What to expect: VCU-La Salle is bigger than conference standings

After a dominant victory in Dayton, VCU-La Salle is about more than moving up in the A-10 rankings. Saturday is about turning a good day into a good week into a good month.

  • What: VCU (15-4, 3-1) vs. La Salle (11-7, 3-1)
  • Where: Tom Gola Arena
  • When: Saturday, January 25th at 12:00 PM
  • Watch: ESPN or ESPN 2
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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After a dominant 80-66 win over Dayton on Thursday, Virginia Commonwealth University visits La Salle at 12:00 PM on Saturday in a momentum establishing game.

The Rundown

Six teams in the Atlantic 10 are currently tied for second place at 3-1 behind 5-0 Saint Louis. This conference will not be won in a day, but it will be won by a team that can turn good days into a good weeks into good months, and bad days into learning experiences.

VCU and La Salle enter Saturday from different sides of blowout games. VCU heads to Philadelphia brimming with confidence while La Salle returns home after a 15-point loss to Saint Bonaventure. Just like one dominant win doesn’t make VCU a top-25 team, one loss doesn’t mean La Salle is a wounded animal. The Explorers are a team perfectly designed to give the Rams trouble. The conference won’t be won on Saturday morning, but the Rams desperately need to stretch a good day into a good week, and La Salle desperately needs to right the ship.

The Team

The Explorers lost a ton of offensive punch with the departure of Ramon Galloway, aka that guy who dropped 31 points in a 69-61 win over the Rams in the Siegel Center last season. Still, La Salle returns plenty of firepower including a bevy of guards and one of the best front-courts in the entire conference. Seniors Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren are experienced ball-handlers with a history of giving HAVOC! trouble, Sam Mills is a knock-down 3-point shooter who can capitalize on a broken press, and Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack can match up with VCU’s small-ball and bigger lineups. Their offense has left plenty to be desired in consistency, but it is explosive.

Sometimes when teams can’t score, they get better on the defensive end. La Salle’s man-to-man defense isn’t flashy, but it could give the Rams problems. VCU’s past three dominant offensive halves have benefitted from good spacing established by 3-point shooting. La Salle is great at defending the arc and their guards are quick enough to recover when VCU forces turnovers. If the Rams can’t carry their scoring momentum from the past 60 minutes into Tom Gola Arena, then Saturday could be a struggle.

The Star: #3 Tyreek Duren*

14.2 PPG (.446 2PFG%, .345 3PFG%), 3.7 APG, 1.4 SPG

Duren is an excellent ball-handler, effective distributor, and efficient scorer. He scored 16 points against VCU last year while playing great defense on VCU’s perimeter. His speed could be a problem for the Rams, and he is tough as nails for an even 6-footer.

Supporting Cast

#21 Tyrone Garland* (G, Senior) • A Virginia Tech transfer, Garland is a combo guard who could spell trouble for HAVOC!. Few teams in the A-10 regularly play two ball-handlers as talented as Duren and Garland in the same back court. He had three assists and one turnover against VCU last season.

#10 Sam Mills* (G, Senior) • Another talented guard, Mills is less of a ball-handler and more of a shooter. He’s 30-of-69 from 3-point range this season. He struggled against Saint Bonaventure finishing 0-of-3 from the field with three turnovers.

#25 Jerrell Wright* (F, Junior) • With Zack sidelined by an injury at the end of last season, Wright took over and carried the font-court load all the way to the Sweet 16. He’s strong as a bull, and he’s a smooth left-handed post scorer.

#0 Steve Zack* (C, Junior) • Without Zack, La Salle goes small ball, but they are much better with his rim protection and rebounding abilities on the court. He’s averaging 9.7 PPG, and he gives them serious size and strength in the front-court.

#1 D.J. Peterson (G, Junior) • Peterson is the quintessential sixth man. He won’t blow you away with any one skill, but he can do enough of everything. He has the size and speed to guard multiple positions.

The Prediction

In the Dayton preview I guessed the team would go 1-1 on their current road trip. After Wednesday’s performance, I think 2-0 is a distinct possibility. KenPom picks VCU to win 68-66 with a 61% chance of victory.

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La Salle Profile

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Enrollment: ~6,500
  • Conference: Atlantic 10
  • All time series: VCU leads 3-1.
  • Last meeting: 1/26/13, La Salle won 69-61.

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Aaron Williams

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

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