Richmond's 76-64 win over Duquense sets up an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal matchup between the city of Richmond's rivals. VCU won the first meeting 81-70 at the Siegel Center, in what turned out to be Richmond seniors Derrick Williams and Cedrick Lindsay's final collegiate games. VCU then pulled out a hard-fought 56-50 victory over a resilient Richmond team behind Treveon Graham's 18-point, 10-rebound and four-assist performance. Will the third time be the charm for the Spiders? Or will the N0. 23 Rams secure the three-game season sweep? Mat Shelton of VCU Ram Nation (Follow them on twitter at @VCURamNation) and Jack Nicholson, sports editor for The Collegian, offer their thoughts and predictions on the game.
VCU wins if:
Mat Shelton: Obviously there are different combos for both of these teams to win this game, but my preferred method for VCU is when they make shots. VCU is the second highest scoring offense in the A-10 but ranks 11th in the conference in field goal percentage. When those percentages are up VCU is scary good and has perhaps the highest ceiling of any team in the conference. Problem is with a 31-game sample size we know that on a lot of nights that's just not going to happen. Luckily VCU has the top-rated defense in A-10 games up to this point, which has been able to bail them out when the shots don't fall. VCU fans will hope that defense doesn't have to tonight.
Jack Nicholson: the Rams control the pace of the game. VCU's Havoc defense tries to do more than just force turnovers. It tries to force teams to play at an uncomfortably fast pace. Richmond led for the majority of its 56-50 loss at the Robins Center in large part because it kept the game to a crawl. The Spiders traditionally try to avoid a fast-pace game, and after losing their two seniors, they want to avoid getting into a track meet at all costs. If VCU can make Richmond play at a fast tempo, the Spiders will struggle to keep up with the Rams.
Richmond wins if:
MS: Just like VCU, Richmond has got to find some consistency on offense. Kendall Anthony, ShawnDre' Jones and Terry Allen can all fill up the stat sheet and you've got a number of other guys with multiple double-digit scoring games as well. Problem is, like VCU, the Spiders have had a tough time getting those cylinders clicking at the same time. If they can get a more balanced attack against the Rams tonight they are going to look like the NCAA caliber team they've shown flashes of all season.
JN: the Spiders find a scorer to complement Anthony. Like Mat said, several Richmond players have had great flashes on offense, but its been a struggle to find a second consistent scorer. Other than Anthony, no active Spider scored in double figures in either of Richmond's losses to VCU , and if that is the case tonight, Richmond will need a remarkable defensive game to beat the Rams. The obvious person to turn to is Allen, after he his 27-point seven-rebound game led Richmond past the Dukes last night. Duquense, however, is not VCU. In the two games against the Rams this season, Allen combined to score 10 points on 5-12 shooting. Allen does not need to be the Anthony's counterpart, but another Spider will need to be an offensive threat tonight.
VCU's X-Factor is:
MS: Melvin Johnson. Like Troy Daniels from last year, Melvin Johnson is VCU's deadliest player when hot because his buckets usually come with an extra point. The added benefit of that is a hot three-point shooter can stretch a defense, and against a Richmond D that clearly gave us fits in our last meeting, we really need someone who can put the ball in the hoops without ANO having a chance to block it first.
JN: Juvonte Reddic. I hesitated labeling a two-time all-conference seconder teamer as an X-factor, but his inside presence, especially his offensive rebounding, will be crucial for the Rams tonight. In the Rams' 81-70 victory, Reddic, who leads the conference in offensive rebounds per game, grabbed seven offensive boards. The Spiders, despite being last in rebounding margin in the A-10, limited the Rams to eight offensive rebounds, and Reddic to just one. Richmond's frontline faces the tall task of keeping Reddic off the glass, but it showed it can do so.
Richmond's X-Factor is:
MS: Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. ANO got in early foul trouble against VCU in our first game and that really opened up things inside. I think against a VCU team that loves to attack the basket, a rim protector like that works wonders for Richmond's defense. You expect Anthony to get his points, know Jones and Allen can do the same, but a good night from Alonzo makes Richmond dangerous.
JN: ShawnDre' Jones. Richmond needs a better game from Jones this time around. In his first game with extended minutes against the Rams, Jones shot 1-11 and committed five turnovers. Richmond doesn't necessarily need him to be a double-digit scorer, although that would take a lot of pressure off Anthony. What Richmond does need, however, is Jones to help break VCU's pressure, get Richmond into its offense, and get the ball to Allen, Trey Davis, and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa in positions where they can attack. Jones has been cold as of late. He could be due for a breakout game.
Final Score Prediction:
MS: I'm not good at predicting scores so I'll go an easy way out and predict the average from the first two games: VCU 68 - Richmond 60
JN: 65-58 VCU. Richmond, who is playing for its season, will stay tight with the Rams throughout. In the end though, the Rams have just too much depth and talent for the Spiders.