#5 Virginia Commonwealth University will seek revenge against crosstown-rival #4 Richmond in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament on Friday.
What: #5 VCU (23-9, 12-6) vs. #4 Richmond (19-12, 12-6)
Where: Barclay’s Center – Brooklyn, NY
When: Friday, March 12th at 2:30 PM
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Listen: Rams Radio
Welcome to March. This is what it’s all about.
With conference shuffling and expansion, the return game is a disappearing concept in college basketball. On Friday, crosstown-rivals Richmond and VCU will get the rare third meeting in a battle littered with intra-season history, hostility, and respect.
The Rams have overshadowed the Spiders the past few seasons. HAVOC! was favored to dominate the conference entering 2015, but the Spiders thrived as the spoiler. First they ended VCU’s 12-game, 56 day long winning streak. The loss ended up being the deciding factor between a double-bye and where VCU ended up: playing on Thursday. Then, the Spiders toppled the Rams in double-overtime starting Coach Smart’s first three game losing streak.
If VCU had beaten Richmond twice, then the Rams are 14-4 with a banner hanging in the Siegel Center.
VCU and Richmond are as different as institutions as the differences between Coach Mooney’s calculated Princetonesque game and Coach Smart’s rambunctious HAVOC!. Fans from both sides of the city make no secrets of their distaste for their neighbors while frequently highlighting the rifts. At the same time, there is a kernel of mutual respect.
This season has only enhanced those hostilities while fortifying the rivalry and fostering respect. Richmond enters Friday on a six game tear and are 2-0 against VCU, plus the Spiders suddenly find themselves on the edge of the edge of the bubble for the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, VCU has bottomed out after going .500 since the injury to Briante Weber against Richmond on January 31st. The Rams’ have arrested their free-fall but are stuck checking out the scenery in the unfamiliar basement. When will they decide to begin the ascent? No one knows.
“We’re going to shake it, it’s just a matter of when.”Coach Smart
For VCU, “shaking it” is as simple as making shots.The Rams have shot below .400 for five consecutive games and they were an abysmal .294 from 2-point range against Fordham on Thursday. Made shots means more pressing, more swagger, and more wins. If the Rams can get a balanced contribution from their shot makers then they could find themselves in their fifth consecutive conference tournament finals. If not, then VCU is probably headed back to Richmond on Friday night. Either way, half of the city will be rejoicing while the other half will be burying their sorrows.
“They’ve been hard to press for many years.”Coach Smart
Richmond’s quick guards and able-passing forwards have been effective against the full-court pressure of HAVOC! since Coach Chris Mooney took over for the Spiders. When VCU isn’t forcing turnovers, Richmond’s Princetonesque offense is capable of putting up points and more importantly dictating tempo.
The best way to beat the press is with defense. When the Rams don’t make shots, they can’t set up the press. VCU scored an abysmal 0.83 points per possession against UR in the first meeting and 0.85 points per possession in the second meeting this season. They went a combined 6-of-39 from 3-point range in the two meetings.
When the Rams aren’t forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, Richmond is capable of keeping the game in the 50s where the Spiders are much more comfortable. The Spiders were able to do that twice this season and both times it resulted in victories. On Friday, if the Rams don’t force HAVOC!, then Richmond will have a good chance to move to 3-0 against the Rams this season.
THE STAR: #0 Kendall Anthony
16.3 PPG (124-257 2PFG, 54-142 3PFG, 95-122 FT,), 2.3 Assists, 1.8 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
He’s got as much heart and toughness as anybody that we’ve played against.Coach Smart
On January 31st, Kendall Anthony had two points at halftime and his final visit to the Siegel Center looked like a bust. In the second half, he reeled off 20 points and led Richmond to its first victory on Broad Street since February 27th, 2001. On February 25th, he tallied 13 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals while handling the press and finding open shooters on possession after possession. Anthony’s skill and speed are only exceeded by his intangibles like heart and toughness.
Regardless of allegiance, KA 2.0 is fun to watch because he’s the hardest working player in blue and red, no matter how things are going-and it’s always a roller coaster. He’s a lightning-quick, workhorse, senior guard who can catch fire and score in bunches. Yet other times, it’s a train-wreck. Friday could be his final game for the Spiders, so it’s worth sitting back and appreciating all of his intangibles.
#5 Trey Davis (G, Junior) He’s an invaluable defender on the wing and while his stats aren’t gaudy, he starts because of his ability to do a little bit of everything.
#11 Deion Taylor (F, Junior) Taylor shot 24-of-60 from 3-point range as a freshman and was a matchup nightmare. He’s 23-of-108 since then including 6-of-39 this season.
#10 T.J. Cline (F, Sophomore) He hit 40 3-pointers as a freshman at Niagara before transferring to Richmond. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, he makes for a difficult matchup.
#15 Terry Allen (F, Junior) Last March, Allen posted 27 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 steals against Duquesne. He’s picked up where he left off last season. He’s second on the team in points, first in rebounds, second in blocks, and second in steals. He has 31 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assist, and 2 steals against VCU this season.
#3 ShawnDre’ Jones (G, Sophomore) Jones lit up VCU on 2/25. He finished with 22 points (6-10 3PFG) and 4 steals. He’s lightning quick and will fill the void left by Kendall Anthony next season.
KenPom picks VCU to win 63-62 with a 55% chance of victory.
Location: Richmond, VA
All-time Series VCU leads 45-28.
Last Meeting 2/25/2015. Richmond won 67-63 in double overtime.