photo courtesy of Alessandro Latour/The Commonwealth Times
By Jeff Uveino
After four-straight wins to begin Atlantic 10 play, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team travels to VCU on Saturday to play a Rams team that is 2-2 in the A-10 following losses at Rhode Island and Dayton.
Ahead of Bona’s biggest test in league play so far, Noah Fleischman took the time to answer some questions that will allow Bonnies fans to become more familiar with VCU.
Fleischman, a sophomore at VCU, is the sports editor of The Commonwealth Times, for whom he covers the Rams.
The Bonnies and Rams will tip off at the Seigel Center at 2 p.m.
1) VCU scheduled plenty of quality opponents in non-conference play, including then-ranked LSU and Tennessee, Purdue and more. Would you say that the consensus at VCU is that the 10-3 non-conference finish was a success or a failure?
The non-conference finish was pretty successful, despite dropping those three games. The Rams lost both of their games at the Emerald Coast Classic by a total of six points against Tennessee and Purdue.
LSU was the Rams’ “resume” building win early in the season when the Tigers visited the Siegel Center. The atmosphere alone in the arena was similar to that of an NCAA tournament game and VCU played like it.
The only disappointment of the non-conference slate was the Wichita State 73-63 loss. VCU trailed by as many as 20 points in the second half on the road. Last season, the Rams handled Wichita State at the Siegel Center 70-54.
Other than the loss to Wichita State, the non-conference slate wasn’t a failure because of the ranked win against LSU.
2) Last year at the Atlantic 10 tournament, it was obvious that Marcus Santos-Silva was a rising star. This year, despite his statistics only slightly improving from last season, he leads VCU in scoring and rebounding. How much has he improved this year?
Marcus Santos-Silva has been more consistent this season for VCU than he was last season. He’s posted six double-double performances so far this season, something he did twice through the team’s first 16 games. Everytime the ball hits off the rim, Santos-Silva is the first to put a hand on the ball for VCU.
Not only does he rebound the ball at a high level, but he’s the centerpiece of the VCU offense. The Rams run an inside/outside approach, working the ball into the paint before looking for the open three-pointer. VCU is 4-2 this season when he records a double-double, the losses being Tennessee and Rhode Island. Santos-Silva is also shooting 60% from the field, second-best in the A-10 behind Dayton’s Obi Toppin.
Santos-Silva worked on his ball handling and footwork over the summer, allowing him to be more mobile than in past years. One thing I like about Santos-Silva is that he’s unselfish. Even though he’s leading the team in points and rebounds, he doesn’t care about the numbers unless it’s a win.
I wrote this story earlier this season on Santos-Silva and having fun while playing.
3) Other than Santos-Silva and Marcus Evans, which VCU players should St. Bonaventure fans expect to make an impact on Saturday against the Bonnies?
De’Riante Jenkins. He’s averaging 11.1 points a game for VCU and is shooting 40% from the field. The senior hasn’t been shooting the ball too well from three this season, but has been slashing in the paint. Coach Mike Rhoades wants his guards to slash towards the basket and Jenkins is effective at it. He also logged his 1,000th career point at Wichita State this season.
A younger player that St. Bonaventure fans should keep their eye on is Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland. Hyland, a four-star recruit, replaced P.J. Byrd as the backup point guard behind Marcus Evans this season. He is a confident shooter and isn’t afraid to shoot threes. Rhoades has also used Hyland and Evans on the floor together at times this season, moving Evans to the two guard and Hyland at point. With that lineup on the floor, VCU has two high level ball handlers on the floor, taking the pressure off Evans.
4) Before the season, VCU was regarded by many as a top-two team in the Atlantic 10. Do you think that’s still true? What surprises (on the Rams or other teams) have happened this season that impact your answer?
I think VCU is still a top-two team in the A-10. Yes, they lost to Rhode Island, but that’s nothing new for the Rams. They are 1-7 against Rhode Island in their last eight meetings. If you look at the loss at Dayton, one run defined the game. The Flyers used a 22-0 second-half run to build a 22 point lead. The Rams were able to pull within nine at one point, but couldn’t pull ahead.
The surprise of the season is how poorly the Rams have shot three-pointers. In the loss to Dayton, the Rams shot 3-for-20 from beyond the arc. On the season, VCU is shooting 33% from three, which is seventh in the A-10. If the Rams can shoot more consistently from deep, they’ll be one of the more dangerous teams in the A-10. They have the pieces to do it, it’s just a matter of time before the shots start to fall.
In the A-10, I’m surprised that VCU is the only team that has beat a ranked team. That might change if someone other than VCU can beat Dayton this season. Even Dayton hasn’t beaten a ranked team this season. That shouldn’t hurt the A-10’s chances for a multi-bid league if Dayton wins the A-10 tournament unless VCU doesn’t play well in A-10 play.