Before the season, juniors David Schneider and Danny Sumner both noted that VCU would have Dec. 6 circled on its calendar. It is the Rams’ first meeting with the College of William and Mary since the Tribe knocked the Rams out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 56-54 CAA Tournament semifinals.
“I definitely think they’re going to be out to get us,” Sumner said. “I think, for us, we have to expect them to try to jump on us early.
“It’s the start of CAA play, and they’re picked to win the league again this year, so we just have to have the mindset that it wasn’t a fluke in the tournament.”
The Tribe can not afford a first-half performance like the Loyola game against a quick and aggressive Rams team. VCU, the prohibitive preseason favorite to take the CAA title, ranks first in the conference in blocks and steals per game, forcing their opponents into 17 turnovers per game.
The Rams also have reigning CAA player of the year, Eric Maynor, to lead the team.
Keys to the game
Slow Maynor down
He’s the unquestioned floor general for the Rams. The lone senior on VCU’s roster, Maynor leads the Rams in points (24.5) and assists (5.7) per game — both up from his junior year. He’s improved his shooting since last season too, hitting 53.1 percent of his shots and 41 percent of his three-point attempts. Maynor has shown that he can take over a game whenever he wants, so the pressure will be on the Tribe to mix its defenses effectively, putting Sumner at the top of the 1-3-1 zone (as the Tribe did in the 2008 CAA Tournament) and getting physical.
Balance the scoring
Taking 46 three-pointers per game, as the College did against Liberty, is not the Tribe’s best recipe for winning, especially against the Rams. When the College spaces the floor and moves the ball, it creates openings via back screens and allows teammates to make the extra pass. Stein and sophomore forward Marcus Kitts need to provide low-post scoring to open up the perimeter for Schneider and Sumner, among others. Keeping things balanced will force the Rams to stay honest and prevent them from hawking the three-point line all night.
Act your age
The Tribe starts four upperclassmen, while VCU has only three healthy upperclassmen
on its roster. The experience edge may point to the College, but it won’t matter unless the Tribe’s veterans play like veterans. Cutting down on sloppy turnovers, communicating on defense, and attacking the boards are essential for the Tribe to succeed. If the College starts out slow, turns the ball over and gives up easy baskets against a young, aggressive VCU team, it could be a long night for the Tribe.