Davidson can climb back into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 by beating Virginia Commonwealth on Thursday at Belk Arena (9 p.m., ESPNU).
To do that, the Wildcats (21-6, 12-4) will have to survive “Havoc.”
That’s the term that describes VCU’s frenetic, harassing style of play, one that has become so tightly identified with the Rams (21-8, 11-5) that it also serves as a marketing slogan for coach Shaka Smart’s program.
How does Havoc work?
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Havoc’s goal is to increase the tempo of the game and force the flustered opposition into making bad decisions. That starts with the Rams’ pressing defense, which causes turnovers (VCU forces a league-high 16.6 per game). When they get the ball, the Rams move it around (12.9 assists per game), while shooting 3-pointers often (sinking 8.1 per game) and fairly accurately (shooting at a 33.8-percent clip).
“(VCU forces) you into making decisions. They instigate, rather than retaliate.” - Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
The Wildcats would appear to be well-suited to handle Havoc, although VCU won the teams’ first meeting in January 71-65. Davidson’s up-tempo offense is built around solid decision-making, with excellent ball handlers and shooters. The Wildcats lead the A-10 in assist-turnover ratio (1.7), with guards Tyler Kalinoski (2.6) and Brian Sullivan (2.5) ranked 1-2 in the league individually. Davidson also averages a league-low 9.6 turnovers.
“Guarding them is a challenge on every possession. You have to stay on edge, as we say, and be alert because they do a good job of making you pay if you’re not. They shoot the ball well from so many different positions, so that opens it up for them with other options. And an underrated thing about them is they play with a level of physicality.” -Smart.
VCU’s missing piece
The Rams are without point guard Briante Weber, who was on pace to break the NCAA’s all-time steals record before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 31. VCU has gone 4-5 in Weber’s absence and has lost two in a row to drop into fourth place in the league.