RAMS: The Black & Blue Classic 1.0

The stakes have never been higher. For the first time since 2001, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond face off as conference opponents.

  • What: VCU (16-3, 4-0) at Richmond (12-7, 2-2)
  • Where: Robins Center
  • When: Thursday, January 24th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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The stakes have never been higher. For the first time since 2001, when Justin Tuoyo was only six years old, Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond face off as conference opponents. In the midst of a 13-game winning streak and a perfect 4-0 conference start, the Rams travel across town Thursday night to take on the Spiders in the Robins Center.

The Rundown

For both schools, this bitter rivalry has been about streaks. Richmond won the first five games all between January ’76 and February ’77 (imagine if they still played 4 times in a calendar year?!). VCU responded by winning the next seven games, and since then, the Rams have never forfeited the series lead.

Recently, the rivalry has been all VCU. The Rams have won 7 of the the last 8 meetings including a 73-51 shellacking last season in the Siegel Center.

Richmond’s sole victory during that stretch came the last time VCU visited the Robins Center. Richmond used their unique style of basketball to absolutely dominate the Rams. At one point, the Spiders were up 45-17.

Still don’t believe in the rivalry? Coach Shaka Smart even went as far as saying, “Really, what’s happened for us is Old Dominion and Richmond have traded spots. Now, Richmond is our Old Dominion if you will.”

The Team

The Spiders are 2-2 in conference play but their losses came at La Salle and at Butler. On Saturday they they picked up an extremely impressive 20-point win over Charlotte (15-3, 3-1), so the Spiders enter the game with some momentum.

Richmond’s disciplined offense certainly draws inspiration from head coach Chris Mooney’s alma mater Princeton (read: Princeton Offense). Their talented perimeter keeps the ball in motion, but it hasn’t been as effective since the departure of the dynamic Justin Harper.

They have six players that shoot .318 or better from 3-point range. As a team team they shoot .380 (28th nationally) from the beyond the arc and their 2-point efficiency is also impressive.

They play mostly man to man defense, but it is different than most teams. On Monday, Coach Smart said, “Their defense is really, really unique…when they have guys that have been around for a while, they get really, really good at their switches, their rotations, and their talk.”

Because of their talented backcourt, they force turnovers, but their defense has left a lot to be desired this season. Their slow tempo just isn’t as effective if they can’t get stops on a high percentage of possessions.

They lack size in height, length, and weight and they rank 315th in defensive rebounding percentage. The absence of Derrick Williams (ankle injury) has been costly. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds his presence was invaluable on defense. VCU should should attack the rim early with Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham which should open up 3-point opportunities for Troy Daniels and Rob Brandenberg as well as Graham.

The Star: Darien Brothers

16.2PPG, 2.5RPG, 1.5APG, 1SPG, .479FG%, .5093PFG%

Let the Darien Brothers-Troy Daniels debate begin! Daniels has more 3-point field goals this season, Brothers shoots a higher percentage, Daniels hit an A-10 record 11 3s in a game and scored 33 points, Brothers hit eight 3s and scored 39 points. Both senior sharpshooters can flat out play.

Darien Brothers is a little more dynamic than Daniels. He scores more inside the arc, he draws fouls, and he is shooting .882 from the free-throw line. Briante Weber, Darius Theus, and Brandenberg will all probably get an opportunity to guard Brothers. For them, the key is limiting his catch and shoot opportunities and using the full court pressure to speed up Richmond’s offense.

Supporting cast

#2 Cedrick Lindsay (G, Junior) • Richmond’s disciplined offense begins with their point guard. Lindsay is a talented distributor, effective perimeter defender, and he can also knock down the outside shot.

#0 Kendall Anthony (G, Sophomore) • The reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year, Kendall Anthony is a scoring machine that usually comes off of the bench. At 5-foot-8 he’s undersized, but he’s one of the quickest players in the A-10. Last season, Anthony went an underwhelming 5-of-18 from the field against VCU.

#33 Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (F, Freshman) • Freshman Nelson-Ododa will have his hands full Thursday night with Juvonte Reddic. He is the only Spider playing over 17MPG that is taller than 6-foot-5. He ranks 32nd nationally in block percentage and he’s a good rebounder, but his defense against VCU’s front-court could be a deciding factor in this game.

#22 Greg Robbins (F, Senior) • Robbins played point guard in high school, which makes him a dynamic forward for the Spiders. He’s second on the team in assists and he can shoot the ball from, but he is also an important physical force at 6-foot-5.

#11 Deion Taylor (F, Freshman) • Taylor’s season stats aren’t gaudy, but he has benefited from Williams’s absence and is coming into his own. In January, Taylor is averaging 21.8MPG, 8PPG, 4.2RPG, .555 FG%, and .500 3PFG%. Against Charlotte, Taylor earned his first start and he scored a career high 13 points on 5-9 shooting.

The Prediction

Richmond has a skilled perimeter, but they lack front-court talent. VCU should move to 5-0 in the A-10. KenPom picks VCU to win 73-64 with a 79% chance of victory.

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Richmond Profile

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Enrollment: 4,250
  • All time series: VCU leads 41-25
  • Last meeting: 12/9/11. VCU won 73-51.

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Aaron Williams

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

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