What to expect: Anthony Grant’s Alabama visits the Siegel Center

Former VCU head coach Anthony Grant and his Alabama Crimson Tide visit the Siegel Center for the first time on Saturday at 4:00 PM.

  • What: VCU (6-3, 0-0) vs. Alabama (6-2, 0-0)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Saturday, December 15th at 4:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Comcast 7 & Verizon 76)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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The Rundown

Last season, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams led #13 Alabama in Tuscaloosa with 4:07 remaining before Darius Theus fouled out and VCU collapsed losing 72-64. The young Rams responded by winning 23 of their next 26 games. This season, both teams have dramatically improved offenses and are on the cusp of busting into the top-25. Alabama enters Saturday after dropping back to back games to Cincinnati and Dayton while VCU enters Saturday on a three game winning streak with victories over Stetson, Belmont, and Old Dominion.

For VCU, the game is special. Anthony Grant coached the Rams for three seasons, from 2006-2009. One of the most successful coaches in VCU history, Grant led the Rams to an NIT tournament and two NCAA tournaments, including a 2007 victory over Duke and a near victory over UCLA in 2009. He opened a recruiting pipeline from Florida that elevated VCU’s talent level, and he recruited some of the modern era’s most memorable Rams including Larry Sanders, Bradford Burgess, Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, and Ed Nixon. Like his predecessor Jeff Capel, Grant got hired by a major school, and he left the program after a very successful 76-win run. 44 of those victories came in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Saturday, he returns for the first time as he tries to win his 45th game on Broad Street.

The Team

In 2012, the Crimson Tide went to the first NCAA Tournament of Grant’s tenure behind the nation’s 8th most efficient defense. Alabama isn’t the same elite defensive force it was last season, but they force plenty of steals and they block plenty of shots. Offensively, they have improved their 3-point shooting from 28.9% to 34.3%, which may seem negligible, but it forces defenses to commit to defending the perimeter.

The star, #12 Trevor Releford, and sophomores #5 Trevor Lacey and #20 Levi Randolph have transformed Alabama’s 3-point shooting and are a few of the Crimson Tide’s most capable scorers. They don’t turn the ball over excessively, but they haven’t faced VCU’s talented backcourt in the difficult environment of the Siegel Center. This season, Anthony Grant signed the first McDonald’s All-American of his coaching career. Freshman #24 Devonta Pollard is a shot blocking force that rarely fouls. He is still a project offensively, but Pollard has the tools to be an elite player.

The Star

Trevor Releford isn’t the classic 50%, 40%, and 90% “180 shooter”, but his numbers add up to 187 and he is an elite shooter. The 6-foot guard is averaging 16.9PPG, 2.1RPG, 3.1APG, and 2.1SPG while shooting 47% from the field, 46% from 3-point range, and an incredible 94% on 33 free-throw attempts. He has struggled during Alabama’s losses, so shutting him down could be vital to topping Alabama.

The Prediction

Last season’s game was a turning point for the young Rams, and if Darius Theus had not fouled out, VCU might have pulled off the upset. This season, VCU enters the game not as an underdog, and the Rams have the firepower and the home court advantage to win the game. Ken Pomeroy picks VCU to win 64-58 witha 75% chance of victory.

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University of Alabama Profile

  • Location:Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Enrollment: 33,602
  • Conference: SEC
  • All time series: 0-4
  • Last meeting:11/27/11. VCU lost 64-72.

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Aaron Williams

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

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