CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein recently released his A-10 offseason notebook, picking the Rams…er VCU Rams (gotta get used to that) as his 4th best team in the league this year.
Rothstein asks as one of his five big questions this year, “Can Havoc work with regularity?” He points to the higher level of guard play in the league, thus resulting in fewer turnovers. Fair enough question, but let’s see if we can’t figure out the answer by doing a small bit of research.
VCU has played a large number of games against BCS and A-10 teams the past two seasons — 17 to be exact — going 10-7 in those games, with a 2-1 record against Atlantic 10 teams. This past season VCU averaged an eye-popping 17.9 forced turnovers on the season, but “just” 15.7 against BCS and A-10 teams combined, 16.5 in their two A-10 games. The Rams struggled early in the season, losing on the road or at neutral sites to Seton Hall, Georgia Tech and Alabama as they worked out a rotation after losing four seniors from a Final 4 squad the previous season, then blew out South Florida at home, oddly enough turning the Bulls over just 12 times (a season-low against BCS/A-10 teams that year). VCU went 2-0 against A-10 teams last season, forcing 16.5 turnovers in those games.
The Rams found a bit more success the previous season, going 7-3 against BCS/A-10 teams. With a senior-led squad, the Rams forced 15.5 turnovers per game, 0.9 better than their overall average of 14.6 on the season.
Overall, the Rams forced an average of 15.8 turnovers per win these past two seasons to 14.7 per loss. Not a huge difference.
VCU’s last loss came at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers, a game in which Tom Crean’s squad turned the ball over 22 times. Conversely the Ram’s only win against a BCS squad that same season came against South Florida, who turned the ball over just 12 times.
So can Havoc translate? The numbers seem to suggest so. The question however should be less about how VCU’s defense can handle opposing teams and more about how opposing defenses handle VCU, as the Rams shot just 36% from the field in BCS/A-10 losses versus 46% in BCS/A-10 wins over the past two seasons.
VCU’s defense should continue to keep the Rams a threat in every game they play in, but while Havoc is a great slogan on a t-shirt, it’s the Rams offense that will determine how well their success translates to A-10 play.