#17 Virginia Commonwealth University looks to win its 10th straight game when the Rams visit Duquesne Saturday afternoon.
- What: #17 VCU (14-3, 4-0) at Duquesne (6-9, 1-3)
- Where: Palumbo Center (Pittsburgh, PA)
- When: Saturday, January 17th at 2:00 PM
- Watch: CBS Sports Network
- Listen: Rams Radio
The third season of Coach Jim Ferry’s rebuild at Duquesne has been disappointing in the wins column, but the Dukes have to be pleased with their accumulation of talent. They have several highly capable scorers, but more importantly they have enough size and athleticism to compete for the first time in a while.
But size and scorers doesn’t always get it done and the Dukes are undoubtedly one of the biggest enigmas in the conference. One week they’ll play like a top-100 team and the next week they’ll lose to a school without a conference.
In November, they lost on the road to Penn State by two points and they recently beat Saint Joseph’s before taking Rhode Island to the wire in a disappointing 61 – 60 loss. But home losses to NJIT, St. Francis Pa., and most recently Maryland Eastern Shore, a team VCU dominated 106 – 66 in the Siegel Center in November, adds to the mystery of the Dukes.
The enigmatic play isn’t new. After underperforming en route to a 2 – 8 A-10 start last season, the Dukes won three of their last six including road wins over Rhode Island, #10 Saint Louis, and George Mason. Duquesne knows how to win games (except for when they don’t), which makes them a concern to upset the Rams, who are coming off an emotionally and physically (Treveon Graham is officially questionable with an ankle sprain) taxing 65 – 60 road victory vs. Rhode Island.
Despite the disappointing losses, Duquesne has the biggest potential of the four Atlantic 10 teams with losing records to be a spoiler.
Derrick Colter (31-of-63), Micah Mason (35-of-85), and Jordan Stevens (19-of-57) are a three-headed, 3-point monster who have the potential to heat it up from range where VCU has struggled defensively. The perimeter play is complemented by efficient interior shooting from guys like TySean Powell (.627) and Darius Lewis (.636).
The Dukes boast one of the more respectable offenses in the conference. They’ll play ten players deep, they can get out and run and score in transition, Micah Mason and Jordan Stevens are two of the best backup point guards in the nation, and they are a good passing team. But the defense is about as bad as it gets.
Duquesne ranks 315th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They’ve allowed teams to burn them from 3-point range and their rebounding and ability to force turnovers is lacking. They’ll play 2-3 zone and match-up zone, but the addition of size and athleticism has allowed Coach Ferry’s Duquesne 3.0 to play more man-to-man defense than ever before. The Rams should attack the paint early with Mo Alie-Cox and drivers in order to prime a barrage of 3-pointers.
First and foremost, the Rams need to win on Saturday to continue what has been a great month-and-a-half of basketball since losing to Virginia on December 6th. Second, the Rams need to build some offensive confidence for guys like Melvin Johnson (1-5 2PFG, 2-7 3PFG vs. URI), JeQuan Lewis (3 PPG in A-10 play), and Jordan Burgess (0-3 2PFG, 1-7 3PFG since missing 1/4 with an ankle injury).
VCU has the talent and head start to walk its way to a high Atlantic 10 finish and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, but the Rams can run to the title and be a threat come March if Melvin Johnson can play more consistently and one more guy can step up and be a guaranteed scorer.
THE STAR: #1 Derrick Colter
12.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.3 TOPG
The junior point guard has seen his efficiency skyrocket this season, as he has been asked to do less with more talent on the roster. His 3-point shooting has reached an elite level, he distributes like an all-conference player, and his low turnover rate is a promising development.
All of this is impressive, especially considering Colter was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma immediately after the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Through the early summer he showed inspirational resolve and fight, and on June 24th his cancer had been battled into remission.
Colter is a consummate program player who has started every game of his career and deserves respect for what he can and has accomplished both on and off the court.
#22 Micah Mason (SG, Junior) • Mason finished with the top offensive rating in the country while shooting an unbelievable 65-of-116 (.560) from 3-point range last season. His percentage has plunged to .412 this season, but he’s still one of the smoothest shooters in the country.
#23 Jeremiah Jones (G, Junior) • The regression of Jones’s junior campaign is only topped by his underperformance in conference play. He’s 5-of-17 from 2-point range and 2-of-8 from 3-point range with 6 turnovers over the last three games.
#3 Dominique McKoy (F, Senior) • A Rhode Island transfer, he had a great sophomore campaign for the Dukes but he had regressed significantly in most areas. He’s been solid in conference play except for his 1-of-10 free-throw performance against Saint Louis on Wednesday.
#54 Darius Lewis (F, Sophomore) • His role is limited, but he adds invaluable size on defense where Duquesne really struggles. He was a non-factor early in the season, but his role has expanded over the last month.
#35 Jordan Stevens (G, Junior) • He started the season with 27 points including 6-of-9 3-pointers and scored 9+ points in the first five games of the season after transferring in from junior college, but his minutes are evaporating and he has 19 points in the last four games combined.
KenPom picks VCU to win 85-70 with a 91% chance of victory.
- LOCATION: PITTSBURGH, PA
- Enrollment: ~10,300
- Conference: A-10
- All-Time Series VCU leads 2-0.
- Last Meeting 1/18/2014. VCU won 80-65.