After winning 4 in a row to get themselves into 7th place in the A-10 the Rams have lost their last 3 but only dropped to 8th. Seeds 3-8 in the A-10 this year get to host a first-round conference tournament game. In most conference tournaments the difference between 8th or 9th is just the color jersey you wear, but in the A-10 it means the difference between starting the conference tournament at home or facing a road test. VCU’s realistic range of seed is between 6 and 10. Those 5 spots are separated by 3 games. Beth O’Boyle’s group is right in the middle of that. If they drop one more spot they will be going on the road to start the tournament. Of their final 3 games, this one is the toughest. VCU is hosting St. Joseph’s, who currently occupy the 5 spot.
St. Joe’s Ranking
The Hawks are 9-4 in conference with 3 of those losses coming to 3 of the 4 teams ranked ahead of them in the standings. As the standings look before VCU and SJU play, the Hawks are probably the lowest ranked team that has a realistic shot at winning the conference tournament. They were very competitive with the conference leaders this season, with each of their three losses to teams ahead of them in the standings coming by single digits. Oddly their largest margin of defeat was to Richmond by 18.
The Hawks distribute their production more evenly than most teams in this league. They have 4 players who score 10 or more points per game. Chelsea Woods leads the team in scoring, averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds. Woods is a guard/forward, listed at 6 feet tall. She is second on the team in assists and first in steals.
Their second leading scorer is Adashia Franklin, a 6-1 forward, getting 12 points a night and grabbing 8 rebounds. SJU has a few players who can protect the rim but Franklin is the best with 34 blocks this season. She turns the ball over more than any of her team with over 2 an outing; however, that’s not a horrible amount if she’s leading the team in TO’s.
Both Woods and Franklin are excellent at getting to the foul line. Woods converts on 85% of her shots; Franklin is much less effective, shooting 60%. They both are highly productive post players who take high percentage shots. Stopping the SJU’s offense starts with these two but doesn’t end there.
Alyssa Monaghan and Sarah Veilleux both score 10 points per game. The pair of guards help spread the floor for their post players. Monaghan and Veilleux are 1 and 2 on their squad in 3 pointers made. Monaghan hits nearly 2 per game, Veilleux is the more efficient shooter, making 40%. This balanced and varied attack will be difficult for the Rams to deal with. They’ll need to be proficient at guarding all over the court.
Last Time Out
SJU dispatched VCU in January, 64-58. Alyssa Monaghan led all scorers with 17 and GG Goodhope was second with 16. The Hawks won the game with 16 second chance points to the Rams’ 4. Remove that stat and VCU stacked up well in every category with SJU. The Hawks shoot poorly from 3 but hit 5 to VCU’s 2. The Rams also turned the ball over 3 more times. Neither of those 2 stats should have condemned O’Boyle’s group to losing but when combined with the Hawks’ second chance opportunities it’s difficult to win that way. The Rams were able to stay in the game in part because they executed well in fast break situations, creating 12 points from fast breaks. They’ll need to recreate that pace of play in order to win this one.
The Home Stretch
VCU meets a couple of A-10 basement dwellers after this matchup. If they can grab a win here, then it’s realistic O’Boyle gets her squad to win their final 3 games and lock themselves into a top 8 seed. If they drop this one, they may be forced to win their final two in order to hold possession of a top seed, with Richmond and George Mason, on their heels.