George Mason vs. VCU: Tuesday's Preview

    
February 14th, 2012
With regards to some of the top non-BCS conferences in the country, this is seen as a big week to the uninitiated because of the Sears BracketBusters match ups over the weekend. Those games will be entertaining and all but there's no substitute for going out and winning your league, a mission both VCU (22-5, 13-2) and George Mason (21-6, 13-2) are looking to accomplish in the CAA. VCU's win over Old Dominion on Saturday night established a two-game gap between the top three (Drexel is also 13-2) and the rest of the CAA, which could be a step towards the league earning a second NCAA tournament berth.

If there's one stat to keep track of in Fairfax it's the turnover count, as Shaka Smart's team is one of the nation's best at turning their opponents over. VCU has caused 17.6 turnovers per game, a mark that leads the CAA and works out to their opponents having a possession end in a turnover 27.1% of the time. Briante Weber is the "man of steal" for this group as he tallies an average of 2.3 pilfers per game, and five other Rams average at least one steal per game (VCU boasts a steal percentage of 15.7%). This should concern George Mason as they're averaging 14.7 turnovers per game, a number that while not good gets magnified by the fact that they average 12.8 assists per game.

Mason's leader in turnovers per game is forward Ryan Pearson (17.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg), but while that's a negative there's no doubt that he's one of the CAA's best players. Pearson may not have the height of the standard big man but he's got the muscle required to be a tough matchup for VCU inside while also stepping out on the perimeter (36.9% 3PT). Joining Pearson inside is Mike Morrison (9.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), who remains closer to the hoop offensively and acts as the last line of defense on the other end (1.9 bpg).

VCU has an improving post presence in sophomore Juvonte Reddic (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) who's gotten better as the season's worn on both offensively and defensively. Reddic grabs 3.1 offensive rebounds per game, the high for a team that manages to corral 36% of their missed shots. Next to him is sophomore seven-footer D.J. Haley, a player who will likely best be judged by his play next season as opposed to this. On the wing is VCU's most experienced player and leading scorer in Bradford Burgess.

Burgess (13.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg) struggled to start the season but that was to be expected as one of the guys from a season ago was adjusting to being "the guy". Burgess scored 22 points in the Rams' win over Towson and followed that up with 24 against ODU, a welcome performance after failing to reach double figures in six of VCU's last seven games. Outside of Burgess, the Rams rely on a good mix of youth and experience in their perimeter rotation.

Darius Theus is the most experienced returnee while classmate Troy Daniels didn't see much playing time his first two seasons in Richmond. The remainder of the rotation is made up of underclassmen, with Treveon Graham and Rob Brandenburg scoring a combined 15.2 points per game. VCU isn't a great three-point shooting team (33.3%) but they do rely heavily on the shot, scoring 32.5% of their points from three. George Mason has been better at finding shots inside of the arc, and their perimeter rotation has done a good job of finding open areas on the floor.

Bryon Allen (7.7 ppg, 4.0 apg) leads the Patriots in assists but he's also second on the team in turnovers, and how well he performs against the VCU defense will play a major role in the outcome. Senior Andre Cornelius is the elder statesman of the group and freshman Corey Edwards isn't called on to score much but he does a good job as both a facilitator and defender. Sherrod Wright (9.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Vertail Vaughns (8.8 ppg) are arguably George Mason's best perimeter shooters, and overall four GMU guards average at least 6.8 points per game. If George Mason takes care of the basketball they stand a good shot at ending the Rams' win streak, but that's easier said than done. 

#6 Ohio State visits Minnesota with the Golden Gophers in search of a victory that would stand out on their resume while the Buckeyes hope to bounce back from their loss to Michigan State. A key for Ohio State will be what they get from William Buford, and that's in regard to shot selection and not just the number of points that he scores. The Buckeyes admittedly got frustrated on Saturday evening, and they'll need to avoid falling into that trap at The Barn if they're to avoid a second consecutive loss. Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III need to come up big in their matchup with Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas if Minnesota is to win.

Oklahoma hosts Texas in a Big 12 matchup both teams need at this point, with the Longhorns clinging to hopes of an NCAA tournament appearance and the Sooners having lost four in a row. Oklahoma was Steven Pledger shot away from forcing overtime against Missouri last week, and they didn't exactly bounce back in a 65-47 loss to Texas Tech. Rick Barnes' team has won three in a row by beating teams they're expected to beat, and on paper Tuesday's battle in Norman would qualify as such a game. J'Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo will be key for Texas on the perimeter, and it's also good to have Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene coming off of solid performances in the win over Kansas State.   

Top 25 Games
9:00 PM (6) Ohio State at Minnesota (ESPN)
7:30 PM (11) UNLV at TCU (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM (12) Florida at Alabama (ESPN)
7:00 PM (22) Virginia at Clemson (ESPNU)
9:00 PM (23) Mississippi State at LSU

NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Towson at Northeastern
7:00 PM Georgia State at James Madison (ESPN3)
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Old Dominion
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Kennesaw State
7:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Butler (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan
7:00 PM William & Mary at Drexel
7:00 PM Radford at High Point
7:00 PM Delaware at Hofstra
7:00 PM Buffalo at Kent State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM VMI at Liberty (ESPN3)
7:00 PM St. John's at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Manhattan at Siena
7:00 PM Texas A&M at Texas Tech (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Presbyterian at Winthrop
7:05 PM Illinois State at Indiana State (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Gardner-Webb at Charleston Southern
8:00 PM Texas at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Cleveland State at Milwaukee
8:00 PM Jacksonville State at Tennessee State
8:00 PM Youngstown State at Green Bay
8:05 PM Creighton at Southern Illinois (ESPN3)
8:05 PM UIC at Valparaiso
9:00 PM Northern New Mexico at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM VCU at George Mason (ESPNU)
9:05 PM Montana Tech at Utah State
10:00 PM Pacific at UC Davis
10:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Nevada
10:10 PM Northwest College at Seattle
1:00 AM New Orleans at Hawaii