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Here's yet another game this week featuring the two best teams in a conference. If Saint Louis wins, they'll be sitting pretty with a 2.5-game lead in the Atlantic 10, while VCU will be thrown to the wolves, left battling for the two seed in the A-10 tourney.
The Billikens are on a 16-game winning streak and will have a full week worth of rest heading into this game. They've had a lot of close games in conference play, home or away, but have yet to lose. Their only losses are in non-conference play to Wisconsin and Wichita State.
As for the Rams, they've been off and on throughout the year losing to Florida State, Georgetown and Northern Iowa, but also winning at Virginia in their second game. In the A-10, while winning every home game by double digits, they have struggled on the road losing two and going to double overtime in another. Unfortunately for them, their next three games are all on the road.
These aren't the same exact teams from a year ago, but they are in the same mold. Saint Louis won both matchups last season, once at home (by 14 points) and another in the A-10 tourney title game.
The way you beat VCU is with multiple players that can handle the ball because the Rams are known for their 'Havoc' defense which causes opponents to turn it over a bunch. That's exactly what SLU has in its senior guards Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. The two have plenty of experience against this defense which is a huge advantage.
The Billikens aren't the highest scoring team around, but they do play great team basketball and great defense. Jett (13.2 PPG, 4.9 APG) and Dwayne Evans (14.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG) are their two main weapons on the offensive end. Jett is super quick and can take most defenders off the dribble while Evans has a deceptively good post game. Those two are surrounded by a slew of guys that can shoot the ball in McCall Jr., big man Rob Loe, and Austin McBroom off the bench. While Loe isn't a typical big man, when given the opportunity, he can destroy an opposing defense due to his range.
As for the Rams, they base a lot of their scoring from the defensive end. Their pressure defense has led to 12 steals per game as a team. They have length all around with Treveon Graham (15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and Juvonte Reddic (12.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG) leading the way. Those two together are a huge problem for opposing defenses.
VCU is a better shooting team than SLU as well, with Melvin Johnson and Rob Brandenberg hitting shots at a consistent rate along with Graham. And then there's Briante Weber, who just doesn't stop on the defensive end getting 3.8 steals per game.
In VCU's losses this year, they tend to shoot poorly and get outrebounded. While rebounding isn't exactly the Billikens' specialty, they do play great defense which could be problematic for VCU's shooters.
It's going to take great shooting from the Rams to win this game on the road along with some mistakes from the Saint Louis ball handlers. That's a tall ask going against a team that hasn't lost since mid-December.
Predicted Score - St Louis 66 VCU 66
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