The VCU Rams are in the Bahamas to participate in this season’s premier preseason tournament. The Rams open the tournament Thursday night against #19 Memphis.
- What: VCU (2-1, 0-0) vs. Memphis (2-0, 0-0)
- Where: Paradise Island, Bahamas
- When: Thursday, November 22nd at 7:00 PM
- Watch: NBC Sports Network (Comcast 226 & Verizon 90/590 HD)
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Last night, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams flew to Paradise Island in the Bahamas. For family, friends, and fans it’s vacation, but for the Rams it’s all business. VCU will play three games in three days as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Last season, the Rams stumbled early in the Charleston Classic. The 9th youngest team in Division I basketball, VCU struggled to find their identity and the Rams left the tournament 1-2 with disappointing losses to Seton Hall and Georgia Tech.
VCU is clearly much more talented this season, but the Battle 4 Atlantis boasts an impressive field including #2 Louisville, #5 Duke, #13 Missouri, #19 Memphis, and an underrated Minnesota. For now, head coach Shaka Smart is worried about one team: the Memphis Tigers.
The Tigers are a very athletic squad that is able to effectively score in transition, and plays aggressive defense including plenty of full-court pressure. VCU struggled when Wichita State played defense the full 94-feet, so look for head coach Josh Pastner to use different presses to disrupt the Rams’ offense.
The Memphis Tigers’ roster features three McDonalds All-Americans and an ESPN top-100 recruit. Coach Pastner has proven himself as an incredible recruiter after the departure of former head coach John Calipari to Kentucky. While the entire starting lineup is from the city of Memphis, each player offers a diversity of talents.
Big men #10 Tariq Black, #0 Ferrakohn Hall, and #5 Shaq Goodwin will be a handfull for the Ram’s front-court, particularly when the Rams play small ball. #4 Adonis Thomas is the glue at the small forward position and he can influence the game in so many ways. He’s a capable scorer, rebounder, and defender, and at 6-foot-7, he presents a serious match up problem for the Rams. Finally, the Tigers boast a deep back court led by #1 Joe Jackson. Shooting guards #2 Antonio Barton and #3 Chris Crawford are talented players that will see extensive minutes and put up points.
VCU presents the first real challenge for Memphis as the Tigers have played against cupcakes in North Florida and Samford. A win is a win, but Memphis struggled Saturday against Samford as the Bulldogs slowed down the tempo and only trailed 51-54 with 3:30 remaining. Thursday’s game will provide the Tiger’s first opportunity to prove their #19 ranking.
No player will be more important for Memphis against VCU than point guard Joe Jackson. The Rams will look to speed up the Tigers with the full-court pressure, and Joe Jackson’s ability to handle the basketball will be paramount to the Tiger’s success. Sporting News ranked Jackson as the 9th best point guard in college basketball while praising the 6-foot-1 junior for his ability to drive the lane. He is a talented defender that can force steals, but his ability to limit turnovers could be the deciding factor on Thanksgiving.
Too close to call. If players other than Juvonte Reddic and Darius Theus get involved on the offensive end, the Rams have a serious shot at upsetting the Tigers. At the same time, Memphis could handle VCU with its size and athleticism. Ken Pomeroy predicts VCU to beat Memphis 68-67 with a 56% chance of victory.
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- Location: Memphis, TN
- Enrollment: 23,000
- Conference: Conference USA
- All time series: Memphis leads 4-1
- Last meeting: Memphis won 85-58 (1992)
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