What to expect: VCU visits surprise Charlotte

VCU travels to Charlotte on Saturday as the Rams try to maintain their spot atop the Atlantic 10.

  • What: VCU (18-5, 6-2) at Charlotte (17-5, 5-3)
  • Where: Halton Arena
  • When: Saturday, February 9th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: Online ($)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Virginia Commonwealth University travels to Charlotte on Saturday as the Rams try to maintain their spot atop the Atlantic 10.

The Rundown

Charlotte began the season with a school record 9-0 start, but their soft schedule still left doubters. While they enter Saturday with a much less impressive 17-5 record, the 49ers are undoubtedly one of the A-10’s surprise teams this season. Conference USA-bound, Charlotte was picked to finish 12th in their final Atlantic-10 campaign, but they currently sit only one game behind 1st place.

The Team

It all starts with defense, and their defense starts with former VCU commit Pierria Henry. A highly touted recruit out of West Virginia, Henry committed to VCU only to back out and join brand new head coach Alan Major at Charlotte. He’s an elite perimeter defender who could see time guarding Darius Theus, Rob Brandenberg, and Troy Daniels.

When Henry isn’t getting steals, the 49er’s still do a fantastic job of defending shots. They boast the 34th best defensive effective field goal percentage nationally and they are particularly good at defending the paint. Charlotte would love for this to be a game in the 50s or 60s, but VCU will want to put up points and outpace Charlotte’s sometimes anemic offense.

Offensively, the 49ers have struggled. They are the worst 3-point shooting team in the A-10 (25.9%), and they don’t take many looks from beyond the arc. They have 80 made 3-pointers this season. Troy Daniels has 85 made 3-pointers this season. When they do score, they attack the rim, they score in transition, and they lead the A-10 in FTA/FGA (they draw a ton of fouls).

One of the least experienced teams in college basketball, the 49ers received a serious blow on January 30th when they suspended then leading scorer junior DeMario Mayfield (dunk!) indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Without him, senior Chris Braswell and Virginia Tech graduate student transfer JT Thompson are the only upperclassmen that contribute.

The Star: #15 Pierria Henry (PG, Sophomore)

9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.9 SPG, 2.8 TOPG

Like Briante Weber, Henry has the ability to affect the game in multiple ways. He ranks 5th nationally in steals, he can score, he rebounds exceptionally well for a guard, and he orchestrates the 49er’s offense. Like Weber, Henry earns “Most Likely to Tally a Triple-Double” as his team superlative.

Supporting Cast

#14 Terrence Williams (G, Sophomore) • If Williams wants to take a 3-pointer, let him. Despite shooting only 12.5% from range, he has attempted 32 this season. At least he has improved from last season when he shot 10.5%.

#42 Darion Clark (F, Sophomore) • Clark is almost Treveon-Graham good at getting to the free-throw line when he’s on the court, but he only hits 40% of his freebies. Still, Clark affects the game with solid rebounding and shot blocking.

#35 Chris Braswell (F, Senior) • After breaking his foot over the summer and serving a suspension during the first game of the season, Braswell found himself coming off the bench despite being one of the 49ers best players. He has since worked his way back in to the starting lineup, and he’s now their leading scorer at 12 PPG.

#21 Willie Clayton (F, Freshmen) • Clayton boasts an 18% offensive rebounding percentage which ranks 5th nationally. Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham need to be disciplined on the defensive glass in order to limit the 49er’s second chance points.

The Prediction

Which VCU team will make the trip to Charlotte, the first half Fordham team or the much more dynamic 2nd-half Fordham team? The Rams found some of their lost mojo in the second half when they started forcing turnovers and Troy Daniels caught fire. If that VCU shows up on Saturday, the Rams will win by 10+ points, if not, it could be a dangerous A-10 road game. KenPom picks VCU to win 71-64 with a 73% chance of victory.

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Charlotte Profile

  • Location: Charlotte, NC
  • Enrollment: 25,277
  • All time series: VCU leads 26-15.
  • Last meeting: 12/7/95. VCU won 85-74.

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Aaron Williams

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

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