We ain't done yet. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Now things get serious. I think everyone expected us to not really be challenged by St. Peter's. Now we get a very good VCU Rams team that is on a hot streak. On Selection Sunday they heard all the wailing and gnashing of teeth that teams like Colorado and Alabama belonged in the tournament instead of them. So far they have more than proved their worth after hearing that it was NIT or bust when they lost in the Colonial championship game.
This is a team we need to take very seriously. Their conference is a good one that placed three teams in this year's tournament. That conference has also already won three games in this tournament as well. George Mason is a second round team, and VCU has a pair of victories over major conference teams. We will definitely be tested in this next game.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams
2010-11 Record: 25-11, 12-6
2009-10 Record: 27-9, 11-7
Postseason Result: Won College Basketball Invitational
Blog Representation: VCU Ram Nation
Series With Purdue: First Meeting
NCAA Tournament Record: 7-9 (Has never reached Sweet 16)
Time & TV: 7:10pm on TBS
This is a team that is tested and used to postseason success. They were in the NCAA's two seasons ago and won last year's CBI Tournament. That may not sound like much, but it is a major postseason tournament and they won the thing. To me, that counts for something. If you're going to be invited to these things you might as well try to win them. Their seniors have won 100 basketball games in the past four seasons.
This season they have played a handful of NCAA Tournament teams, so they are well prepared for this point in the season. They defeated UCLA, Old Dominion, George Mason, and Wofford, but lost to Richmond, Tennessee, UAB, Old Dominion (twice) and George Mason. It is a bit of a surprise they earned an at large bid after losing four of their last five regular season game, but I think there is no question they belong.
I think this could be a favorable matchup because they like to press the entire game. If we're turning the ball over like we did last night I think we're in trouble. I have seen us break presses in the past, however. We don't often run on teams, but I think our guys can take advantage of things if we do run. Lewis Jackson obviously can play at a fast pace. I think the rest of our guys can follow suit, even at a shortened roster of seven regulars. Remember the Baylor game when JaJuan Johnson and E`Twaun Moore were freshmen. They said we could run with them and we ended up running them off the floor.
VCU is a very balanced team. 6'9" forward Jamie Skeen will match up very well with JJ. He is also a senior, and he leads them with 15.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He played his first two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring to VCU. He can match up very well with JJ because he is a 3-point shooter too. He will pull him away from the post defensively and he can play outside with him on the other end. This is where Travis Carroll and possibly Patrick Bade will come in to play. Carroll is a better perimeter defender than he is a post defender, so I could see him handling Skeen outside while JJ stays inside. Skeen shoots almost 40% from three and 52% from the field. He also does well from the line at 72%.
Bradford Burgess is a 6'6" guard that will probably make us miss Kelsey Barlow a little because of his size. He averages 13.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He can play their E`Twaun role because Joey Rodriguez is their Lewis Jackson. He is a very LewJack-esque point guard because he loves to push the tempo and he plays all over the floor. He is a 5'10" senior point guard that averages 10.7 points and almost five assists per game. He's also a very capable defender in their press.
Finally, you have Brandon Rozzell, another senior averaging better than 11 points per game. He had 26 last night on six three-pointers. He's only 6'2", but last night he proved he is a capable scorer when he needs to be.
The scoring drops off after these four, but their rotation still has Ed Nixon, Rob Brandenberg, Juvante Reddic, Darius Theus, and D.J. Haley. This being their third game in six days we can probably expect them to rotate guys in and attempted to keep everybody fresh. This team likes to score points in transition, and they are just as likely to pull up and shoot the three as attack the basket.
VCU wants to get the game into the 70's. They are 99th nationally in scoring, but 301st in rebounding. That means we have to control the glass again and make sure they don't get second chance opportunities. With their propensity to shoot threes it hoped that fatigue will be a factor with the pace we play. It is hoped, but I don't think we can exactly count on it. Our perimeter defense will be paramount. Ryne Smith, Terone Johnson, and D.J. Byrd need to get out on their shooters. We could also see more of John Hart here, although speculation in me says we won't see him in the tournament if Bubba Day and Dru Anthrop played last night, but he didn't.
I think this is going to be a fun game to watch because we're going to get out in transition and really see what LewJack can do in terms of breaking down the press. It could be a big game for TJ too. Georgetown was incredibly undisciplined last night and struggled to 38% shooting. They also shot very poorly from three. This tells me we cannot settle for jumpers like we did against Iowa and Michigan State. We have to keep attacking the basket.
We should be fine as long as they don't keep hitting threes like they did last night. They are playing with a lot of confidence right now. That confidence will only grow if they get out in a lead and expand it as they did last night. They took apart a Georgetown team that was playing like a Final Four team for part of the season. They are more than capable of beating us, so we need to go back to playing our style of tenacious defense and smart, motion offense.