When the 5th-seeded VCU Rams (15-10, 10-5 A-10) and 7th-seeded UMass Minutewomen (14-6, 7-5 A-10) meet at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday with the Atlantic-10 Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament bid on the line, it will be an opportunity for the Minutewomen to make their first Big Dance and an opportunity for the Rams to make their first since 2009.
VCU upset the A-10 regular season champion Dayton Flyers on Saturday.
Meanwhile, UMass upset the 3rd-seeded Saint Louis Billikens on Saturday and the 2nd-seeded Fordham Rams on Friday.
VCU and UMass split in the regular season.
Both teams need to win Sunday’s game to get into the NCAA Tournament because neither is in the running for an at-large bid. According to ESPN, VCU would be a 13-seed if it got in. UMass would likely be in a similar situation seeing as it is a game and a half ahead of VCU when it comes to overall record and was a game and a half behind in regular-season A-10 play.
The Minutewomen are led by forward Sam Breen’s 17.8 points per game and her 48.8 shooting percentage from the field. Fellow UMass forwards Maddie Sims and Makennah White shoot 47.6 and 44.8 percent from the field, respectively, while VCU doesn’t have anybody who shoots better than 42.1 percent outside of 6-foot-6 center Sofya Pashigoreva, who only has 38 field goal attempts on the season.
Sydney Taylor (15.5), Destiney Philoxy (12.2) and Ber’Nyah Mayo (10) join Breen in double-figure scoring for the Minutewomen, while Taya Robinson (14.5), Tera Reed (11.5) and Sarah Te-Biasu (10.6) are the top three scorers for the Rams in that order. Sydnei Archie (9.4 points per game) leads VCU in rebounding with 7.4 boards per game.
Breen has scored 12 or more in seven-straight games, including 28 against Saint Louis and 21 against Fordham. Taylor dropped 27 on Fordham and Philoxy matched Breen with 28 vs. Saint Louis. As a team, the Minutewomen have averaged 83 points in three A-10 Tournament games.
Robinson has scored 16 or more in six-straight games, including 24 in the quarterfinals against Rhode Island. While, the Rams’ overall offense hasn’t been as prolific as the Minutewomen’s, they are holding opponents to 53 points per game in the tournament.
UMass Minutewomen (14-6, 7-5 A-10) vs. VCU Rams (15-10, 10-5 A-10)
When: Sunday, March 14 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
How to watch/listen: ESPNU
Key to the matchup: VCU’s 3-point shooting vs. UMass’ 3-point defense. These teams are pretty even across the board, except that UMass has a comfortably better field goal percentage. Therefore, VCU is going to need to try and take advantage of its slightly better 3-point shooting percentage. UMass, on the other hand, needs to show up with its very good 3-point defense — it holds opponents to 30.8 percent from distance.
Reason to watch: The A-10’s top four teams (Dayton, Fordham, Saint Louis and Rhode Island) are all eliminated, so these are both Cinderella teams that must win to get into the NCAA Tournament. And it would be the first-ever appearance for UMass.
March 14 tournament championship games (combined NCAA Tournament appearances) (most recent)
Big 12: Baylor Lady Bears/West Virginia Mountaineers (30) (2019)
ASUN: FGCU Eagles/Liberty Flames (22) (2019)
Southland: Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks/Sam Houston State Bearkats (20) (2006)
MVC: Drake Bulldogs/Bradley Braves (12) (2018)
Patriot League: BU Terriers/Lehigh Mountain Hawks (4) (2010)
Northeast: Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers/Wagner Seahawks (2) (1995)
A-10: VCU Rams/UMass Minutewomen (1) (2009)
Big South: High Point Panthers/Campbell Fighting Camels (1) (2000)