What to expect: La Salle visits VCU

Less than 48 hours removed from Thursday’s heartbreaking overtime loss at Richmond, #19 Virginia Commonwealth University hosts a talented La Salle in the Siegel Center Saturday night.

  • What: VCU (16-4, 4-1) vs. La Salle (13-5, 4-1)
  • Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
  • When: Saturday, January 26th at 8:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS Sports Network (Verizon 94 & Comcast 732/854)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Less than 48 hours removed from Thursday’s heartbreaking overtime loss at Richmond, #19 Virginia Commonwealth University hosts a talented La Salle in the Siegel Center Saturday night.

The Rundown

Saturday could be a defining moment for the Rams’ 2012-13 season. While VCU is tied at the top of the Atlantic 10 at 4-1, their performance has diminished during conference play. Their full court defense hasn’t dictated pace against the middle of the pack teams, and their half court defense is allowing too many points. They are 32-117 (.274) from 3-point range in A-10 play versus 133-369 (.360) out of conference.

While it feels like Troy Daniels hasn’t seen an open look in ages, his presence has opened up opportunities for other Rams. Treveon Graham has adjusted and scored from range, but the streaky Rob Brandenberg needs to aim for consistency. He finished Thursday 2-10 from the field and 1-5 from range. When he is on, the Rams can beat anyone.

Saturday is important for VCU. Are their recent struggles a stumble in the season or a sign of things to come? Will they come home and play angry, inspired basketball or will they lose their top spot in the A-10?

The Team

La Salle has consistently improved throughout the season. They dropped a bad game to Central Connecticut on November 18th, but they have fought their way to being a premier team in the A-10. The late addition of guard Tyrone Garland has offered them more depth and another valuable scoring option which has elevated them further. Their season peaked on January 3rd with a 54-53 victory over #9 Butler including not one, but two court storms.

Just like Richmond, La Salle’s backcourt is as good as any in the league, and just like Richmond they have multiple ball-handlers and distributors. Four Explorers are averaging 2+APG. VCU needs to establish HAVOC! early in order to frustrate the Explorer’s guards.

La Salle lacks depth in the front court, but unlike Richmond they don’t have a bevy of freshman forwards eager to prove themselves in a big game. (I tip my black & gold hat to Richmond’s Deion Taylor and Terry Allen). They also have a short bench. HAVOC! didn’t do much against St. Joseph’s in the first half on January 17th, but the Hawk’s small rotation was bent over grabbing their shorts during timeouts by the end of that game. The same could happen Saturday.

The Explorers like to play at a quick pace which is great news for VCU. The Rams’ losses have all come in slow games: Wichita St. (63 possessions), Duke (65), Missouri (63), and Richmond (71 including OT). VCU is averaging 71 possessions in their wins and they are 12-0 in regulation games when playing 65+ possessions.

The Star: Ramon Galloway

16.4PPG, 4.7RPG, 3.2APG, 2.4SPG, .403 FG%, .413 3PFG%

Galloway is one of the best players in the Atlantic 10. He ranks 3rd in the Atlantic 10 in PPG, he is a great rebounder for a guard, and he is their best perimeter defender. He can score in the lane and he has excellent 3-point range.

In Wednesday’s victory, he was having an off night, but with three seconds remaining he scored the go ahead basket to solidify the 54-43 victory. A senior with experience in the SEC and A-10, Galloway will be dangerous if Saturday becomes a possession game down the stretch.

Supporting cast

#3 Tyreek Duren (G, Junior) • La Salle’s second leading scorer, Duren is very similar to Galloway. He can score from anywhere on the court, he distributes the ball well, and he is grabbing 2.1 steals per game.

#21 Tyrone Garland (G, Junior) • The third all-time leading scorer in Philadelphia Public League history (behind Maureece Rice and Wilt Chamberlin), Garland spent 2.5 seasons at Virginia Tech before transferring to La Salle this season. The guy can flat out score, he dropped 26 points this season against Iona.

#25 Jerrell Wright (F, Sophomore) • Wright will be one of Treveon Graham’s more physical match ups of the month. At 6-foot-8, 240 lbs., he is an efficient scorer around the basket and an important defender for La Salle.

#0 Steve Zack (C, Sophomore) • Zack’s size and rebounding presence transforms La Salle when he is on the court. Wear him out or get him into foul trouble and the Explorers become an entirely inferior team.

The Prediction

La Salle is coming off an amazing victory, but it’s going to be tough being the team playing VCU on Saturday night. After Thursday, the Rams need to play inspired, angry basketball. If they do, La Salle will be in trouble. KenPom picks VCU to win 76-64 with an 85% chance of victory.

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La Salle Profile

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Enrollment: 7,554
  • All time series: VCU leads 3-0
  • Last meeting: 12/18/04. VCU won 63-52.

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Aaron Williams

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

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