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Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: VCU visits UMass and a showdown in the A-Sun

Feb 21, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT

Chaz Williams AP

GAME OF THE NIGHT: VCU at UMass, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Like teams that prefer to play fast? This is the game to watch then, with both the Rams and Minutemen ranked in the top 25 nationally in adjusted tempo. Both have speed and a desire to pressure defensively, with the Minutemen being led by senior point guard Chaz Williams. As Williams goes so goes UMass, with the Minutemen entering tonight’s game having won three of their last four. He’ll be tested by a VCU team that makes things incredibly difficult on opposing point guards, with guard Briante Weber being the toughest perimeter defender of the bunch.

The thing to watch in this matchup: turnovers. UMass may play fast but they’re only forcing around 14 turnovers per game, with VCU forcing 19 turnovers per game. If VCU has success in forcing live-ball turnovers and Juvonte Reddic outplays the UMass front court, the Rams are more than capable of leaving Amherst with the win.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE NIGHT: Mercer at FGCU, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Atlantic Sun race essentially comes down to this matchup in Fort Myers. A win for the Eagles moves them into a tied for first with Mercer, but a loss gives Bob Hoffman’s Bears a two-game lead and a sweep of the season series. Two of the best guards at the mid-major level will be on display as well, with Langston Hall pacing Mercer and Brett Comer doing the same for FGCU. The differences in the first meeting, a 68-55 Mercer win on January 23, were Mercer’s forcing 15 FGCU turnovers and limiting the Eagles to 1-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

  • The two teams tied for first place in the Ivy League are both on the road, with Yale visiting Cornell and Harvard playing at Penn. For the Bulldogs this is the first of four straight games on the road before they host the Crimson on March 7.
  • Iona looks to maintain its two-game lead in the MAAC with a win at Rider. The Broncs are in the fight for fifth place and the final first-round by in the MAAC tournament, and a win would move them two games ahead of Marist and Siena.
  • Oakland is hoping to improve its standing within the Horizon League with a win over a UIC team that’s 0-13 in league play and mired in a 16-game losing streak. A Duke Mondy three-pointer as time expired gave the Golden Grizzlies a 76-75 win in the first meeting.
  • Also of note in the Horizon League is Wright State’s game against Detroit, with the Raiders looking to make a run at the three-seed in next month’s conference tournament. They currently trail Valparaiso by a game for third.
  • Manhattan visits Siena with the Jaspers needing a win to keep pace with Quinnipiac in the race for second in the MAAC. And with the Bobcats having swept the season series, Steve Masiello’s team will need QU to drop a game at some point.