Busting Brackets

St. Bonaventure vs. VCU: 2020-21 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Jan 18, 2020; Richmond, Virginia, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard Nah'Shon Hyland (5) shoots the ball over St. Bonaventure Bonnies guard Jaren English (5) in the first half at Stuart C. Siegel Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 18, 2020; Richmond, Virginia, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams guard Nah'Shon Hyland (5) shoots the ball over St. Bonaventure Bonnies guard Jaren English (5) in the first half at Stuart C. Siegel Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

In a duel between the two winningest teams in the Atlantic 10, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and VCU Rams will meet on Friday in a pivotal conference showdown.

TV schedule: Friday, February 12, 7:00 pm ET. ESPN2

Arena: Siegel Center in Richmond, Virginia

In a conference riddled with constant pauses, the Atlantic 10 will see one of its biggest regular season games take place on Friday night, with the first-place St. Bonaventure Bonnies traveling to Richmond to take on the second-place VCU Rams.

The Bonnies (10-2) have been one of the A-10’s most pleasant surprises, having been picked fourth in the conference’s preseason poll – and now own the top spot in the Atlantic 10 with an 8-2 conference mark.  St. Bonaventure saw their stellar start to the season – which included a seven-game winning streak – snapped by a surging Saint Louis on Saturday, but the Bonnies rebounded convincingly, taking down La Salle on Tuesday, 86-73.

Headlined by one of the best starting fives in the A-10, the Bonnies were unconscious against the Explorers on Tuesday, tallying 1.39 points per possession while recording clips of 59.4% (2PT), 64.3% (3PT), and 84.0% (FT).  Defensively, the Bonnies were not nearly as effective, allowing La Salle to score 1.18 points per possession and haul down 16 offensive rebounds – but they still held the Explorers to clips of 39.4% (2PT) and 38.7% (3PT).

St. Bonaventure’s starting five – which have had to play a substantial amount of minutes as of late due to the Bonnies’ increasingly barren bench – was stellar in the win over La Salle, with all five reaching double-digits.  Jalen Adaway led the way, pouring in 20 points to go with eight rebounds, while Kyle Lofton – in a full 40 minutes – scored 18 and dished out eight assists.  Osun Osunniyi (17), Jaren Holmes (15), and Dominick Welch (10) rounded out the double-digit starting five.

As surprising as St. Bonaventure’s showing in the A-10 has been, no team has enjoyed as shocking of a season as VCU.  Picked seventh in the preseason poll, the Rams (14-4), after starting the A-10 season at 3-2, have rallied off four-straight conference wins to go 7-2 and land second in the conference.  Those four wins have consisted of a sweep of Dayton and wins over La Salle and Rhode Island – with the most recent victory coming at Dayton, 76-67.

Like the Bonnies, the Rams were also efficient in their last outing, recording 1.23 points per possession – and, despite shooting just 48.4% inside, VCU nailed 52.2% of their three-pointers as well as 90.9% of their free-throws.  The Rams were not particularly as efficient defending Dayton, holding the Flyers to 1.08 points per possession – but feasted on the Flyers’ miscues, forcing 16 turnovers en route to outscoring Dayton on points off turnovers, 29-8.

The Rams saw four starters reach double-digits, headlined by the two-man tandem of Nah’Shon Hyland and Vince Williams, both of whom poured in 19 points apiece and dished out three assists each.  Hyland – in a full 40 minutes – hauled down a team-high five caroms, while Adrian Baldwin and Levi Stockard tallied 10 points each to round out those in double-figures.

Both teams maintain similar stats in conference play – both struggle inside (47.0% for VCU, 49.5% for St. Bonaventure), both are in the top two in the A-10 in 2P% defense, and both are in the top three in offensive rebounding percentage while towards the bottom in keeping teams off the offensive boards.

But both also play drastically different styles.  The Bonnies play a much more disciplined pace, which allows for just 65.4 possessions per game and sees the Bonnies take off nearly 19 seconds on both the offensive and defensive ends.

VCU, meanwhile, plays more sporadically, averaging 70.3 possessions per game and taking 15.8 seconds off the clock – and that sporadic style causes the Rams to turn the ball over on 22.0% of their possessions in conference play, but force a league-best 25.6% on the defensive end.

That bodes well for the Rams, but the Bonnies also own an edge of their own: the offensive glass.  St. Bonaventure leads the conference in offensive rebounding percentage at 35.0%, while VCU allows a league-worst 32.9% when it comes to offensive caroms.

These two squads met earlier this season, just a few weeks back on January 20th.  In a game of two halves, the Bonnies stormed back from a 15-point deficit – where the Rams maintained a 40-25 edge – to claim a 70-54 win at home.  Again, it was a tale of two halves – the Rams shot a blistering 42.4% from the floor in the first half but just 19.2% in the second half, while the Bonnies recorded marks of 31.3% in the opening stanza but 55.6% in the latter half.

Behind 19 points from Welch, the Bonnies dominated in points off turnovers (26-10) and points in the paint (36-20) – and they could replicate that again against VCU this time around.  St. Bonaventure struggled a bit against La Salle with turnovers, allowing the Explorers to score 15 points on 10 St. Bonaventure turnovers – but feasted inside on points in the paint, 36-22.  The Bonnies are still capable of scoring inside, but they will have to clean up their turnover game in order for this game to not get out of control.

This game should be closer than January’s end result, and St. Bonaventure will have the difficult feat of taking down a VCU team that is 7-1 at home.  However, the Bonnies might be just too disciplined to be rattled for a full 40 minutes by the VCU defense – which they also prevented from happening the last time these two squads met.

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Whoever wins this game, arguably, has the best case of being the top team in the Atlantic 10, alongside the upstart and recovering Saint Louis Billikens.  This is one of the most overlooked games on the docket for Friday night, in a showdown of two teams vying for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament – and it could be a make-it or break-it for either team.

Prediction: St. Bonaventure 67 – VCU 61