Shootaround: Georgetown Hoyas v. VCU Rams

Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Georgetown will get a chance to salvage its experience at the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off when it faces off against VCU, the 10th ranked team in the country, in a game that will decide 5th place of the tournament. Georgetown lost to unranked Northeastern in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Thursday before thumping Kansas State 90-63 on Friday.

Get to Know VCU.

Entering this season.

Expectations are incredibly high for Shaka Smart's Virginia Commonwealth Rams this season, as they are most every season, especially considering the team has not failed to reach the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament the past three seasons. The 12th seeded rams ran into the number 1 seeded Indiana in the 2nd round of last year's tournament, and barely lost to the Hoosiers 63-61.

What I learned from Wikipedia.

There are currently 31,752 students enrolled at VCU, just over 20,000 more than I thought were enrolled. Virginia Commonwealth University has two main campuses in Richmond, Virginia: the Monroe Park Campus, located west of downtown Richmond, and the MCV Campus in the urban center.

Roster rundown. The only player of note that VCU lost after last season was guard Troy Daniels. The entire starting lineup is made up of juniors and seniors.

Back court. VCU has a very solid backcourt, highlighted by upperclassmen guards Rob Brandenberg (11.6 ppg, 1.6 apg, 2.4 spg), Briante Weber (9.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.8 rpg, 3.2 spg), G-F hybrid Treveon Graham (15 ppg, 5.8 rpg). The trio combined for 46 points in VCU's Friday victory over Long Beach State. Sophomore guard Melvin Johnson (7.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg) is one of the Rams' preferred options off the bench, and he receives around 15 minutes of playing time each game.

Front court. The Rams' frontcourt, though not as flashy as its backcourt, is a solid group of contributors led by 6-9 senior Juvonte Reddic (11.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 spg). Joining Reddic in the starting lineup is senior forward Terrance Shannon (4.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, .8 bpg, .8 spg). Freshman forward Mo Alie-Cox (3.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) is the only other frontcourt player of note on the roster.

VCU on twitter. VCU won in a real nail biter against LBSU on Friday.

What to watch when the Rams have the ball.

  • Ram: Treveon Graham. Graham is easily the best scorer the Rams have, and he has notched at least 12 points in all five games this season. Graham is a hybrid guard-forward that helps VCU in so many different ways, particularly in creating mismatches on offenses. He scored 22 points against Virginia on November 12th, in what has been the Rams' biggest game of the season thus far.
  • Hoya: Jabril Trawick. Trawick is a tough-nosed defender, and he will likely face one of his toughest matches of the season on Sunday when he goes up against the 6-6 Treveon Graham. Trawick will need to have a good defensive game if he is to slow down Graham, who also led the Rams in scoring last season.
  • Number. 10. Georgetown is going to have to find ways to avoid 10-second violations against VCU's vaunted press after made baskets and free throws.
  • Feeling delusional because... The Rams certainly have some big players, but they have no one on the roster over 6'9. VCU's inside game will definitely be limited by a lack of size down low, and Georgetown has the personnel to hammer them into turning the ball over in the post and shooting at a low percentage.
  • Feeling cynical because... I still remember the 2011 NCAA tournament loss to the Rams, in which the Hoyas got straight upended. I know how sneakily athletic this team is, and how all teams under Shaka Smart have similar qualities that make them great. The Rams will be set on out running-and-gunning the Hoyas, and it may end up being a very effective strategy.

What to watch when the Hoyas have the ball.

  • Hoya: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. DSR is one of the more unheralded players in the country and has notched 25 points in 2 of his last 3 games. He has seven 3's over those two games and is really emerging as one of the top long-range shooters in the country.
  • Ram: Terrance Shannon. Shannon is a transfer from Florida State currently averaging .8 blocks and .8 steals per game, which are solid numbers considering he plays just over 15 minutes per game. He spent 3 years as a Seminole, so you better believe he got a proper schooling on how to play defense from Leonard Hamilton.
  • Number. Steals. VCU always seems to be at the top of this list, and this season is no different. The Rams are currently 5th in the country in team steals, averaging a ridiculous 12.6 steals per season with 6 players averaging a steal or more per game. It will be interesting to see how Georgetown responds to the constant harassment that VCU is sure to dole out, and to see whether or not the Hoya big men can avoid major turnovers.
  • Feeling delusional because... If we've ever had a backcourt able to break one of the most ferocious presses in the country, this is it. Starks, DSR, and Trawick are all gritty ball handlers capable of breaking continual presses, and I'm imagining many easy layups on the other end for Smith/Hopkins once the press is broken.
  • Feeling cynical because... The Hoyas have been switching off between easy wins and tough losses this season, and we just beat up on Kansas State last game. One thing to be watching for in particular is how Nate Lubick and Joshua Smith respond to the rapid pressure enforced by the Rams. Conventional wisdom tells me that JTIII will limit Smith's play as much as possible this game, while Lubick is actually a solid contributor in press-break situations and should see his usual minutes.

Conclusion. The one team that has been able to beat VCU this season did so on the backs of its guards. Florida State guards Montay Brandon, Devon Bookert and Ian Miller combined for 54 of the Seminoles' 85 points in their defeat of VCU. If we can get a similar effort from Starks, DSR and Trawick, this game can be won. The Hoyas trio combined for 52 points in a shellacking of the Kansas State Wildcats, so when you consider this, it becomes a realistic possibility. 

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