#15 Virginia Commonwealth University returns to the Stuart C. Siegel Center for the first time this season when they host the talented Rockets of Toledo on Tuesday night at 6:00 PM.
- What: #15 VCU (1-0, 0-0) vs. Toledo (1-0, 0-0)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Tuesday, November 18th at 6:00 PM
- Watch: ESPNU
- Listen: Rams Radio
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Fifth-year head coach Tod Kowalczyk has done an incredible job taking Toledo from an NCAA-violation-ravaged mess into a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 35 years. The Rockets won eight games combined in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. To put that in perspective, VCU won nine games in the month of January 2011.
Last year, it was a different story. Toledo won a school-record 27 games but fell short of the NCAA Tournament after an embarrassing loss in the MAC Conference Tournament finals. The Rockets return five of their six best players while adding two talented freshmen and are primed to improve upon last season’s successful campaign.
Why the Rockets can beat VCU
Point guard Julius “Juice” Brown is poised and has enough skill to handle the Rams’ pressure defense even with the return of Briante Weber. The Rockets finished 13th nationally last season in offensive turnover percentage.
Toledo has an extremely experienced core with talent at every position. Outside of taking care of the basketball, they aren’t exceptional at any one area but they are so consistent on the offensive end because of solid shooting, consistent rebounding, and an ability to get to the charity stripe.
The Rockets like to play fast. If they protect the basketball, this game could turn into a track meet, and Toledo could be the first team to beat VCU at the Siegel Center since La Salle on January 26th, 2013.
Why the Rockets can’t beat VCU
This VCU team is different than the team last year that suffered from enigmatic inconsistencies and extended droughts on offense. The Rockets were exceptional on offense last season, but their defense was abysmal. Even if the Rams’ pressure defense doesn’t rattle the Rockets, VCU can rely on their offense to outpace the visitors.
Toledo finished last season ranked 255th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 299th in defensive effective field percentage, and 255th in defensive block percentage. Melvin Johnson has played incredible basketball, and Tuesday is the kind of game where Treveon Graham can regain his mojo after a disappointing 3-of-13 shooting performance against Tennessee (although he finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds).
VCU finished a perfect 15-0 at home last season. It’s going to take a great night from a great team to win in the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Toledo simply lacks the defense to frustrate the Rams–an essential first step to beating VCU.
The Star: Julius “Juice” Brown
14.9 PPG, 6 APG, 1.1 SPG, .355 3PFG
The rise of the Rockets has mirrored the career of senior Julius Brown. A 5-foot-10 lightning-quick point guard, he led the MAC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio last season while being named to the conference first team.
Brown has the skills and experience to handle HAVOC! while helping the Rockets put up a ton of points. He’s always been asked to play a lot of minutes, so Tuesday will be a challenge to see if he can keep his legs under him for 35 minutes against the Rams’ full-court press only 48 hours removed from Toledo’s game against Northern Arizona on Sunday.
#1 Jonathan Williams (G, Sophomore) • Not the VCU point guard! Williams is the Rockets’ best shooter and most-improved defender. They’ll need plenty of both from him this season.
#4 Justin Drummond (G/F, Senior) • Averaged 14.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.6 APG game last season. Should be entertaining watching him battle VCU’s rapid fire rotation of talented small forwards.
#24 JD Weatherspoon (F, Senior) • He’s a 6-foot-6, 215 pound forward. He averaged 10.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 1 APG while shooting .537 last season. He draws a ton of fouls, but should have his hands full with Treveon Graham.
#53 Nathan Boone (C, Junior) • Is a capable scoring big man, but the Rockets need way more out of him as a rebounder. Mo Alie-Cox has been solid, but the next step is for VCU’s center to start exploiting match ups.
#3 Stuckey Moseley (PG, Freshman) • Moseley is a solid recruit, but his road debut will be a tough outing. When Brown goes to the bench, VCU will have the opportunity to use defense to fuel the type of run that could ultimately distinguish the Rams.
KenPom picks VCU to win 85-71 with a 90% chance of victory.
- Location: Toledo, Ohio
- Enrollment: 23,000
- Conference: MAC
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- What to expect: VCU hosts sneaky-good Toledo
- Recap: Weber returns and leads VCU past Toledo
- PHOTOS: Briante Weber and the Rams take down Toledo