After losing at home to Richmond and losing senior point guard Briante Weber to injury, #18 Virginia Commonwealth University will try to regroup on Wednesday at 7:00 PM when the Rams visit George Mason.
- What: #VCU (17-4, 7-1) vs. George Mason (7-13, 2-6)
- Where: Patriot Center
- When: Wednesday, February 4th at 7:00 PM
- Watch: CBS Sports Network
- Listen: Rams Radio
Many of VCU’s important and dramatic memories for a five- or six-year span are of playing against George Mason. Eric Maynor’s takeover down the stretch sent VCU to the 2007 NCAA Tournament where they beat Duke. GMU pounding VCU 71-51 in the Siegel Center followed by VCU dominating the Patriots 79-63 two weeks later was a prelude to the Final Four run. Then there was the Sherrod Wright heartbreaker on Valentine’s day, Bradford Burgess’s 31 points on Senior Day, and the 22-0/32-4 game.
After an emotional loss to Richmond and the infinitely more tragic loss of Briante Weber’s ACL, MCL, and meniscus, Wednesday’s game will have nothing to do with George Mason. Instead, VCU’s biggest foes and challenges will be the team in the mirror. Can the Rams focus their emotions positively in the absence of Mr. HAVOC!?
I talked to our three point guards yesterday. I said, you guys would be lying if you said you hadn’t thought at all about next year when Bri is gone…Now there’s just some added opportunity this year.Coach Smart
Weber is irreplaceable in terms of defense and energy, but the Rams’ aren’t going to “cancel the season.” They put up 85 points in 76 possessions on Tennessee to open the season without Briante Weber, with JeQuan Lewis limited to five minutes because of an injury, and Jonathan Williams limited to 13 minutes because of fouls.
Lewis has improved on both ends of the court with each game that’s elapsed since his concussion in the season opener. He ranks second in the conference in assist rate, and his turnover rate has dropped below Briante Weber’s in conference play despite a tough start to the season. His key will be maintaining his play with an expanded role and avoiding fouls and frustration.
Williams is also an able backup. More importantly, Treveon Graham, Jordan Burgess, and Melvin Johnson have experience bringing the ball up the court and running the offense. Over the last decade, VCU has been relatively fortunate to avoid season-ending injuries, so it’s tough to anticipate the team’s reaction, but if they can turn Saturday’s struggles into motivation instead of weight, they should be able to pile up W’s as a tribute to #2.
VOCABULARY WORD OF THE GAME: schadenfreude
a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
The best way to figure out when a current Ram fan became a fanatic for VCU basketball is to figure out which opponent they despise the most. ODU is a go-to for old-school fans. To those old-schoolers’ frustration, fans from the late CAA days will despise GMU.1 To the chagrin of the GMU-despisers, Butler and Saint Louis have joined Richmond to form a trio of private school opponents that have beaten VCU enough to draw the ire of more recent Ram fans.
Fans pull for their teams, but sometimes winning isn’t enough and fans get pleasure out of watching teams fail.2 For mid-decade VCU fans, this has been the prime era for schadenfreude. Despite going to the Final Four in 2006, moving to the Atlantic 10, and boasting a roster that actually has quite a bit of talent, the Patriots are 6-18 in conference play over the last two seasons.
Used in a sentence: For VCU fans who also also enjoy watching George Mason lose, there has been no shortage of schadenfreude during the Patriots’ troubled tenure in the Atlantic 10.
Last season, the Patriots struggled with beating themselves with mistakes like turnovers and fouls. Basically, they were the anti-Wisconsin. George Mason still struggles with the team in the mirror. They’ve lost six of the last seven and are coming off a disheartening 62-53 loss to Duquesne.
They rank 229th in offensive turnover percentage and and they rank 296th in opponent FTA/FGA. This season, their shooting has regressed to near unwatchable levels. They rank 326th in 2PFG% and 316th in 3PFG%. They have 80 3-pointers on the season which is fewer than Melvin Johnson (50) + Treveon Graham (44). The bottom line, George Mason has really struggled to score and they foul too much to let their size on defense be effective.
THE STAR: #14 Shevon Thompson
13.1 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 2 TOPG
The Jamaican-born junior college transfer is George Mason’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker, and he is the only Patriot shooting above .500. He ranks fifth nationally in offensive rebound percentage and 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage while also shooting .517 from the field. The Patriots throw up a lot of bricks, so Thompson is their most effective offensive weapon when he grabs offensive boards and scores second chance points.
#13 Corey Edwards (PG, Senior) • He’s a decent play-maker but his 27.6 TORate should have even a Briante Weber-less HAVOC! drooling.
#22 Marquise Moore (PG, Sophomore) • He’s a physical guard who is an effective driver despite lacking a jump shot. He attempted 42 free-throws over a four game stretch in early December.
#44 Isaiah Jackson (G/F, Freshman) • He’s a tough 24-of-90 from 2-point range and he’s been worse in the A-10 than in the non-conference schedule.
#31 Jalen Jenkins (F, Sophomore) • He’s an effective shot blocker and he’ll draw plenty of fouls, but at 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes, he’s a huge driver of the Patriots’ struggles to keep opponents off of the free-throw line.
#1 Vaughn Gray (G, Senior) • He’s 3-of-17 over the last three games and his role has varied greatly all season.
#3 Patrick Holloway (G, Junior) • He started the first seven games of the season before poor shooting moved him to the bench. He’s missed the last three games because of “illness.”
KenPom picks VCU to win 73-63 with an 83% chance of victory.
GEORGE MASON PROFILE
- Location: Fairfax, Virginia
- Enrollment: 33,300
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series VCU leads 31-18.
- Last Meeting VCU won 71-57.