NCAA Friday Night Basketball: VCU/St. Bonaventure Preview

by Alec McMordie

The Friday night game on ESPN2 features two potential bubble teams from the Atlantic 10 that rank 51st and 52nd in the current kenpom rankings.

St. Bonaventure won their eighth game in nine contests on Tuesday with their 86-73 win at home against LaSalle as a 13.5-point favorite. Jalen Adaway led the team with 20 points, with Kyle Lofton adding 18 points and eight assists.

The Bonnies have five players scoring at least 10.8 points-per-game. Lofton leads the team with a 16.0 points-per-game scoring average while contributing 5.3 assists-per-game. Adaway, a junior transfer from Miami (OH) is fourth on the team with an 11.1 points-per-game scoring average.

Head coach Mark Schmidt returned all five starters from the group last year that finished 19-12. St. Bonaventure has won at least 18 games in all seven seasons in Schmidt’s tenure but has only one NCAA Tournament and one NIT appearance to show for it. Forward Justin Winston did transfer in January after starting as a freshman, but he only played two games this season and lost minutes to Adaway.

The Bonnies are 10-2 with an 8-2 mark in the Atlantic 10. They are 46th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom fueled by an offensive rebounding rate of 34.1%, 50th nationally. They lead the A-10 by pulling down 35.0% of their missed shots in conference play. Schmidt’s team is not likely to barrage a team with 3-pointers: they are last in the Atlantic 10 with only 29.3% of their field goal attempts from behind the line. St. Bonaventure is 59th in adjusted defensive efficiency at kenpom. They are 37th nationally in an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 46.3%. The Bonnies are second in the A-10 in opponent’s effective field goal percentage despite their opponents taking 44.3% of their shots for 3-point land, second-most.

St. Bonaventure’s two losses are against conference rivals, Rhode Island and St. Louis. Their most impressive victories are against Richmond and these Rams.

VCU began the year on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Bonnies with all five starters departed from the group that finished 18-13. Head coach Mike Rhoades’ team was 17-6 at one point last season but only won once in their final eight games before the season got canceled. Sophomore Nah’Shon Hyland was the only player from the top-six scorers to return. Six other bench players and four freshmen in the Atlantic 10’s top-rated recruiting class form the foundation of this team.

The Rams won their fourth straight game on Tuesday in a 76-67 victory at Dayton as a 1.5-point favorite. Hyland led the team with 19 points, and Vince Williams also poured-in 19 points. Hyland is the team’s top-scorer with a 19.2 points-per-game scoring average. Williams is the only other player scoring more than 6.9 points-per-game, with the junior averaging 10.9 points-per-game.

The strength of this VCU team is their defense that kenpom ranks 14th nationally in his adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. The old “havoc” days under former head coach Shaka Smart remains as the Rams are fifth in the nation by forcing turnovers in 25.2% of their opponent’s possessions. VCU also ranks 30th with an opponent’s effective field goal percentage of 45.9%. They are vulnerable against teams who crash the glass as they are last in the Atlantic 10, with their opponents rebounding 32.9% of their misses. The Rams rank only 101st in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They rank third in the A-10 by rebounding 31.1% of their misses. Rhoades teams play fast as they rank 28th in the nation with an average possession length of 15.7 seconds.

VCU is 14-4 with a 7-2 conference mark. Their four losses are against Rhode Island and these Bonnies with two non-conference losses to West Virginia and Penn State. The Rams have two nice victories outside the A-10 against Memphis and Utah State.

These two teams played on January 20th, with St. Bonaventure winning at home, 70-54, as a 3-point favorite. These are young teams with only senior between both team’s rosters.

BookMaker lists VCU as a 2.5-point favorite, with the total set at 134.5. The ESPN2 broadcast begins at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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