There are just seven teams in the country that are undefeated in conference play entering Saturday. The Saint Louis Billikens are one of them. SLU looks to move to a perfect 10-0 in the Atlantic 10 in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the day in college basketball against Virginia Commonwealth. Vegas has determined Saint Louis is a 4.5-point favorite over the Rams on its home floor in Chaifetz Arena.
This will be these teams’ first of two meetings in the next two weeks and it seems inevitable that the home team will see about a three to four point nod from the oddsmakers in either matchup. The splits are important when it comes to these two contrasting squads. SLU was 2-0 against VCU last season but never made the trip to Virginia. The first win came at home in the regular season and the second came in the A-10 Conference Tournament championship when the two best teams in the conference met again.
Virginia Commonwealth has yet to lose a game at home this season but the Rams have struggled in tough road spots. Shaka Smart’s squad lost up in Cedar Falls to a good Northern Iowa team and then dropped its two conference games at George Washington and St. Joseph’s. This game is a different animal from any of those three against a Saint Louis team playing as well as anyone, save Syracuse. The Billikens have won 16 straight games since their last loss – at home to Wichita State.
The key in this game, as with many VCU games, will be the turnover battle because of the makeup of both teams. VCU leads the nation in turnover differential, once again. But Saint Louis takes care of the ball as well as any team the Rams will see this year, including the NCAA Tournament. Saint Louis turns it over just 12 times a game, on average, despite not really have a prototypical point guard. Jordair Jett has had a tremendous senior season but the key to SLU’s proficiency on each possession is that every player on the floor can handle the ball. The Billikens are stocked with versatility all the way up to their 7 foot, three-point shooting center from New Zealand – Rob Loe. VCU will bring the heat. How SLU handles it, not only early, but throughout the game is the obvious key. Having the home crowd behind them will certainly help.
This game should be one of the marquee matchups, maybe all season. SLU is the better-schooled team at home. I think VCU is slightly more talented. Really not a great spot here but I’ll take the points in a game that has a great chance of coming down to the final possession. Buy the hook up to a full five.
Free Pick: Virginia Commonwealth +5