VCU and Belmont have battled the past few seasons, but the Bruins enter Richmond on Tuesday short-handed as they look for their first-ever win against the Rams.
- What: Belmont (7-3, 0-0) at VCU (6-3, 0-0)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Tuesday, December 16th at 7:00PM
- Watch: MASN/SNY
- Listen: Rams Radio
Belmont is a step below the Wichita States and Gonzagas, but the Bruins have had incredible success under head coach and offensive guru Rick Byrd. Belmont hasn’t had a losing campaign since his first in 2002, and the Bruins went 109-30 over the past four seasons.
In the previous two seasons, VCU and Belmont faced off as some of the mid-majors’ best. In 2012 VCU used a 19-3 run to top Belmont 75-65 in the Siegel Center.
Last season, the Bruins jumped out to a 23-11 lead behind 4-of-4 3-point shooting, but VCU used a 22-2 run to snap Belmont’s nation-leading 23-game home-winning streak in the Curb Event Center.
At full strength, Belmont has the skill to make Tuesday another battle, but leading-scorer Craig Bradshaw is doubtful with a calf injury and guard Taylor Barnette is questionable with an ankle injury. Bradshaw scored 42 points against Ohio on November 29th and Barnette is a Virginia transfer who is lights-out from 3-point range.
Belmont will try to respond with disciplined offense and enough key stops to stymie the Rams’ roller coaster of an offense. The Bruins regularly use five players capable of hitting 3-pointers, and their spacing is masterful. Defense is far from their strength, but they are disciplined about not fouling and are effective on the glass. They’ve been trotting out plenty of smaller lineups which means VCU could respond with Saturday’s game-winning lineup of Weber, Brooks, Johnson, Burgess, and Graham.
Byrd has a long tradition of reloading each season despite key departures. After losing two games in a row without Bradshaw, he’ll be forced to expedite the process while facing one of the most disruptive defenses in the country.
The Star: #11 Spencer Turner
3.9 PPG (3-4 2PFG, 10-29 3PFG), 1 RPG, 0.7 APG
Before the Bradshaw injury, Turner scored six points in 53 minutes of action over eight games. He’s an unlikely star, but he scored 10 points against Evansville before dropping 23 points this week against Wright State–including 7-of-13 3-point shooting.
#22 Reece Chamberlain (PG, Senior) • For Belmont to win, Chamberlain is going to have to be special. He’s better than most at finding open shooters, and he’ll be able to break the press with the dribble, but he’ll need to take on more scoring burden than usual.
#2 Nick Smith (F, Sophomore) • He’s 6-foot-8, 215 pounds but is 17-of-45 (.378) from 3-point range.
#32 Amanze Egekeze (F, Freshman) • He lost his starting role against Wright State but went 2-3 from 2PFG and 3-3 from 3PFG.
#35 Evan Bradds (G/F, Sophomore) • He’s scored double-figures in eight of ten games. He’s one of the few Belmont players that works almost exclusively inside the arc.
KenPom picks VCU to win 82-71 with an 84% chance of victory. Considering VCU’s inability to defend the arc and Belmont’s shooters, anything could happen, but expect VCU to win by forcing turnovers.
- What to expect: VCU will face tough road test in Curb Event Center
- Recap: VCU uses 22-2 run to bust Belmont’s streak
Location: Nashville, TN
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
All time series: VCU leads 2-0
Last meeting: 12/1/2013. VCU won 81-68.