Fans may be unfamiliar with Belmont, but the Bruins are a serious team and they are pursuing their third straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Saturday is an important game the Rams as they start building a resume for March.
- What: VCU (4-3, 0-0) vs. Belmont (5-1, 0-0)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Saturday, December 1st at 7:00 PM
- Watch: Comcast SportsNet (Comcast 7 & Verizon 76) and Online ($)
- Listen: Ram Radio
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Outside of the Battle 4 Atlantis, VCU’s non-conference schedule contains four games that will be more important than the rest come March: Wichita State, Belmont, Alabama, and Lehigh. Those four teams made the 2012 NCAA Tournament, are a combined 23-3, and are serious contenders to go to the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Fortunately, the Rams host all four teams, but VCU already fell to Wichita State. Saturday’s game will be mentioned come selection Sunday, and it will undoubtedly have an effect on VCU for better or for worse.
The experienced and talented Bruins have eight players that play more than three minutes per game: none of them are taller than 6-foot-7. 27th year head coach Rick Byrd’s squad is very efficient on the offensive end. The Bruins are shooting 40% from 3-point range and they don’t excessively turn over the ball. On the defensive end, they rank 31st nationally in steal percentage and their defensive turnover percentage of 28% is actually higher than the Rams (VCU led this stat nationally last season).
For all of the success that Belmont has had against their relatively soft schedule thus far, the Bruins have not one, but two achilles heels: they are absolutely dreadful at rebounding, and they foul like crazy on the defensive end. The Rams will likely dominate the glass, and if they are smart on offense, fans could get a few opportunities to scream “sit” as Bruin players walk to the bench with five fouls. Juvonte Reddic has the size and speed to take advantage of the Bruin’s front court, while posting his third double-double of the season. Considering Treveon Graham’s knack for getting fouled, the sophomore forward could see numbers more in line with his 18PPG during the Battle 4 Atlantis, than his 7 points against Stetson.
For Belmont, the show starts with senior point guard #3 Kerron Johnson. On offense, his shots haven’t been falling at the same rate as his previous two seasons, but he is getting everyone involved on offense as a distributor. He has a knack for getting to the free-throw line which could give VCU fits if the Rams are trailing in the second half. On the defensive end, he is an elite on ball defender. As a sophomore, he led the nation in defensive steal % (Briante Weber led this stat last season).
On the inside, redshirt junior #2 Blake Jenkins is one of the most efficient scorers in the nation. The 6-foot-7 forward ranks 29th nationally in effective field goal percentage, and he can also score from the free-throw line. Despite usually being outsized, Jenkins is a talented shot blocker and he should see minutes matched up against VCU’s emerging scoring machine Treveon Graham.
Senior shooting guard #21 Ian Clark is a scoring machine. A career 42% 3-point shooter, Clark is shooting 54.3% from range this season including a 9-for-11 performance against Northeastern in a game that he scored 29 points. His release is wicked fast and he is particularly effective in catch and shoot situations. This is not the kind of player that a defender ever wants to leave open.
If VCU contains Belmont’s backcourt and takes advantage of the Bruin’s front court, the Rams will win comfortably, but this game is scary. If Kerron Johnson limits turnovers against HAVOC!, and the Bruins start hitting 3-pointers, this game could be very close. Ken Pomeroy predicts VCU will win 72-65 with a 74% chance of victory.
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- Location: Nashville, TN
- Enrollment: 6,647 (Private)
- Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
- All time series: 0-0
- Last meeting: N/A
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