RAMS: The Black & Blue Classic 2.0

#21 VCU hosts University of Richmond on Wednesday night in a much anticipated rematch on Senior Night.

  • What: VCU (23-6, 11-3) vs. Richmond (17-12, 7-7)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Wednesday, March 6th at 8:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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#21 Virginia Commonwealth University hosts University of Richmond on Wednesday night in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. It’s the first time the Rams have played the Spiders since Richmond’s rivalry-transforming 86-74 OT victory on January 1/24/13. Adding to the emotion, Darius Theus, Troy Daniels, and David Hinton will suit up for their final game in the Siegel Center as 7,619 fans celebrate Senior Night for Coach Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class.

The Rundown

With 37 seconds remaining and a seven-point deficit, the game was over for University of Richmond. The problem: someone forgot to tell the Spiders. It started when Cedrick Lindsay drained two free-throws before hitting a layup eight seconds later. Kendall Anthony drained three free-throws and followed it up with a 3-pointer over a casually closing out Troy Daniels. With four seconds remaining Darien Brothers nailed the game tying 3-pointer, and Richmond used the momentum to pound VCU in overtime. Fans stormed the court and suddenly the March rematch took on a little more importance for VCU.

After the game, Richmond Coach Chris Mooney talked about Richmond “upholding [their] side of the rivalry.” While VCU will always have a special distaste for ODU, conference realignment has forever reshaped rivalries in the eyes of Coach Smart, “Really, what’s happened for us is Old Dominion and Richmond have traded spots. Now, Richmond is our Old Dominion if you will.”

Richmond had their moment in January, but Wednesday’s matchup is much less favorable. The Spiders are 14-2 at home and only 3-9 on the road for the season. Their record is even worse in conference: a dispiriting 6-1 at home and 1-6 on the road. While only six miles from campus, the hostile Siegel Center will undoubtedly have a different dynamic than the semi-friendly Robins Center.

The Spiders struggle on the road and VCU fans are the real deal, but the Rams will also have a say in the game. Coach Smart’s teams are historically excellent in emotionally charged games. Look no further than Saturday’s 84-52 shellacking of #20 Butler. The Rams were out for vengeance and they delivered (and then some).

Coach Smart & Co. are excellent in “revenge games.” After losing to a team, Smart is 20-3 in rematches. Two of those losses came in the 09-10 season and the third was a questionable loss to Old Dominion in the 2011 CAA Championship (things worked out for VCU, but chalk still taints the Monarch’s title in the eyes of some Ram fans).

The Team

Richmond’s disciplined offense certainly draws inspiration from head coach Chris Mooney’s alma mater Princeton (read: Princeton Offense). Their talented perimeter keeps the ball in motion, but it hasn’t been as effective since the departure of the dynamic Justin Harper.

They have six players that shoot .333 or better from 3-point range. As a team they shoot .380 (28th nationally) from the beyond the arc and their 2-point efficiency is also impressive.

They play mostly man to man defense, but it is different than most teams. Coach Smart said, “Their defense is really, really unique…when they have guys that have been around for a while, they get really, really good at their switches, their rotations, and their talk.”

The Spider’s slow tempo just isn’t as effective if they can’t get stops on a high percentage of possessions. Wednesday, they will have a weapon they lacked in the January meeting: Derrick Williams. He missed nine games with a foot injury and he hasn’t been full strength since his return, but Williams is a valuable front court defender that leads the team in rebounding and is second in scoring.

It took an improbable comeback on January 24th combined with an incredible performance for the Spiders to top the Rams. Richmond was 12-27 from 3-point range while VCU was 3-17 for a season low 17.6%. Undersized (in height, length, and strength) Richmond out-rebounded the Rams 38-35. Richmond only turned the ball over 13 times, and VCU grabbed an uncharacteristically low five steals. The Spiders likely won’t repeat the performance, especially on the road.

The Star: Darien Brothers

14.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, .412 FG%, .426 3PFG%

The Darien Brothers-Troy Daniels debate can continue, but Brothers won last time in the head to head matchup. Daniels finished with six points on 1-5 shooting. Brothers finished 18 points on 5-16 shooting including the game tying 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in regulation.

Supporting cast

#2 Cedrick Lindsay (G, Junior) • Richmond’s disciplined offense begins with their point guard. Lindsay is a talented distributor, effective perimeter defender, and he can also knock down the outside shot.

#0 Kendall Anthony (G, Sophomore) • The reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year, Kendall Anthony is a scoring machine that usually comes off of the bench. At 5-foot-8 he’s undersized, but that didn’t stop him from dropping 26 points against VCU in January.

#34 Derrick Williams (F, Junior) • Williams is a 6-foot-6, 285 pound wrecking ball. He has rediscovered his scoring touch since his injury, but his rebounding has been lackluster. Richmond out-rebounded VCU 38-35 in January, Williams could help them repeat that surprise performance on the glass.

#33 Alonzo Nelson-Ododa (F, Freshman) • Nelson-Ododa went 3-3 from the field in January’s matchup, but Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham scored 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds. Wednesday could be even tougher on Richmond’s young undersized front court: Juvonte Reddic has tallied five more double-doubles since then and Treveon Graham is due for a big game.

#22 Greg Robbins (F, Senior) • Robbins played point guard in high school, which makes him a dynamic forward for the Spiders. He’s second on the team in assists and he can shoot the ball, but he is also an important physical force at 6-foot-5. He grabbed eight very important rebounds against VCU in January.

#11 Deion Taylor (F, Freshman) • Taylor benefited the most from Williams’s absence. The 6-foot-7 freshman forward fits the Princeton offense perfectly because of his 3-point shooting, but his minutes have decreased since Derrick Williams returned to the team.

The Prediction

It’s senior-night-meet-rematch and VCU is coming off of a 32-point blowout of #20 Butler. The Rams have no excuse for losing this game whatsoever. KenPom picks VCU to win 75-62 with an 87% chance of victory.

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Richmond Profile

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Enrollment: 4,250
  • All time series: VCU leads 41-26
  • Last meeting: 1/24/13. Richmond won 86-74 OT.

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Aaron Williams

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

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