38th in offensive turnover percentage and 71st in offensive rebounding. The backcourt tandem of Branden Frazier and Jon Severe is equipped to handle HAVOC!, but Fordham’s two leading scorers looked lost against 40 minutes of full-court pressure from Massachusetts on Sunday in a 90-52 rout. Hopefully HAVOC! can give Fordham as many problems.

Fordham ranks 341st in effective height which is abysmal for a prestigious conference like the Atlantic 10. Recently they’ve been starting a lineup with players that are: 5-foot-9, 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-3, and 6-foot-8. Their lack of size forces them to play a 2-3 zone and they struggle keeping teams out of the lane. Treveon Graham and Briante Weber have abused teams off the dribble recently, expect plenty more on Wednesday.

Until Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of Massachusetts, the (Fordham) Rams did an incredible job keeping most games extremely close. They took Richmond to overtime, lost by 12 to Dayton, 6 to Duqeusne, beat George Mason in Fairfax, and even beat Manhattan. VCU can’t overlook Fordham, but the way VCU has been playing and the way Fordham has been playing, hope to see at least four 3-point attempts from Doug Brooks (with two hitting the backboard).

The Star: #10 Jon Severe

20.2 PPG (54-172 2PFG, 63-163 3PFG), 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1 SPG

Severe has basically locked up Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, and he was more of less the best player on Fordham from day one this season. He’s a volume shooter, and he’s the focus of every defense so his percentages aren’t jaw dropping, but he can put the ball in the hoop with the best of them.

He’s lightning quick, and he can get to the rim but he scores most of his points on 3-pointers and free-throws. He scored 28 points in his first collegiate game, he has ten 20+ point games, and he’s scored in double-figures in all but three games. Severe is going to get his points. The secret is to make him get them inefficiently. He went 1-of-21 against Saint Johns, 4-of-22 against Richmond, and 2-of-14 against UMass.

Supporting Cast

#0 Branden Frazier (PG, Senior) • Frazier is another great point guard on a struggling team in the Atlantic 10. He is talented, and he can capitalize on some teams, but he finished 2-of-12 from the field with six turnovers against VCU last season.

# Chris Whitehead (G, Junior) • Whitehead’s role was limited earlier in the season, but he has started the last two games. He’s 5-foot-9 and gives the Fordham another ball-handler in their four guard starting lineup. He lacks the size to slow down some of VCU’s perimeter scorers.

#24 Bryan Smith (G, Junior) • Smith is Forham’s 4th largest starter. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds. He’s grabbing five RPG but isn’t contributing much else statistically. Fordham will stay in the zone most of the game, but if they switch to man-to-man defense, it’s tough to imagine who will guard Treveon Graham.

#30 Ryan Rhoomes (F, Sophomore) • Rhoomes won’t light up the scoreboard, but he’s the 18th most efficient offensive player in the country and he’s Fordham’s only player taller than 6-foot-3 that plays more than 20 MPG. He’s an effective rebounder, but he should have his hands full with Juvonte Reddic playing his best basketball of the season.

#1 Mandell Thomas (G, Sophomore) • Thomas is Fordham’s 3rd leading scorer at 11.9 PPG. He’s a catch and shoot player, but he’s only connected on 23-of-91 (.253) 3-point attempts this season.

The Prediction

Branden Frazier and Jon Severe are talented guards but they will seem like nothing special after La Salle’s Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland. HAVOC! should dominate and VCU should cruise. KenPom picks VCU to win 87-68 with a 95% chance of victory.

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Fordham Profile

  • Location: Bronx, NY
  • Enrollment: ~15,000
  • Conference: Atlantic 10
  • All time series: VCU leads 1-0.
  • Last meeting: 2/2/13. VCU won 81-65.

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  1. Who knew Treveon Graham was this good? Seriously, keep running isolation plays for that guy. 
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Aaron Williams

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

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