Winners of 11-straight, the Rams will attempt to continue to build their resume against preseason A-10 favorite St. Joseph’s on Thursday night.
- What: #22 VCU (14-3, 2-0) vs. St. Joseph’s (9-5, 1-1)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Thursday, January 17th at 9:00 PM
- Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94), Online
- Listen: Rams Radio
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In you hadn’t figured it out by now, #19/#22 Virginia Commonwealth University is the real deal. Winners of 11 straight, the Rams will attempt to keep building their resume against St. Joseph’s on Thursday night.
To the surprise of many VCU/Butler/St. Louis fans, Saint Joseph’s was selected as the Atlantic 10 preseason favorite. After an underwhelming 9-5 start, some of the excitement has worn off, but the Hawks are still very good and very dangerous.
Saint Joseph’s returns all five starters from last season’s squad, and that was certainly a reason they were given the preseason honors, but it appears the voters overvalued returning players. Three of last season’s four leading scorers have actually seen their averages drop while playing similar minutes.
Despite being one of the most experienced teams in the conference, the Hawks have serious depth problems. When at full strength, they use a 6.5 man rotation, but they will likely be without junior forward Halil Kanacevic. A Hofstra transfer (he fouled out in his only game against VCU in 2010), he has missed games this season due to a back injury, suspension for flipping off the Villanova crowd, and most recently because of the death of an uncle in Montenegro.
Defensively they alternate between man and zone. They rank 2nd in the nation in FTA/FGA, which means they rarely foul, so VCU will need to score on field goals. While that’s impressive, they rank 291st in defensive turnover percentage and 292nd in defensive rebounding percentage, so don’t be surprised if VCU attempts 15+ more shots than the Hawks.
Earlier this season, Creighton started hitting 3-pointers and the Hawks switched to a 1-3-1 zone which only worsened the problem. The Bluejays finished 10-21 from beyond the arc. Calling Troy Daniels! The Rams are just 15-64 (.234) over the three games since Daniels drained 11 3-pointers at ETSU. When the Hawks go zone, VCU needs to capitalize from range.
Offensively, the Hawks have so many ball handlers and distributors. Saturday against St. Bonaventure, VCU grabbed only seven steals and they were only +1 in turnover differential, their worst margin in a victory all season. Saint Joseph’s enters Thursday’s contest ranked 39th in offensive turnover percentage which is the best of any VCU opponent thus far not named Duke. The Rams just don’t look the same when HAVOC! isn’t forcing turnovers.
Saint Joseph’s is one of the slower and more deliberate teams in the A-10. VCU’s success in conference play this season is heavily dependent upon whether than can frustrate the better teams in the A-10 as well as they did in the CAA. Thursday will be revealing.
The Star: Carl Jones
14.8PPG, 2.8APG, 1.3SPG, .414FG%, .3923PFG%
The Hawks’ offense starts with senior point guard #35 Carl Jones. While he has statistically regressed from last season, he is still capable of earning a spot on an all-league team (he was preseason 2nd team in the A-10). At 5-foot-11, he’s lightning quick. The Rams could have defended St. Bonaventures’s undersized Eric Mosley better; Carl Jones will be another solid test.
Stopping Jones has been a winning strategy against the Hawks this season. In their victories he is averaging 18.57 PPG, .500 shooting, and 3.43APG while in losses he is averaging 9.6PPG, .260 shooting, and 2APG. Briante Weber and Darius Theus‘s ability to contain him could be the difference Thursday night.
#24 Chris Wilson (G, Sophmore) — Another capable ball handler, Wilson’s game is similar to Jones except he is 3-inches taller.
#10 Langston Galloway (SG, Junior) — The Hawk’s true shooting guard, he is their most efficient scorer and their second best deep threat behind, Carl Jones.
#13. Ronald Roberts Jr. (F, Junior) — Piece #1 of the Hawk’s stout front court, Roberts Jr. is their glue guy. Treveon Graham and maybe Jarred Guest need to work hard to keep him off the offensive glass.
#1 CJ Aiken (C Junior) — An under the radar big man in the A-10, Aiken earned pre-season all-defensive team honors. He is a shot blocking force, but his offensive game is also polished. He is efficient near the basket, and he is capable of stepping out and shooting 3-pointers.
Like the St. Bonaventure game, VCU probably won’t force turnovers at their typical rate, but the Rams should wear out the Hawks small rotation en route to their 12th straight W. KenPom picks VCU to win 71-59 with an 88% chance of victory.
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St. Joseph’s Profile
- Location: Philadelphia, PA
- Enrollment: 8,800
- All time series: Tied 1-1.
- Last meeting: 12/4/82. VCU won 75-64.
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