SAINT FRANCIS (Pa.) (Nov. 11, 2011 – Verizon Wireless Arena)
2010-11 Record: 9-21 (7-11 Northeast Conference)
2010-11 RPI: 259
Guy you’ll want to heckle: Umar Shannon, G, Jr. (15.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg).
The skinny:VCU’s last five season openers have been, in order, Longwood, Maryland-Eastern Shore, The Citadel, Bethune-Cookman and UNC Greensboro, a venerable murder’s row. The average margin of victory in those games (all VCU wins) has been 21 points.
With the Charleston Classic looming days later and a tough road contest at Alabama on Nov. 27, the Rams clearly want to show up, raise a Final Four banner, drum a school named after a Fratelli brother and get out of dodge. Gym, tan, laundry.
The good news for Saint Francis is that the Red Flash have 5-11 junior guard Umar Shannon to lead them. Shannon ranked sixth in the NEC in scoring last year.
The bad news for Saint Francis is that they ranked last in the league in field goal defense (.470) and next to last in turnovers per game (15.4). Did I mention that the Rams employ a chaotic full court press and want to turn every game into a track meet? Not a good combination for the Red Flash.
So Far: Saint Francis topped D-II Susquehanna 72-63 on Nov. 5 in their only exhibition contest of the preseason. Shannon led the way for the Flash with 19 points, while Scott Eatherton added 18 points and eight rebounds.
Shaka Sez: “They have two really explosive guards (Shannon and Chris Johnson) that are scary. So, we’ve got to do a great job on those guys. They put the ball in the basket a lot last year, those two guys. They’re very good in ball screen situations. Early in the year, it’s always a challenge to be good defending ball screens. It just takes teams a while, for whatever reason to get their ball screen defense to where it needs to be, so that’s going to be a big test for us early.”
About Saint Francis (Pa.): Saint Francis University, not to be confused with Saint Francis College – which also plays in the NEC – is located in on 600 acres of farmland in Loretto, Pa. Famous alums include Charles M. Schwab (not the Charles Schwab you’re thinking of) and basketball Hall of Famer Norm Van Lier. The Red Flash made their only NCAA Tournament appearance in 1991 under future Rhode Island Coach Jim Baron.
Fast fact: The last time VCU lost a home opener was in 2002, when Wagner (yes, Wagner) beat the Rams and Jeff Capel, 80-72.