VCU Rams (15-4) Richmond Spiders (11-4)
Chris Mooney’s Spiders want this game in a big way; they need to start racking up wins to be an NCAA Tournament level team. Following the Spiders’ second COVID pause of the calendar year, they played a tune-up game against a D3 squad in an absolute rout.
This seems like a tough matchup for VCU; why’s that? Richmond’s the top offensive team in the conference, with the Princeton styles, limited amount of turnovers & pure-scorers. There’s a ton of pieces on this team that can combat VCU’s elite defense. Jacob Gilyard & Blake Francis are both phenomenal offensive player despite some small struggles this season at times.
And you can’t forget the playmaker in the Princeton offense, big-man, Grant Golden. The one defending Golden will be the best defensive big in the conference, Hason Ward, but Ward is more equip for guarding the paint, not defending a playmaking big. With VCU not going to force turnovers in this one, with the way Richmond’s careful with the ball will make VCU have to score in actual sets.
The Spider’s defense has struggled this season, similarly to VCU’s offense. The Rams do struggle with turnovers on the offensive end, which could present a problem here.
Mike Rhoades will need his two scorers, Vince Williams Jr & Bones Hyland, to produce in this game; both are elite shooters from deep. Hyland especially has game takeover ability; being defended by Jacob Gilyard will be interesting for Bones, and I am thrilled to see that matchup.
Keys to the game:
For the Rams, try limiting the turnovers, possessions will be paramount in this game & you can’t give possessions away.
The Spider’s defense will need improvement. Digging themselves a whole has been a trend this season for Richmond.
Players to watch:
VCU: Hason Ward
Richmond: Jacob Gilyard
Arizona State Sun Devils (7-9) USC Trojans (17-3)
The top dog in the PAC-12 faces a sleeping giant in Arizona State. Despite a rough season, if the Sun Devils can finally be at full strength, anything is possible & I wholeheartedly believe that ASU can defeat anyone in this conference. Health continues to plague ASU. Marcus Bagley’s missed five games in two different injury stints. Josh Christopher’s missed a game, Remy Martin’s missed two, Jalen Graham’s missed three, Alonzo Verge has missed two, Taeshon Cherry’s out with personal reasons, Jaelen House missed multiple games, Chris Osten’s also missed several games. The lone scholarship player to appear in all sixteen games is Holland Woods. So, when you think about this team, you think of a team that is disappointed in a sense. Based on expectations, that’s fair, but things become increasingly difficult when you’re never fully healthy for mostly injury reasons.
ASU will want to play ASU ball, play in transition & shoot threes. I’d guess for this that both star freshmen return for this one.
Remy Martin isn’t shooting the ball at a good clip from deep this season, but his impact is still everywhere. Running the offense, passing, still with a knack for scoring, especially from the mid-range. If Martin produces one of his patented Remy Martin games, this could be a competitive game.
With the shooting struggles, potentially returning Marcus Bagley will be paramount. Bagley’s a pure-shooter from deep. Look for him to put a serious impact on this game.
Speaking of star freshman, this will be a homecoming game for Josh Christopher, the Carson, CA native right in the Los Angeles area. There won’t be fans, of course, but you’d have to imagine this will be an emotional game for Christopher, trying to produce in a big-way against his hometown team.
The X-Factor for Bobby Hurley here is big-man, Jalen Graham who will assume the duties of defending Evan Mobley. His value doesn’t only come on defense though, Graham since returning from Mono, he’s averaging 11.6 PPG in six games, compared to significantly less prior.
The USC star, Evan Mobley, will look to impose his will instantly in this one. A conference POTY candidate that dominates when the chances present themselves. With the Sun Devils’ depleted front-court depth, Mobley will surely be looking to get Graham/Chris Osten/Kimani Lawrence in foul trouble.
The two ball-handlers, Tahj Eaddy & Ethan Anderson, will play a significant role in a multitude of ways in this game. Both can score in chunks, but primarily their value comes from not turning the ball over in this one. Turning it over, which in turn gets Arizona State in transition, is a recipe for disaster. Eaddy posted big numbers in USC’s most recent game in Pullman against Wazzu with 29 points.
Andy Enfield has a complete squad from top-to-bottom, except in one area. From the foul-line, the Trojans shoot only 65% from-the-line, a conference worst.
Keys to the game:
The Sun Devils’ struggles from three continue to this point in the season. That’ll have to subside in some fashion for a potential upset win.
Andy Enfield needs to get Evan Mobley the ball early & often inside.
Players to watch:
Arizona State: Jalen Graham
USC: Tahj Eaddy