Every basketball fan in the city of Richmond knows what time it is. This Saturday, the VCU Rams will go into the Robins Center to face the Richmond Spiders in one of the most heated rivalries in college basketball: The Capital City Classic. Both teams mark the meeting(s) on the calendar at the beginning of the season and live for this A10 clash. VCU leads the all-time series 46-28, but these two teams have given us some great games throughout the years. Richmond took down VCU twice last year in the regular season before the Rams were able to edge the Spiders in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. This weekend’s meeting between the two teams will be the first of two this season. They’ll play again at the Stuart Siegel Center in February.
With all the hype and hate that circulates this contest, its easy to forget that this will likely be a very good matchup between two top-tier teams in the Atlantic 10 conference. Rivalry aside, we’re going to be witnessing two tournament-caliber teams going head-to-head this weekend. There have been some great games throughout the years, the Capital City Classic seldom disappoints, and this years games should be just as riveting. Saturday’s matchup could be one of the best games of the year in the Atlantic 10. Here’s why:
1. Both teams are riding on some momentum
VCU enters the Capital City Classic having won 7 straight games including its first four conference contests. The Rams have had one of the hottest teams in the A10 and already boast conference wins over St. Joseph’s and Fordham. Justin Tillman and Mo Alie-Cox are playing some of their best basketball down low for VCU. In addition, Melvin Johnson and JeQuan Lewis have found their strides as of late. Johnson has been on fire from behind the arc while Lewis is starting to do a better job taking care of the basketball.
Richmond, despite losing its first two conference games, has won two games in a row and subsequently is starting to get some momentum back. The Spiders went into Fordham and got a good road win before taking down La Salle at home. The key for Richmond as of late has been red-hot shooting. The Spiders have shot better than 54% from the field in their last two contests and also have made 25 three pointers in that span of time. ShawnDre’ Jones has been huge for Richmond (he had 35 points against Fordham), but Marshall Wood has been the big story lately. He’s now hit 25 three pointers in his last two games.
2. Explosive offense against lock down defense, something has to give
Will VCU’s suffocating defense be able to stop Richmond’s high-powered offense? The Rams rank 2nd in the nation in steal percentage and third in the nation in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. They’re only allowing 64.6 points per game this season. On the other end of the spectrum, Richmond ranks 19th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. They’re scoring 79.1 points per game this year and have three players that are averaging 15 points or more. Will the Spiders be able to outlast the Havoc that’s bound to ensue? The Rams have really been causing teams trouble as of late. They’re defensive intensity has really picked up during conference play. The Spiders will need to protect the ball and get open looks against a very tight VCU defense.
3. Nothing beats a rivalry game
If there’s anything a fan likes doing more than rooting on his or her team, it’s trash talking the opponent. Richmond and VCU have plenty of beef with one another, and the fan bases don’t hesitate to bicker back and forth on social media prior to tip-off. The best part about this game is that we get to see it again in a month. Two high-level teams going head-to-head in the A10 on two separate occasions? What could be better? The city of Richmond will certainly be buckling down for this one on Saturday; expect a very good game between the Rams and the Spiders. Kenpom predicts a 78-77 win for Richmond over VCU. Yeah, this one could really be close.