Yeah, we've all heard the jokes about Olean, NY. None of that matters, really, because the game will be played indoors. VCU isn't traveling up there to sip wine on a Fall Foliage tour. It's basketball, and a functioning scoreboard (and wireless for the geeks) is what matters. The school is opening up their dorms early as students return from winter break so they can attend the game.
St. Bonaventure won last year's Atlantic 10 tournament and lost 66-63 to Florida State in the NCAA tourney. They lost Andrew Nicholson from that team, who is now an employee of the Orlando Magic. This year, the Bonnies are 7-7 and losers of four straight games--three by exactly 19 points--but 5-1 on their home court, the Reilly Center, which holds a shade more than 5,000 folks.
- Best rated win: #156 Niagara (80-75). Worst rated loss: #122 Canisius (72-69).
- St. Bonaventure starts three seniors and two juniors. Two of the first three players off bench are seniors.
- In their last game the Bonnies lost 78-59 at GW. Chris Johnson led them with 17 points, Demitrius Conger had 11 and Eric Mosley 10. GW shot 57.1% from the field, making 6-12 from three. St. Bonaventure shot 39% and made just 3-18 from three.
Generally speaking, St. Bonaventure is a good offensive team but not so on the defensive end. Of note, they take care of the ball. A steal percentage of 8.0% is 29th best nationally and turnover percentage of 19.0% is 98th nationally. However GWs 78 points are the fewest St. Bonaventure has allowed in their four losses and opponents are shooting 38.6% from three--322nd best nationally.
Ken Pomeroy says the Rams win this game 76-64, with VCU having an 86% chance of winning it by any score.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Things I'm Watching
1. Things Before The Clock Starts. This team has a certain energy to it. When they come out to shoot about an hour before each game, there's jokes and laughter and smiles. It's a loose team. Then they head back in for final instructions or whatever it is they do prior to coming out of the locker room for the last time. My guess is they all drink a glass of rattlesnake venom, because the look changes to a focused grit when they come back out. This is VCUs first A10 roadie, so I'm looking for that face-looks-like-a-blocked-punt visage 10 minutes prior to the game.
2. New math: Conger = Dillard. Dayton's star player took everything in stride early in Wednesday's game, but the longer the game went on, the more his face turned into a stinky-cheese grimace. Demetrius Conger is the Bonnies BMOC but the difference is that Conger is 6-6. It will be very interesting to see the VCU defense havocize a bigger player. Remember, Dyshawn Pierre for Dayton was a 6-6 guard as well and he looked good early, and then disappeared.
3. Beast Mode. Juvonte Reddic was better than his 14/9 against Dayton. The Flyers had athletic size but Reddic kept playing through it. St. Bonaventure is not a big team so Reddic will have a size and skill advantage over his defender. Look for VCU to get him paint touches early, which would also open up the three point line. I can easily see Reddic tossing up an 18/8 night.
4. The Back of the Press. One thing Dayton did very well early was finish with open shots once they broke the press. St. Bonaventure is not big, but they have several midsize, midrange, athletic players. It's going to be very important for the Rams to play exceptional transition defense and not allow easy baskets or open looks.
5. That Doggone Arc. VCU is 10-47 in its past two games from the three point line, both at home. That's, uh, not good. The past two road games (ETSU and Old Dominion) the Rams are 27-55 from three. That's, uh, extremely good. So I feel better about road arc paint. But VCU will also have to defend that line well. The number I like: double figures made, and five or fewer given up. Given gaussian percentages, that's the winning recipe.
We Don't Work For Free
Demetrius Conger (13.6ppg, 6.9rpg, 2.9apg). The Bonnies feed off his play and energy--he is the head of the dragon. Conger is versatile and talented, a highly skilled 6-6 wing.
Chris Johnson (13.4ppg, 3.5rpg) He carries a scorer's mentality--a true shooter but he will force shots and can be sped up. Plays physical so VCU will have exceed that level.
Marquise Simmons (7.4ppg, 6.8rpg). A 6-8 lefty who is a banger in the post. Fights hard for position and an energy guy.
Charlon Kloof (7.1ppg, 2.4apg) Kloof is an athletic and aggressive point guard. Good three point shooter, better than his success rate thusfar (9-24).
Matthew Wright (7.5ppg, 2.2rpg). High motor wing with best plus/minus on team. Capable three-point shooter but good midrange game.
Eric Mosely (10.2ppg) is their best shooter (33-74 from three) and a scoring point guard. Quick release and deep range. Instant offense off the bench who hunts his shot.
Youssou Ndoye (5.8ppg, 5.4rpg) Big 7-0 235lb post with strength and fights for position. Runs the floor better than size dictates.
Michael Davenport (3.2ppg) Versatile, lefty swingman with an excellent mid-range game.
Jordan Gathers (2.6ppg) Will look for his shot when in the game.
St. Bonaventure is small and will play four perimeter players for extended minutes. Heard of that before?
Here's why establishing Reddic in beast mode is important. The VCU offense is predicated on creating a decision point, or a power play. (Side note: that was for Ed and the end of the NHL lockout.)
As we saw with Lehigh, the offense worked to the wing and Treveon Graham, with Troy Daniels running over a high screen. Lehigh had a choice: send a second defender to help on Daniels and his 25-foot wrist flick threes, or help on Graham driving the basket.
With Dayton, the offense got the ball to the elbow where (typically) Graham had the option to shoot, drive, or dump the ball low to Reddic, who was coming off a low screen. Again, Dayton had a choice to make, and VCU a read to make.
The strategic imperative was the same: force the defense to make a decision, and cut hard off screens, read the screens, and hit the open man. The defense cannot cover everyone.
Why does that matter with Reddic? VCU spreads the floor and fires the ball into the post. If Reddic is isolated, this is where beast mode comes into play and he dominates his defender. So the Bonnies adjust and send a second player at him. Somebody is open, and likely on the three point line.
And that's where three-point differential comes into play.