What to expect: VCU looks to run past worn down UMass

#2 VCU faces #6 Massachusetts Saturday afternoon in a rematch that promises to be uptempo and full of scoring.

  • What: VCU (25-7, 12-4) vs. Massachusetts (21-10, 9-7)
  • Where: Barclays Center – Brooklyn, NY
  • When: Saturday, March 16th at 4:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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And then there were four. #1 Saint Louis faces #5 Butler at 1:30PM and #2 VCU faces #6 Massachusetts at 4:30PM today in the Atlantic-10 Tournament semifinals.

The Rundown

The Rams and the Minutemen are both coming off of hard fought wins. VCU survived a foul plagued game and a frenzied comeback to top #10 Saint Joseph’s 82-79. Less than 24 hours after winning a battle with George Washington 77-72, Chaz Williams willed Massachusetts past Temple and A-10 player of the year Khalif Wyatt 79-74 in the 9pm game Friday night.

Saturday is guaranteed to be a track meet. VCU beat UMass 86-68 on Valentine’s day in a 79 possession race. The Minutemen led 42-37 at halftime, but VCU went on a 21-1 run in the second half turning a deficit into a blow out.

The Rams will have that same big run potential on Saturday. Exhaustion could be a serious issue for the Minutemen. They ran out of gas in a normal game against VCU, how will they fair once they have played 100 minutes in 3 days?

For VCU, the foul trouble last night could be a blessing in disguise. Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham, and Troy Daniels all saw their minutes limited while VCU received solid contributions from the bench. The Rams will likely use a 10 man rotation tonight, but VCU has to avoid the foul bug.

Their past two opponents have attempted 64 free-throws. Every foul gives the opponent easy points, a break from HAVOC!, and it limits VCU’s opportunities to score in transition. When the Rams got out into transition against UMass on 2/14, awesome things like this happened:

Battle of the boroughs

First teamer Chaz Williams is a native of Brooklyn, NY and his play has been inspired in his home borough. He’s averaging 22ppg, 6.5apg, and 2.5spg in the A-10 Tournament. After the Valentine’s day meeting, Bronx native Melvin Johnson assured the media that the best basketball players in New York come from the Bronx and not Brooklyn. Johnson was extremely assertive scoring 12 points on Friday. He scored a career high 18 points in 18 minutes against UMass on 2/14.

The Team

After making the semifinals of the 2012 NIT Tournament, Massachusetts has had a successful, but under-the-radar, 2013 campaign until now. Making the semifinals in Brooklyn is an accomplishment that won’t go overlooked by the national media and post season tournaments. Head coach Derek Kellogg returns most of the firepower from his 2012 roster that boasted some serious athleticism.

The experience and firepower are immediately obvious when the Minutemen get into transition. Their forwards use speed and length to get to the rim while floor general Chaz Williams dishes with accuracy and anticipation that borders telepathy.

Defensively, the Minutemen are willing to extend 90 feet in order to push tempo and force turnovers. Typically, pressing teams don’t like to be pressed. Expect both teams to feel uncomfortable on offense at times when they get a little taste of their own medicine. While the “nuts and bolts” of the two team’s styles differ, Saturday should be a highly entertaining battle between two teams that like to get up and down, and score.

The Star: #3 Chaz Williams

35.9 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 7.5 APG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG

Chaz Williams may be the best point guard in the A-10. He leads the league and is ranked 5th nationally in assists while also leading the Minutemen in scoring at 15.8 PPG. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, he is lightning quick and brilliant in transition. When he grabs rebounds, that’s one less pass and UMass gets into transition that much more quickly. He can pass and score going full speed, and he is the team’s most capable 3-point shooter.

Williams has a motor. Despite his size, he grabs 4.3 rpg mostly because of hustle. He outworked everyone on the court Friday night against Temple when he finished with 28 points on 8 of 13 shooting, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. He had a bad game against VCU the first time when he finished with 6 points and 6 turnovers. Was he having an off night, or was HAVOC! that effective at stopping him? Today we will find out.

Bonus fact: Williams played his freshman season at Hofstra. Despite averaging 31.7 MPG, he did not play against VCU. It was the only game he missed all season.

Supporting Cast

#23 Freddie Riley (SG, Senior) • Riley’s importance skyrocketed after junior shooting guard Jesse Morgan went down with an injury: the Minutemen need additional scoring options. When Riley delivers, UMass is a much better team.

#33 Terrell Vinson (F, Senior) • Vinson is Part 1 of the Minutemen’s dynamic duo of forwards. At 6-foot-7 he is a great defender in the half court, but he is quick enough for full court pressure. He’s a good 3-pointer shooter, efficient scorer, and he will be a handful for Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels.

#34 Raphiael Putney (F, Junior) • Putney is Part 2 of that duo. While he isn’t putting up the same gaudy stats, Putney is a quality stretch 4/5. He can defend the paint and he is a great rebounder, but he’s also capable of hitting 3-pointers.

#25 Cady Lalanne (F, Sophomore) • The Minutemen’s biggest player, Lalanne doesn’t fit their uptempo mold, but he offers a different dimension. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, and he will force Juvonte Reddic to be creative on offense.

The Prediction

Massachusetts couldn’t survive 40 minutes of HAVOC! in the first meeting even after a few days of rest. Having played 80 minutes of basketball in the past 48 hours, it will take something truly special for the Minutemen to hang with VCU. The first half will be close, but VCU should be to win the game in the final 10 minutes. KenPom picks VCU to win 82-73 with a 77% chance of victory.

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Massachusetts Profile

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Enrollment: 27,269
  • All time series: VCU leads 1-0
  • Last meeting: 2/14/13. VCU won 86-68

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Aaron Williams

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

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