What to expect: Richmond vs. VCU…round 3

Playing any team three times in one season is special. Playing a crosstown rival three times in one season is next level.

  • What: VCU (24-7, 12-4) vs. Richmond (19-13, 8-8)
  • Where: Barclay’s Center
  • When: Friday, March 14th at 6:30 PM
  • Watch: NBC Sports Network
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Playing any team three times is always a treat. Virginia Commonwealth University meets the University of Richmond on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and it will be the third Rams-Spiders matchup of the season.

The Rundown

There are plenty of ways to frame this game, but only one truly matters: rematch. Playing Atlantic 10 teams twice in one season is already a treat–double rematches are next level. Throw in a competitive rivalry and you’re starting to capture the magic of Friday’s battle between the Rams and the Spiders.

The March 6th meeting between RVA’s two teams showed that rivalries can shatter expectations, and the Rams need to be prepared to take care of business against Friday’s familiar foe. After almost a one week hiatus, VCU’s task is simple: get comfortable and play like the more talented team they are. After all, the Rams won in the Robins Center a short eight days ago.

Sit down and buckle up because in addition to being highly entertaining, Friday’s game is going to pit two rivals with two of the premier coaches in the A-10 against each other. Regardless of affiliation, fans of basketball across the country are going to tune in during primetime tomorrow and enjoy a battle–for fans from RVA, it will be just a little more special.

The Team

The same week Cedrick Lindsay was sidelined with two MCL injuries, senior forward Derrick Williams left Richmond for “family reasons.” Despite a very successful career in Richmond, Williams had seen his role diminish before leaving the team, and Richmond still has plenty of young talented forwards.

Coach Mooney still uses the Princeton offense, and the Spiders will do some interesting things on defense including using a matchup-zone, but Richmond is a much different team than last year. The 2012-13 Spiders relied on balanced and efficient 3-point shooting to outscore their opponents while this year’s squad has used defense to make up for their lack of outside scoring.

The Spiders rank 60th in adjusted defensive efficiency thanks to strong perimeter defense and the shot blocking ability of sophomore Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. They aren’t great defensive rebounders and they foul plenty, but they rank 7th nationally in defensive 3-point percentage and 96th in blocked shots.

The Spiders were finding more success with their defense-first approach. They boast wins over #13 Massachusetts, Dayton, and Saint Joseph’s and their losses are understandable. They even responded to the loss of their senior class by winning 4-of-5 games, but emotionally fueled runs have a tendency of burning out. Can the Spiders fuel a postseason run without any seniors?

Richmond has a great track-record against VCU’s press. Coach Smart considered calling off the press in the second matchup last season as Richmond’s triumvirate of guards capitalized on the Rams’ extended defense. On several possessions this year he called off the press against Kendall Anthony. VCU will probably be forced to win in different ways come Friday.

The Star: #0 Kendall Anthony*

15.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG

Kendall Anthony’s 36 minute, 31 point, and three turnover game against VCU on February 1st was one of the most impressive performances ever against HAVOC! 31 points is a rare feat against the Rams, but the most impressive part doesn’t even show up in the box score. Anthony single handedly beat the press possession after possession. Using his speed and ball-handling, he switched between attacking the middle of the court and running the baseline which he turned into very easy scoring opportunities.

He was equally effective in the Robins Center during the first half until Rob Brandenberg locked him down on defense in the half court. Anthony will be without his partner in crime Lindsay, but he has the tools to consistently be effective against VCU regardless of his supporting cast.

Supporting Cast

#4 Wayne Sparrow* (G, Junior) • After losing his starting role in December, Sparrow is back in the starting lineup for post-Lindsay UR. His offensive efficiency has plummeted during his junior campaign, and he won’t have an easy time against HAVOC!.

#5 Trey Davis* (SF, Sophomore) • Davis had 8 points, 9 rebounds, and an assist against the Rams back in February. The Spiders need him as a scorer more than ever, and their success depends upon him stepping up again and more.

#11 Deion Taylor* (F, Sophomore) • Taylor had a great freshman campaign, but he struggled on offense starting this season. He’s 6-foot-7 and can score from anywhere on the court. He shot .400 from 3-point range last season but is at .274 right now.

#33 Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (C, Sophomore) • Starting the February 1st game, Nelson-Ododa was a defensive force. He blocked three early shots and grabbed two steals, but foul trouble sent him to the bench and limited him to 17 minutes. In the second meeting he was dominant in the first half tallying nine points before going scoreless in the second half.

#3 ShawnDre’ Jones (G, Freshman) • With Lindsay sidelined, Jones reeled off five straight double-digit performances including a 25point outburst against George Washington on February 18th. The adrenaline has worn off or the defenses have tightened up.

#15 Terry Allen (G, Freshman) • Terry Allen is piece number two of Richmond’s three talented sophomore forwards. His efficiency has decreased since last season, but he’s been effective at grabbing rebounds and waiting for his moments. He’s capable of scoring 18 points on any given night.

The Prediction

Tic, tac, toe–three in a row. Coach Mooney always has the Spiders prepared but it’s really tough not to keep picking VCU. Expect it to be another uncomfortable battle, but the Rams should find separation down the stretch. KenPom picks VCU to win 68-61 with a 78% chance of victory.

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Richmond Profile

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Enrollment: 4,350
  • Conference: A-10
  • All time series: VCU leads 44-26.
  • Last meeting: 3/6/2014. VCU won 56-50.

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Aaron Williams

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

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