VCU’s bye week concludes on Saturday. Beth O’Boyle’s group grabbed their biggest win of the season last Saturday when they went on the road to defeat the Fordham Rams, who were in first place at the time. The victory breathed new life into VCU’s conference season. The Rams are 4-4 in conference play and sit in 7th place. The top two teams get a bye and teams seeded 3rd through 7th will host their first-round conference tournament game at their campus site. That means there is a world of difference between finishing 7th or 8th.
So Close Yet So Far
12th place UMASS will welcome the Rams back from their bye week. The Minutewomen bring a 3-6 league record into the Siegel Center. They’ve lost their last three games but the last two could have gone either way, a double overtime loss to George Washington and a 4 point loss to La Salle. The difference between 4th place and 12th place is 2 wins, meaning UMASS is still in contention to host a first-round tournament game if they can pick up a few victories over schools in front of them.
UMASS must be the shallowest team in the A-10. They only have 10 players on their roster and Coach Tory Verdi doesn’t even try to spread out the minutes. In their double overtime loss to La Salle on Wednesday, Verdi played five girls 42 or more minutes including Maggie Mulligan who played all 50 minutes. Verdi only used two other players off the bench; they recorded a combined 23 minutes. The Minutewomen have four players who are in the top 10 of most minutes played out of everyone in the league. UMASS’ Hailey Leidel and Leigh McDerment are first and second. Only one other school has two players in the top 10 of minutes played. VCU doesn’t have a single player who even comes close to the top 10. I imagine Beth O’Boyle will want to test the cardio of this UMASS team.
Coach Tory Verdi may not have the deepest team in the conference but he does have talent to work with. Hailey Leidel is the third leading scorer in the A-10 averaging over 16 points a game and nearly 6 rebounds. She is a 5’11 freshman guard who makes 2.7 three-pointers per game which leads the conference. Leidel has attempted more threes than twos, her FG% from range (40%) is better than her overall FG% (39). The Minutewomen’s next highest scorer is Maggie Mulligan, who averages 13 points and 11 rebounds. The 6’2 forward is strictly an inside threat and has not attempted a three-point shot this season. Given her lack of attempts from three her FG% of 43% leaves a bit to be desired, but her rebounding and shot blocking (1.8 a game) make up for a relatively low FG%. Leah McDerment serves as the point guard for her squad. McDerment averages 5.4 assists, good enough for third in the league. Unfortunately, she turns the ball over nearly 4 times every contest. McDerment is what you might call a “pure” point guard. She’s only scored 138 points through her squad’s 22 games while shooting 30%. Alyx Stiff and Ryan Holder are two guards who help out with the scoring. Both players score 10 points per outing and add 3 to 4 rebounds apiece.
Don’t Look Back
VCU should feel great about taking down Fordham last week. It’s nice to rise up and take out a top team every now and then but to be a top team in your league you must consistently beat schools like UMASS. There is no cushion for the Rams, there are four schools on their heels or hooves, they have to battle for a top seven finish in the A-10. You can’t lose to 12th place teams.