Rams butt heads with Billikens in A-10 action

The top two teams in the Atlantic 10 will collide on Tuesday night at Chaifetz Arena when the 24th-ranked Virginia Commonwealth Rams battle the Saint Louis Billikens.

Following a two-game skid at the end of January, VCU has ripped off five- straight wins with the most recent an 84-57 rout of George Washington on Saturday. The Rams have been fantastic in their first season in the A-10 with an overall record of 21-5 and a league mark of 9-2 that has it in sole possession of first place in the conference standings. The Rams have shown no fear on the road where they have earned seven wins in eight outings. Another away contest is next on the schedule against Xavier.

Saint Louis has also been on fire recently with wins in seven straight games, as the Billikens continue to climb up the A-10 standings. The Billikens are currently 8-2 in league play putting them a half game ahead of Butler and La Salle in second place. At 19-5 overall, the Billikens are also one of five teams in the league with at least 18 wins. Saint Louis is 14-2 at Chaifetz Arena but travels for a showdown with Butler next.

This is the first meeting between these teams as conference foes and just the third all-time matchup. VCU won both of those previous contests when the teams met up in the finals of the 2010 CBI Tournament.

Powered by a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double from Juvonte Reddic and another strong defensive effort, VCU dominated George Washington on Saturday. The Rams held the Colonials to just 38.9 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers in the win.

By now the Rams' head coach Shaka Smart's "HAVOC" defensive scheme is something teams expect. However it hasn't stopped the Rams from controlling the tempo and playing well on the defensive end. The Rams high-pressure system has led them to be the top team in the country in steals (12.3 pg). On the offensive end the Rams are also very efficient, ranking at the top of the A-10 in scoring (78.1 pg) and assists (15.3 pg), shooting a solid 45.1 percent from the field. Smart runs a four-guard rotation with Treveon Graham (15.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Troy Daniels (12.1 ppg), Rob Brandenburg (10.8 ppg) and Darius Theus (6.7 ppg, 4.8 apg) leading the charge. Juvonte Reddic (14.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg) anchors the team in the paint.

Saint Louis is another team that relies heavily on defense which it showed against Charlotte on Saturday in a 76-58 rout of the 49ers. The Billikens had a 21-8 edge in points off of turnovers and outscored Charlotte 33-3 from beyond the arc.

Though not as focused on forcing turnovers, the Billikens are still a team that locks down on the defensive end. Saint Louis is allowing just 57.8 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting while letting foes assist on just 11.4 field goals per game. On the offensive end, Saint Louis doesn't have as much punch as the Rams, scoring 68.5 points per game on 45.4 percent shooting. The Billikens also rank in the bottom three in the conference in rebounds (32.3 pg). Balance is the key on the offensive end with Dwayne Evans (11.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) the leading scorer. Cody Ellis (11.5 ppg) and Jordair Jett (9.8 ppg) provide depth off the bench as two of the better reserves in the conference.