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Game Preview: VCU v Stephen F Austin

VCU seniors Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic look to add another NCAA tournament win to their great college careers tonight.

VCU seniors Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic look to add another NCAA tournament win to their great college careers tonight.

VCU will play as the 5 seed for the second straight season and in the 5 v 12 matchup for the third, as the Rams take on Stephen F Austin out of the Southland Conference tonight in San Diego as a part of this year’s NCAA tournament. The Rams have won their opening round games for three consecutive seasons and with that are a perfect 3-0 to start NCAA tournaments under Shaka Smart. VCU is coming off a tough Atlantic 10 Championship loss to Saint Joseph’s while SFA is riding a 28-game winning streak that began all the way back on November 26. SFA has become a popular upset pick on the 12 v 5 line that has already seen two upsets this tournament. VCU will hope to join fellow 5 seed SLU as the only two teams to advance off that line, coincidentally both out of the Atlantic 10.

VCU (26-8, 12-4)
SFA (31-2, 18-0)

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

VCU comes into this game after having lost in the A-10 title game for the second straight season. The Rams fell to the Hawks by four points despite shooting some 11% worse, being out-rebounded by two and forcing just 12 Hawks turnovers. The Rams posted 37 second half points but were done in by a slow start, shooting 33.3% to start the game. A bit of that could be contributed to the absence of VCU sharpshooter, Melvin Johnson, who was sidelined with a sprained knee. Johnson’s status is questionable for tonight’s game. Briante Weber came alive in the A-10 tournament, averaging 14 points per game but finished with just eight on 4-12 shooting in the title game. Juvonte Reddic was active on the glass all tournament but averaged just 5.3 points per game in Brooklyn. Ram fans will hope for a big bounce-back tonight as Reddic will be matched up with SFA’s 6’6 210 lb center, Jacob Parker. VCU is known for their defense and the D has certainly be the key for VCU victories as of late. The Rams have held opponents to an average of 58.8 points per game over their last seven contests. Despite their poor shooting the black and gold are averaging 71.4 ppg over that span themselves. Three of those games were against NCAA tournament squads.

A QUICK LOOK AT STEPHEN F AUSTIN

The Lumberjacks join No.1 seeds Florida and Wichita State as the only other team to win their last 27-plus games. They’ve done so with an efficient offense that ranks 44th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. They do most of their damage inside the arch (52.3% shooting ranks 37th nationally) but can hit from deep as well (35.2%). The Jacks are very undersized with aforementioned 6’6 Parker anchoring the paint and 6’4 195 G/F, Thomas Walkup, providing the only “other” beef (which is a stretch) down low. That size disadvantage has contributed to a defense that gives up 49.5% shooting inside the arch and adds a rebounding disadvantage. SFA’s 33.8 boards per game ranks 231st nationally. SFA plays a methodical offense whose tempo is one of the slowest in all of college basketball. They’ll attempt to win the pace ward today against a VCU team who ranks 21st nationally in adjusted tempo. The Jacks led the Southland in both offensive and defensive efficiency this season but have played the 297th weakest schedule in college basketball, having lost their only top-100 matchup by 10 points at Texas. They have a loss at kenpom’s 235th ranked team, the ETSU Pirates, and were in battles against No.278 UNCW (a 5-point road win), at No.225 High Point (3-point road win), at No.181 Oral Roberts (3-point road win) and struggled at home to the likes of No.242 Incarnate Word (2-point win) and No.158 Northwestern State (2-point home win). They have won games, but the question is: can they win games against NCAA tournament level competition?

Scoring Offense: SFA 76.5, VCU 75.4
Scoring Defense: SFA 62.6, VCU 64.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: SFA 52.4%, VCU 47.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 47.5%, SFA 50.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: SFA 35.2%, VCU 34.9%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 30.1%, SFA 34.8%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.9, SFA 33.8
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.6%, SFA 24.4%
Turnover Percentage Offense: SFA 16.8%, VCU 17.2%

VCU WINS IF

The Rams can use their size advantage to get easy buckets. SFA is a small team that plays mostly a man defense. If 6’9 Juvonte Reddic can break out of his offensive slump and 6’6 Treveon Graham can do what he’s done all season, the Rams could put up one of their best shooting nights of the season. Combine that with a defense that has been stellar as of late and VCU could be a very tough matchup for the Lumberjacks.

STEPHEN F AUSTIN WINS IF

March Madness strikes again. On paper this is a great matchup for the Rams — truth be told one of the best one’s they’ve had this season — but this is March, and the 5 v 12 matchup has been historically dangerous, including two losses by 5 seeds yesterday. Stephen F Austin is loaded with shooters including a five man in Parker who has hit 46.7% of his 45 three-point attempts this season. VCU fans know perhaps better than anyone how dangerous an undersized but experienced team who can shoot the three can be — in 2011 VCU hit the most threes made by any team in tournament history. At the end of the day you gotta be able to put the ball through the hoop to win games and that’s something Stephen F Austin has excelled at all season. If the Rams can’t stop that it’ll be a 3-1 tournament for 12 seeds this season.

PREDICTIONS

Kenpom.com: 72-65 VCU win with an 72% chance of victory.
Vegas: VCU 6.5-point favorite to win.

When: 7:27PM EST
Where: Viejas Arena, San Diego, Ca.
Watch: TruTV. Official watch parties at Baja Bean Co. in the Fan as well as Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

About Mat Shelton-Eide

VCU School of the Arts (BFA '07) and Center for Sport Leadership (M.Ed. '10) alumnus, Mat has followed VCU basketball since the Sunbelt days when he'd attend games with his father. Worked as a graduate assistant in the VCU Sports Information Department for the '09-'10 season, but has covered VCU basketball for VCURamNation.com since 2007. mshelton@vcuramnation.com @MatShelton