1) Black and Blue goes Atlantic-10: For the first time since Richmond left the CAA conference following the 2000-01 season, this rivalry game will be played with conference standings on the line. The Spiders have won 7 of the past 9 conference games against the Rams, but those numbers obviously give little indication about where these two teams stand now, as so much time has passed, and both programs are in very different places. The two teams will meet again in VCU's Siegel Center later in the season, but this will serve as the Black and Blue Classic game.
2) Stopping the streaking Rams- VCU has won 13 straight games, including its first four A-10 matchups, putting the Rams at the top of the very competitive conference. Richmond has been fantastic at the Robins Center this season, going 10-1, with its only loss coming in a close game to Davidson. The 19th-ranked Rams are heavy favorites in this game still, and the Spiders will have to do something special to knock them off their winning ways.
3) Blue and Red Night or Black and Gold Night?- This highly anticipated game has been soldout for some time, but with VCU so close to campus, it's unknown what percentage of the Robins Center will be cheering for the home team. Expect a high turnout for both sides and a very loud, playoff-like atmosphere to start the game. The good news for Richmond is that student tickets have also all been claimed, so that side of the arena should be all about Spider pride.
What to Look for:
1) Spiders sticking big?- In its last game, a win over Charlotte, Richmond changed its starting lineup, inserting freshman forward Deion Taylor in place of speedy guard Kendall Anthony. The move worked well, as Richmond was able to hang with the bigger 49ers inside. UR coach Chris Mooney has been looking for an answer to losing big man Derrick Williams, who's still looking to return in a few weeks, and Taylor proved he could handle the spotlight on Saturday. Expect Mooney to stick with the move in this game, and the Spiders will need a strong performance from Taylor, along with his fellow front-court starters Greg Robbins and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, to try to take advantage of VCU's four-guard lineup.
2) Graham the Ram- VCU guard Traveon Graham is the Rams' leading scorer, averaging more than 16 points per game. VCU has a fairly balanced attack and can find other guys to put the ball in the basket, but Graham is really the go-to guy when the game is close. If Richmond can find a way to limit and frustrate the star guard, that's its best chance to keep the game close and pull off the upset.
3) Ced the Entertainer- Darien Brothers is Richmond's main offensive threat and has been all season, but point guard Cedrick Lindsay is the man who makes the offense run. When Lindsay was injured earlier in the season, the team really struggled to find any sort of offensive flow. Lindsay was guarded tightly and frustrated during last season's loss to VCU, and it reflected on the entire team's performance. Linsday's assists-to-turnover ratio at the end of this game should be a good reflection of how close Richmond is able to stay with the Rams.
1) Darien doesn't lead Richmond in scoring in the first half- Richmond really needs a big performance out of its star senior -- something similar to his 39-point outburst on Saturday -- but VCU knows that, and Shaka Smart didn't become regarded as one of the top coaches in the nation by game-planning to let the opposing team's best player get good looks at the basket. Luckily for Richmond, Brothers is a smart player, and he's not going to force shots that aren't there. There will be open players for the Spiders. Whether they hit the open shot could determine the first-half score and whether Brothers will get better looks in the second.
2) Reddic leads in rebounds- VCU's only starting big man, Juvonte Reddic, is averaging nearly 8 rebounds a game. Richmond's leading rebounder, aside from the injured Williams, is Nelson-Ododa at just more than 4 per game. The Spiders should have the advantage inside on paper, but Reddic will be the most physical player on the court by a significant margin, and the box score will reflect that at the end of the game.
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3) Someone gets ejected from both teams- These two teams don't like each other. These two fan bases really don't like each other. Both teams are going to want be the more physical team in game where emotions are running high. It's hard to say who from each team will let some pushing escalate or a call get them too upset, but this is definitely the type of game where technical fouls are almost expected.
Final Score Prediction: VCU- 67, UR- 58
Contact staff writer David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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