What to expect: VCU looks to rebound against new-look former foe

After a tough weekend in Puerto Rico, Virginia Commonwealth University returns to the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Friday night to take on former CAA-foe, Northeastern.

  • What: VCU (4-2, 0-0) vs. Northeastern (2-4, 0-0)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Friday, November at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CSN-Plus/CBS 6.1
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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After a tough weekend in Puerto Rico, Virginia Commonwealth University returns to the Stuart C. Siegel Center on Friday night to take on former CAA-foe, Northeastern.

The Rundown

Don’t be distracted by Northeastern’s record or their conference. The Huskies are probably the best 2-4 team in the country. Northeastern beat Georgetown and took Florida State to the wire before losing 60-62; two things VCU couldn’t do. All of their losses are to teams ranked higher than 109th on KenPom.com: Boston, Stony Brook, Charlotte, and FSU. In addition to beating Georgetown (!), they handled Central Connecticut State.

But this game has nothing to do with Northeastern–it has to do with VCU. The Rams have only played two HAVOC!-worthy games this season: Illinois State and Winthrop. Returning from exempt tournaments is when VCU has typically kicked it in to overdrive. In 2011-12 they responded to a 1-2 trip to Charleston by winning eight straight games and 19 of their next 21. Last season they responded to a 1-2 trip to the Bahamas by winning 13 straight games and 18 of their next 20.

Can the Rams replicate what is becoming an annual tradition? Maybe despite their difficult schedule, but they have work to do. The Rams need their shots to start falling, they need to protect the rock, and they need to get Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham back on an all A-10 pace. It will also help if the referees don’t call fouls for things like awkward looks at ball-handlers driving the lane and breathing on players in the press.

Friday against Northeastern is a good time to start, but so was last Friday against LBSU and Sunday against Georgetown.

The Team

Northeastern is a cerebral and disciplined team. They are strictly business. After making baskets they rarely celebrate and they waste no time getting back on defense. If a team doesn’t approach a game with the same discipline, the Huskies will capitalize by passing around players slow to retreat. Coach Smart is 3-3 against Northeastern and the Huskies are the only team to win three straight games against the Rams since Anthony Grant came to town.

Northeastern is a Coach Bill Coen team. They are slow (303rd in adjusted tempo) and they won’t light up the scoreboard, but this team has more athleticism than the Huskies of VCU’s troubles past. While they are known for guard play (probably confusion with past teams), most of their points come from Eatherton and Spencer in the paint. Pollard and Walker can hit 3-pointers, but they are inconsistent.

Northeastern switches defenses more than Georgetown. They’ll play man-to-man, a 2-3 matchup zone, a 3-2 zone, and they will occasionally use full-court pressure. They have one of the best transition defenses VCU has seen all season and they defend the paint extremely well despite their lack of size. Despite the Seminoles’ size and athleticism, it took Florida State 11 minutes to reach double figures and the Huskies blocked eight shots. Their weakness is 3-point defense where they rank 280th. The Rams need to get it going from range.

The Star: Scott Eatherton

16.2 PPG, 11 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .619 FG%

Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon (the double-double machine) isn’t going to run away with CAA player of the year as easily as many had thought. Meet Scott Eatherton. He’s a crafty post scorer, and he cleans up the offensive boards giving him plenty of put-back opportunities. He’s a solid defender, and he has been the soul of Northeastern while junior Quincy Ford has been out with injury.

Supporting Cast

#10 TJ Williams (PG, Freshman) • FRESHMAN POINTGUARD (sort of). Northeastern uses plenty of ball-handlers and plenty of creators on offense. When Williams handles the ball, the Rams need to welcome this freshman starter to the Stu.

#4 David Walker (G, Sophomore) • Walker is a do-it-all small forward. He’s averaging 11 points, but his 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and one block all add up to a more meaningful contribution than his points.

#24 Derrico Peck (G, Sophomore) • Peck started against FSU, but his contribution has been limited. He’s a solid defender but he adds little to stat sheets.

#44 Reggie Spencer (F, Junior) • Spencer went off for 18 points and nine rebounds against Georgetown. He’s only 6-foot-7, but he’s opportunistic about capitalizing on offense and defense.

#2 Demetrius Pollard (G, Junior) • Pollard scored 27 points on Central Connecticut State including 8-for-11 3-point shooting, but he hasn’t done much else this season. He’s a great 3-point shooter and the Rams/Stu need to rattle him early.

#33 Zach Stahl (G, Sophomore) • Stahl was another unlikely contributor against Central Connecticut State. He finished with 16 points and five rebounds. His inconsistency makes him another player the Rams can and want to make a non-factor.

#12 Quincy Ford (G/F, Junior) • Ford played the first game of the season but he has been out with a back injury, and he is questionable for Friday. Ford played two games against VCU as a freshman, and he averaged 15.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG. His return would turn Northeastern into a much scarier opponent.

The Prediction

The Rams need to and should win this game. Whether it’s a battle or a rout is up to which VCU team shows up. If VCU takes advantage of Northeastern’s weak 3-point defense, then the Rams should score 85+ points while easily winning. KenPom.com picks VCU to win 77-66 with a 86% chance of victory.

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Northeastern Profile

  • Location: Boston Massachussetts
  • Enrollment: 21,500
  • Conference: CAA
  • All time series: VCU leads 8-6.
  • Last meeting: 2/22/12. VCU won 83-59.

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Aaron Williams

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

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