Atlantic 10 College Basketball Handicapping: VCU Rams at Massachusetts Minutemen

Virginia Commonwealth Rams at Massachusetts Minutemen
William D. Mullins Center – Amherst, Massachusetts

Friday, February 21, 2014, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: UMass -1
Current Line: UMass -1 1/2
Opening Total: 147 1/2
Current Total: 147 1/2
Opening Money Line: UMass -120 / VCU +100
Current Money Line: UMass -125 / VCU +105

VCU teravels to Umass Friday night in a key Atlantic 10 game.
VCU teravels to Umass Friday night in a key Atlantic 10 game.

Two 20 win Atlantic 10 teams take center stage on a light night in college basketball. The 20-6 Virginia Commonwealth Rams travel to the 20-5 Massachusetts Minutemen Friday night. The Rams are 8-3 in the A-10 and tied for second with St. Joseph’s behind 11-0 Saint Louis. The Minutemen are 7-4 in conference and tied for fifth with Richmond.

VCU and Massachusetts had never played before becoming conference rivals last season. The Rams beat the Minutemen twice last year 86-68 in Richmond, and 71-62 in the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn. This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season.

VCU is coached by Shaka Smart. The Rams have losses to Florida State and Georgetown in a tournament in Puerto Rico, at Northern Iowa, at George Washington, at St. Joseph’s, and at Saint Louis Saturday 64-62. The Rams have lost 2 of their last 3 games after a six game winning streak. VCU has key wins over Illinois State, at Virginia, Winthrop, Long Beach State in Puerto Rico, Northeastern, Belmont, Old Dominion, Wofford, Virginia Tech, Boston College in Brooklyn, George Mason, Duquesne, at Dayton, at LaSalle, Fordham, Richmond, Rhode Island and George Washington. The Rams are 12-12 ATS and the total is 8-15 this season.

Virginia Commonwealth is outscoring teams 76-66 this season. The Rams are shooting 42% from the field and 34.9% from 3 point range. VCU makes 67.9% of their free throws. Ram opponents are shooting 43.8% from the field and 30.2% from 3 point range. VCU is #25 nationally in 3 point defense. The Rams average 36.8 rebounds per game and opponents average 33.8 per game. VCU is #303 out of 351 teams nationally in rebounds allowed. The Rams average 13 assists, 12.3 turnovers, 11.7 steals and 4.2 blocks per game. Opponents average 12.8 assists, 12.2 turnovers, 9.9 steals and 4.3 blocks per game.

Guard Treveon Graham averages 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Forward Juvonte Reddic averages 12.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. Guard Melvin Johnson averages 10.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. Guard Briante Weber averages 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 3.7 steals per game. Guard Rob Brandenberg averages 9.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Terrance Shannon and Mo Alie-Cox will also get significant minutes in the rotation.

Massachusetts is coached by Derek Kellogg. The Minutemen have losses to Florida State in Miami, at Richmond, at St. Bonaventure, at St. Joseph’s, and George Mason. UMass has key wins over Boston College in Boston, LSU, Youngstown State, Nebraska, New Mexico and Clemson (all in a tournament in Charleston, SC), at Eastern Michigan, BYU in Springfield, MA, Northern Illinois, at Ohio, Providence, Miami-(OH), St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, George Mason, at Elon, Fordham, LaSalle, at Rhode Island, and at George Washington Saturday 67-61. The Minutemen have won 3 of their last 4 games. Massachusetts is 15-10 ATS and the total is 10-15 this season.

UMass is outscoring teams 77-70 this season. The Minutemen are #48 in scoring nationally. Massachusetts is shooting 47.3% from the field and 36.3% from 3 point range. The Minutemen are #39 in field goal percentage. UMass makes 66.6% from the free throw line. Minutemen opponents are shooting 41.1% from the field and 30.5% from 3 point range. UMass is #30 nationally in field goal defense. The Minutemen average 38.8 rebounds and opponents average 31.6 this season. Massachusetts is #26 in rebounding nationally. The Minutemen average 16.1 assists, 13.8 turnovers, 6.5 steals and 5.8 blocks per game. Opponents average 13.6 assists, 13.1 turnovers, 6.2 steals and 5.8 blocks per game.

Guard Chaz Williams averages 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Center Cady Lalanne averages 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Forward Sampson Carter averages 11 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Forward Raphiael Putney averages 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. Guard Derrick Gordon averages 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Guard Trey Davis averages 8.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Forward Maxie Esho averages 8.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block per game.

VCU is 5-1 ATS against teams with winning records, 4-1 overall and in Atlantic 10 games, 2-9 after a straight up loss, and 1-5 in Friday games.

Massachusetts is 10-3 ATS after a cover, 6-2 in Friday games, 3-7 after a straight up win, and 2-5 at home.

The Atlantic 10 might be the deepest mid-major conference in the country, if you can even call it a mid-major anymore. Both VCU and Massachusetts should make the NCAA tournament barring a major collapse by either team. Both of these teams are comfortable playing in the high 70’s so this should be an up and down game. Both teams force a lot of turnovers. It is hard to win on the road in this conference, and for that reason I will take UMass in a close game at home.

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