What to expect: VCU looks to move to 3-0 against Winthrop

On Saturday, the VCU Rams will try to move to 3-0 for the first time since before the 2011 Final Four.

  • What: VCU (2-0, 0-0) vs. Winthrop (2-0, 0-0)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Saturday, November 16th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CSN-Plus
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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The Rundown

On Saturday, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams will try to move to 3-0 for the first time since before the 2011 Final Four. Despite record-setting seasons and incredible success under Coach Smart, 2010-11 was the only season since Jeff Capel that VCU has started 3-0.

The Team

Don’t fall asleep, but Winthrop plays at about the same speed as Virginia. While the Eagles won’t be able to dictate tempo like the Cavaliers, Winthrop ranks 308th in tempo and they finished last season ranked 327th. Meanwhile, KenPom.com predicts that this season VCU will play their fastest basketball since before 2003.

On paper, Saturday appears to be another clash of styles, but in reality, Winthrop doesn’t have the talent to slow down HAVOC!. Their shortest starter isn’t 6-foot-5 like Malcolm Brogdon. Their defense isn’t UVA’s pack-line-D, and it certainly can’t slow down VCU’s ball screen offense. Winthrop won’t be able to limit Juvonte Reddic‘s post touches and Briante Weber should tally more than two steals.

Now that expectations are in the basement, it’s worth remembering that the scene is set for a classic let-down game. VCU put everything into Tuesday’s 59-56 victory over UVA, and the Rams could underperform. Winthrop has already beaten USC Upstate who beat Virginia Tech who beat West Virginia.

Offensively, the Eagles like to shoot plenty of threes–which they are draining at a .439 clip. They have five scorers averaging double-digits and four shooters draining 3-pointers at .333 or better, but they lack a true post presence and size on the perimeter. This season, they have plenty of quick guards that can handle the ball without turnovers, but Tuesday proved VCU can win big games without HAVOC!.

Defensively, Winthrop plays man-to-man defense when it matters, but the Eagles could switch to a zone to compensate for their lack of size. The only reason Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham shouldn’t combine for 40 points and 20 rebounds against Winthrop’s undersized front-court, is that VCU’s stars will probably be limited in minutes.

Pat Kelsey is making progress in the second season of his rebuild, but a team picked to finish behind UNC-Asheville and Gardner-Webb in the Big South is going to struggle against HAVOC! in the hostile Stuart C. Siegel Center.

5 stats from Last Season

  • VCU won by 36 points, it is the Rams’ largest margin of victory since a 112-53 beat down of Towson on January, 27 2010.
  • In the second half, VCU went on a five and half minute 19-0 run.
  • VCU shot 52% from beyond the arc, their highest percentage since shooting 52.9% against VMI on December 8, 2010.
  • The Rams, minus Rob Brandenberg’s attempts, shot 29-48 (.600) from the field and 13-21 (.619) from beyond the arc.
  • The Rams scored 90 points for the first time since beating Purdue 94-76 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The Star: Joab Jerome

Jerome has the advantage of being experienced, skilled, and sized for his position–a rare commodity in the Big South. A 6-foot-5 small forward, Jerome is an excellent shooter, passer, and acceptable defender. He can stroke it from 3-point range, but he takes most of his shots inside the arc. Jordan Burgess should see plenty of minutes guarding Jerome, because Burgess is big and he was effective down the stretch against Virginia.

Supporting Cast

#11 Andre Smith (PG, Junior) • The Eagles’ point guard, Smith is an excellent 3-point shooter, and he doesn’t turn over the ball, but he is only 5-foot-10. After a statistically unimpressive game, Briante Weber is due for a 10-point, 8-rebound, 6-assist, and 5-steal night. Don’t be surprised if it happens on Saturday.

#5 Keon Johnson (SG, Freshman) • Sometimes the secondary ball-handler is more important against HAVOC! than the point guard. Johnson is a 5-foot-7, Big South version of Kendall Anthony. He’s a great 3-point shooter, he can beat the press, and he scored 19 points against Roanoke, but how can he defend a guard like Weber, Rob Brandenberg, or Melvin Johnson?

#44 James Bourne (F, Junior) • The Eagles want to get Bourne involved, but he has struggled to stay out of foul trouble. He picked up four fouls in 12 minutes against Roanoke. The Rams need to attack him early and often to further open up the front court.

#23 Larry Brown (F, Junior) • Brown lasted longer than twelve minutes, but Winthrop needs a greater contribution from one of their few players with size. Guarding a larger Terrance Shannon and a stronger/faster Treveon Graham, Saturday probably won’t be Brown’s night. With Graham attacking more than in the past, Brown could pick up early fouls.

#31 Tevin Prescott (F, Sophomore) • Prescott has benefitted from Johnson and Bourne’s foul trouble. His expanded role has enabled him to showcase his offensive rebounding and shot blocking. Winthrop goes ten players deep, Prescott should be one of the first players off of the bench.

#3 Christian Farmer (F, Senior) • Seniors are valuable against VCU. Farmer has size, he can score from anywhere on the court, and he doesn’t turn over the ball. Don’t be surprised if Farmer catches and hits a pair of 3-pointers against VCU.

The Prediction

VCU beat Winthrop by 36 points on the road last season. Winning by less than 30 points this season will be a surprise for the Rams. Ken Pomeroy picks VCU to win 78-58 with a 96% chance of victory.

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Winthrop Profile

  • Location: Rock Hill, SC
  • Enrollment: 5,913
  • Conference: Big South
  • All time series: VCU leads 2-0
  • Last meeting: VCU won 90-54. 11/17/12.

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Aaron Williams

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

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. William on said:

    There is no doubt VCU has a formidable team. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be ranked in the top 25. That being said, Winthrop is no pushover. Virginia Tech found that out earlier this week the hard way. Man to man, Winthrop may not match up. However, they play as a team, and are motivated to win. Even if they are behind in the second half, the Eagles will rally back and play hard for Coach Kelsey.

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