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A-10 Championship Preview: #2 VCU vs. #4 St. Joseph’s

BROOKLYN-This is it. The game we’ve all been waiting for. After four action-packed days of high-stakes basketball, VCU and St. Joseph’s will matchup in a showdown to declare who truly rules the A-10. Both teams are March Madness bound, both are title-worthy. From any point of view, this one’s gonna to be an absolute blast.

VCU and St. Joe’s met for the only time this season in Philadelphia on January 5th. In a shootout, the Rams were able to march out of St. Joe’s with a 85-82 win behind 25 points from Melvin Johnson. Isaiah Miles scored 31 in that game and the contest stayed close throughout.

Tomorrow, just like two months ago, should be tight to the finish. As we look forward to the matchup, here are three keys to tomorrow’s contest.

1. How effective will an injured Melvin Johnson be?

The VCU senior suffered an ankle/heel injury on Friday and has not been 100% since. In the semifinal game against Davidson, Johnson played just 20 minutes, marginally shy of his average 31.9 per game this year. Head coach Will Wade obviously will be precautious with his star, especially with an NCAA tournament appearance approaching in the next week. Still this begs the question, how much will he play and when he does, how effective will he be?

Luckily for this team, they’ve been getting great production out of the rest of their core. Korey Billbury had 17, just are one of the three Rams that scored in double-figures yesterday afternoon. Doug Brooks was valuable off the bench defensively and by the estimation of Coach Wade, Jordan Burgess has been stellar. We’ll see who can step up if Johnson doesn’t play to his best today.

2. How does VCU contain Isaiah Miles and DeAndre’ Bembry?

It is no secret that St. Joseph’s has the best duo in the A-10 in Miles and Bembry. The two combined for 35 points in the semifinal game against Dayton and are averaging a combined 35.1 PPG on the season. VCU will have to develop a defensive plan to slow down this strong frontcourt attack.

The Rams are one of top defensive teams in the nation and strive at pressing guards from the half court. However, this does not necessarily mean that they have the size and personnel to contain athletic wing players. St. Joe’s thrives off the pick-and-pop, and when Miles and Bembry are both firing, they’re almost impossible to slow down. Expect to see a lot of rotations off the bench as always for VCU, in order to keep fresh legs and strong bodies on the court at all times.

3. Experience reigns supreme on both sides

VCU is attempting to win their second A-10 Tourney in-a-row while St. Joe’s goes for their second in two years. This is important because both rosters have plenty of championship experience on them. Bembry, Miles and Papa Ndao have all been there for the Hawks and the majority of VCU’s roster has as well, including stars like Alie-Cox and JeQuan Lewis who scored 13 and 15 points in the championship game last year.

It will be interesting to see how this impacts players on both sides of the ball. In reality, VCU really has not been challenged at all in Brooklyn this week and will get the most resistance from St. Joe’s that they have from any team in Brooklyn. This not to say the Rams aren’t battle tested, but how they respond to pressure in a championship game setting will be interesting to watch.

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Its been a great week here in Brooklyn and we’re finally coming to a close. We’ll be live on Twitter @A10Talk throughout the game, so be sure to follow us for up to the second coverage. It’s gonna be one heck of a time.