Things aren’t about to get any easier for the Rhode Island Rams. After a tough road loss to Fordham, Rhody starts a difficult stretch against some of the toughest teams in the Atlantic 10. But despite Rhody’s nail-biting losses to George Washington and Fordham, the home-town Rams did log a win against a very tough St. Louis team, lest we forget. They’ve also shown that they can hang with every team in the conference up until this point, and it’s just a matter of being able to close out these tight games. Tonight’s opponent is no GW or Fordham, though. Can Rhody hang with them? Let’s take a look:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Conference: Atlantic 10
2012-13 Record: 16-5 (4-2)
Oh good, more Rams. After two consecutive weeks of being ranked (first at #22, then at #19), VCU has lost two straight and dropped from the Associated Press Top 25. Before those two defeats, however, Virginia Commonwealth had logged an amazing 13-straight victories. Besides the most recent losses to Richmond and La Salle, VCU has suffered defeats at the hands of Wichita State, Duke, and Missouri. It’s hard to find something to call a “bad loss” in that group. They’ve also logged wins against Memphis, St. Joseph’s, and Lehigh. Oh, and they also hung 109 points on East Tennessee State, including SIXTEEN made three-pointers. So there’s that.
Projected Starting Lineups
G: Darius Theus, Sr, #10, 6’3″, 200
G: Rob Brandenberg, Jr, #11, 6’2″, 180
G: Troy Daniels, Sr, #30, 6’4″, 200
G: Treveon Graham, So, #24, 6’5″, 215
F: Juvonte Reddic, Jr, #15, 6’9″, 235
G: Mike Powell, So, #1, 5’11″, 175
G: Xavier Munford, Jr, #5, 6’2″, 180
G: Andre Malone, Sr, #12, 6’6″, 210
F: Nikola Malesevic, Sr, #23, 6’7″, 200
C: Jordan Hare, Fr, #4, 6’10″, 205
VCU has a stacked offense to say the least, but it starts with guard Treveon Graham. The sophomore swing man leads the team with a 16 points per game average. He’s shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three on the season, and is second on the team in rebounds with six per game. Graham has scored in double-figures in each of Virginia Commonwealth’s last 14 games, and 19 of 21 overall. He has also posted double-doubles in his last two contests, so Rhody will have their hands full. Graham can score from outside as well as in the post, and with VCU’s four-guard offense, who knows who will match up against him. It’s likely to be either Andre Malone or Nikola Malesevic, and Graham will pose a tall task for their of those guys. If Treveon goes off, it’s going to be a long night for the home team.
Virginia Commonwealth’s second leading scorer is Juvonte Reddic, who could pose an even bigger problem for Rhody given his rebounding ability. Reddic averages 14.2 points and eight rebounds per game, and has also posted a team-high six double-doubles on the season. Between Reddic and Graham, URI could certainly struggle on the glass yet again. Despite starting four players shorter than Andre Malone, VCU still averages more rebounds per game than Rhode Island (36.7-33.1). The other Rams are also 17th in the country in scoring, 27th in assists, and 83rd in field goal percentage. Calling Virginia Commonwealth an offensive powerhouse isn’t much of an exaggeration.
So how’s their defense? Well, it’s awesome. VCU has only allowed three teams to crack the 70-point mark against them this season, and they’re one of the top teams in the country in forcing turnovers. Sophomore guard Briante Weber is a stud on the defensive end, leading the team with 3.1 steals per game. Point guard Darius Theus averages 2.7 takeaways per game, and VCU racks up 12 steals per game on average. Taking care of the ball and limiting unforced errors has to be a priority for Hurley and Co tonight.
The good news for Rhody is they’re at home, and they should have a solid crowd due to the high-profile opponent. And despite VCU’s offense, the URI defense has been good enough to keep them in nearly every game this season. Can Rhode Island keep tonight’s contest close and give themselves a chance to steal an upset in the final minutes? We’ll know in a few hours if URI can grab their biggest win of the season.