Tuesday, February 19, 2013

High stakes for Richmond, VCU

It's always a big deal when city rivals Richmond and VCU face off, but there figures to be an extra sense of urgency for both sides when the teams' 89th meeting commences Wednesday at the Spiders' Robins Center. Because while most teams are fine-tuning their games for their conference tournaments, Richmond and VCU still have to worry about qualifying for their conference tournament.

Only the top 12 of the Atlantic 10's 16 teams will compete in the A-10 Championships, which will be held March 8-10 at St. Joseph's with the nationally televised title game March 16 at the glamorous Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With four games left in the regular season, Richmond (13-13, 3-7 A-10) and VCU (10-15, 3-7) are in a three-way with Xavier (9-15, 3-7) for 11th place. If the season ended today, one of these teams wouldn't play on.

Richmond has won four straight and 12 of the last 14 meetings, but previous matchups likely provide little insight into Wednesday's game. VCU, for example, not only has a completely different coaching staff and playing style but also has just three players who have ever played a game against Richmond. As for the Spiders, their 78-77 victory over the Rams last year featured 21 points from Abby Oliver and 21 points and 13 rebounds from Genevieve Okoro. Oliver has graduated, while Okoro suffered a season-ending knee injury last November.

Both teams come into the game on a slight uptick. Richmond snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday with an 81-63 spanking of UMass. On the same day, VCU picked up its second straight victory - after a six-game losing streak - by throttling La Salle 69-50.

Atlantic 10 standings (through Feb. 19)
Dayton                         10-0     22-1
Charlotte                        9-1     20-4
St. Joseph's                    9-1     18-6
Duquesne                       8-2     19-5
Fordham                        8-2     18-7
Butler                             6-4     15-10
Temple                           5-5     12-13
George Washington        5-6     11-14
Saint Louis                     4-6     10-15
La Salle                          4-6     8-17
Richmond                      3-7     13-13
VCU                              3-7     10-15
Xavier                            3-7     9-15
St. Bonaventure              2-8     9-16
UMass                           1-9     3-21
Rhode Island                  1-9     5-19

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