What to expect: VCU visits GWU in an A-10 bellwether battle

VCU (13-3, 1-0) visits GWU (13-3, 1-1) in a game that could have conference implications in addition to revealing plenty about two of the best in the A-10.

  • What: VCU (13-3, 1-0) vs. George Washington University (13-3, 1-1)
  • Where: Charles E. Smith Center
  • When: Tuesday, January 14th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Comcast 7, 251HD; Verizon 76)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Virginia Commonwealth University visits George Washington University on Tuesday night for a game that could have conference implications in addition to answer many questions about VCU’s road abilities and conference competitiveness.

The Rundown

The logo stitched on the jersey may have said Atlantic 10, but Thursday’s game against George Mason was a game against a team still in the CAA. Tuesday, the Rams will face a team with all the tools to compete in the the league in a bellwether battle that should give an idea of where these teams will end up in Brooklyn. After starting four freshman in a 13-17 campaign last season, George Washington is 13-3 this season and they are a key reason the Atlantic 10 sans Butler, Xavier, Temple, and Charlotte is so strong.

In addition to being a game that could have conference title implications come March, Tuesday should be revealing as the Rams haven’t played a true road game in exactly a month. Their loss at Northern Iowa on December 14th was also the last time VCU played a team ranked in the top-100 on KenPom.com.

Pay attention to both dimensions. VCU has played just three true road games this season: a win at Virginia, a win at Belmont, and a loss at Northern Iowa. VCU is just 1-3 against teams in the top-100 on KenPom.com, and they have eleven more games in the loaded A-10 against teams above that mark. For both teams, competing for a conference title and a number one seed in Brooklyn starts Tuesday night, but only one team can win.

The Team

Offensively the Colonials have been transformed this season by the addition of redshirt-senior transfer Maurice Creek and the maturation of last season’s four freshmen who started. Thanks to Creek, their 3-point shooting has improved from .279 to .361. The addition of a long range weapon has opened things up for forwards Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen, and GWU’s guards are having more success getting to the rim.

Defense is where the Colonials have gotten things done the past two seasons. Sophomore guards Joe McDonald, Kethan Savage, and Patricio Garino are all terrific perimeter defenders, and VCU’s guards will need to be deliberate. Their interior defense is strong as well, behind forward Isaiah Armwood, but Juvonte Reddic dominated in the Rams’ 84-57 victory last season. He finished with 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting with 10 rebounds, two blocks, two steals, and five Reddic(ulous) dunks.

VCU hasn’t been quite as effective on offense this season but if they can establish an inside-out game like last season’s game and capitalize on turnovers then they will have a much better chance of winning.

The Star: #1 Maurice Creek

28.9 MPG, 14.8 PPG, .513 2FG%, .398 3FG%, 3 RPG, 1.8 APG

Read more: On December 12, 2009, Indiana’s Maurice Creek scored 31 points on a Kentucky team loaded with NBA talent. After three major injuries in 22 months, he’s thriving at George Washington University.

Supporting Cast

#22 Joe McDonald (PG, Sophomore) • Joe McDonald has made the biggest leap of any of the four GWU sophomores. He’s trimmed his TO% from the 30.7% to 21.3%, his offensive rating increased from 84.7 to 113.3, he ranks 58th in steal %, shoots 40% from 3-point range, and runs the new Colonials’ greatly improved offense. He had eight turnovers against VCU last season. Don’t expect it to happen again on Tuesday.

#11 Kethan Savage (G, Sophomore) • A textbook combo guard, Savage could be the difference maker as the secondary ball-handler against HAVOC!. He’s a great on-ball defender, he’s good at finding open shooters, and he can get to the rim, but his outside shot is struggling.

#32 Isaiah Armwood (F, Senior) • In addition to being an effective scorer, Armwood is the defensive anchor of the Colonials. A Villanova-transfer, he is a shot-blocking menace and VCU will need to be more deliberate when attempting to score around the basket than during the George Mason game.

#21 Kevin Larsen (F, Sophomore) • Larsen dropped 19 pounds before the season and he is putting together a great sophomore campaign. He finished with 17 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes last Saturday, and his consistency is important as a role player for the Colonials.

#13 Patricio Garino (G/F, Sophomore) Garino is an elite 6-foot-6 perimeter defender. He was dealing with injuries early in the season but he has played five straight games and has scored double-figures in the past three games.

The Prediction

VCU wins by three points in the type of game that punishes VCU fans but also makes them better people. KenPom picks GWU to win 71-70 with a 51% chance of victory.

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GWU Profile

  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • Enrollment: 25,500
  • Conference: A10
  • All time series: VCU leads 5-0.
  • Last meeting: 2/16/13. VCU won 84-57.

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Aaron Williams

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

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