The capable Rams have lost three of their last four games and visit the Colonials, who have also lost three of their last four, on Saturday.
- What: #20 VCU (18-6, 8-3) vs. George Washington (17-7, 7-4)
- Where: Charles E. Smith Center
- When: Saturday February 14th, 2015 at 2:00 PM
- Watch: ESPN2
- Listen: Rams Radio
When VCU and George Washington met a little more than two weeks ago, the Rams were 7-0 in conference play and the Colonials were nipping at their hooves with a 6-1 record. Both teams have lost three of their last four games and are looking for answers while facing the threat of falling out of contention for first place.
The Rams’ struggles were evident but almost compensated for on Wednesday when they lost to La Salle 74-69 in double overtime. Meanwhile, Duquesne’s offense was drubbing the Colonials 78-62 in Pittsburgh. Saturday is the type of game where the momentum can shift for both teams for the rest of the season. A win can act as a springboard. A loss can act as insurmountable weight.
Adding to the intrigue, Saturday is the Rams’ first rematch of the season. Five of VCU’s last seven games in the expanded 18 game schedule will be rematches with George Washington, Saint Louis, Richmond, Davidson, and George Mason. The other two are against UMass and Dayton, teams currently in first place. The inter-season history ups the ante and builds upon the rising intensity already caused by the four-way tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 between VCU, Dayton, Rhode Island, and UMass.
Coach Smart has fallen short of winning a conference title in each of his first five seasons. With seven games remaining including four against teams 7-4 or better, the Rams will need to regroup quickly if they hope to earn the #1 seed in Brooklyn in March.
The motor behind GW’s rapid rise is consistency. The Colonials core of juniors–Kethan Savage, Joe McDonald, Patricio Garino, and Kevin Larsen–has played thousands of minutes together and GW has started only one lineup all season. Offensively and defensively, all four players have a level of comfort and synergy that can’t be manufactured without time.
Defense is where the Colonials excel. They play mostly man defense but they’ll pepper in a 1-3-1 zone on occasion. Last season, VCU looked lost against the zone, but the 1-3-1 was entirely ineffective against the Rams earlier this season.
George Washington’s offense was transformed last season by the addition of Indiana transfer Maurice Creek (80-200 3PFG). His departure leaves a dearth of 3-point shooting.
The Colonials have combined for only 110 3-pointers this season. Nick Griffin, the Colonials’ 3-point specialist, has been stuck at 18 3-pointers since before the VCU game. The Rams have five players with 19+ 3-pointers.
Despite losing three of the last four games, George Washington is still one of the most capable teams in the league and they will likely be the favorites to win the conference next year, but the Colonials are probably one year away from escaping the second-tier of the Atlantic 10.
THE STAR: #13 Patricio Garino
12.6 PPG (101-172 2PFG, 8-34 3PFG), 5.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2 SPG, 2.5 TOPG
Garino stormed out of the gates in the first meeting and scored on his first three buckets including an easy make after a mid-court steal. The series undoubtedly caused some flashbacks to his dominant performance against the Rams last season, but Garino only scored three more points the rest of the game and didn’t have a huge impact on defense. Both he and Larsen can easily flip the narrative on Saturday if they go from zero to hero.
# Joe McDonald (G, Junior) • McDonald played with poise and avoided mistakes in the first meeting, but GW needs him to be more aggressive if they hope to split the season series with the Rams.
# Kethan Savage (G, Junior) • Savage led GW with 18 points including 9-9 free-throw shooting and the Colonials’ only 3-pointer in the first meeting.
# Kevin Larsen (F, Junior) • He tallied 9 rebounds in the first meeting but played one of the worst games of his career. He finished with one point on 0-4 shooting and five turnovers in 37 minutes of action.
# John Kopriva (F, Senior) • He’s certainly not Isiah Armwood, but the senior is experienced and knowledgable. He’ll go unnoticed, but that’s not always a bad thing because he simply gets the job done.
# Yuta Watanabe (G/F, Freshman) • He provides invaluable offense off of the bench that is essential for a team that struggles to score even with its starters. He finished 1-of-7 with two points and two turnovers in the first meeting.
KenPom picks VCU to win 65-64 with a 56% chance of victory.
George Washington PROFILE
- Location: Washington D.C.
- Enrollment: 25,500
- Conference: A-10
- All-time Series: VCU leads 8-1.
- Last Meeting: 1/27/2015. VCU won 72-48.