Game Preview: VCU v Rhode Island

Star sophomore, Melvin Johnson, will hope to notch his 13th double-digit scoring performance of the season with VCU takes on Rhode Island Thursday night.

The black and gold look to pick up their sixth-straight win against a Rhode Island team who have yet to win two in a row in Atlantic 10 play. The Dan Hurley led Rams have been a roller coaster ride all season, having won no more than three games in a row while losing no more than three consecutive as well. The Rams boast a win at LSU and nearly knocked off Saint Louis at home, but have losses to both Fordham and George Mason on their permanent record. Which Rhodie team will show up at the Siegel Center this Thursday remains to be seen, but a hot VCU squad and a Siegel Center full of angry fans will no doubt do their part to add another L to the northern Rams win/loss column.

VCU (18-4, 6-1)
RHODE ISLAND (11-11, 2-5)


Rhode Island came into this season as a chic pick to make a big jump in the A-10 after failing to even qualify for last season’s A-10 tournament. While they’ve been competitive at times, Xavier Munford and Co. still find themselves at the bottom half of the conference and looking up. Blame the majority of that one what has been an anemic offense all season. The Rams’ 68 points per game ranks dead last in the A-10. They are the worst three-point shooting team in the conference and coincidentally one of the worst in the country as well (320th nationally). The Rams have three players averaging double-digit scoring this season, a group once again led by Xavier Munford and his 16.8 ppg. Munford is joined in the backcourt by heavily recruited freshman, E.C. Matthews, and in true freshman fashion, Matthews has proven capable of dropping 20 points on any given night, or six points on ice cold shooting as well. Both guards will shoot the ball, accounting for a combined 55.3% of the team’s shots when they are on the floor. They are joined by 6’8 245 lb forward Gilvydas Biruta of Jonava, Lithuania as the final double-digit scorer on the team as well as URI’s top rebounder at 6.9 per contest. No player on Rhode Island averages more than 2.7 assists per game, that honor belongs to one of the best named players in college hoops, Biggie Minnis, a 6’3 sophomore guard who has sat out the last three contests with a hip pointer. On defense, like VCU, the Rams’ weakness has been in defending the paint, giving up 50.4% two-point shooting to opposing teams (243rd nationally). They rank fifth in the conference, surrendering 68.2 points per game.


Hey, you know these guys, so today I’ll just focus on the Rams Swiss Army ability to win in a number of ways. Take for example VCU’s most recent win against Richmond. The idea has always been if you can hold on to the ball and hit shots, you can beat VCU. UofR did just that, but VCU won in an old fashioned “anything you can do, I can do better game”, making four more shots than Richmond, one more free throw, grabbing two more rebounds and blocking two more shots. The prior game VCU shot just 33.8% yet still beat Fordham by 16. The game before that they gave up 46.2% shooting and turned La Salle over just 16 times in a double-overtime game yet managed to pull out a win despite trailing by 6 with just over a minute to play. Before that the Rams won at Dayton in front of 12,000+ in an old fashioned havoc-filled W and did the same against Duquesne the game before that to start this five-game streak. VCU has been Michael Myers status as of late…you keep firing shots but the Rams just won’t die. VCU has bounced back in a big way since losing at George Washington and will look to continue to grow as a team in what is a tough remaining regular season schedule.


Scoring Offense: VCU 76.8, URI 68
Scoring Defense: VCU 66, URI 68.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 48.4%, URI 47.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.4%, URI 48.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.8%, URI 31%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: URI 29%, VCU 30.3%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.7, UofR 36.3
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 26.8%, UR 18.3%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 16.9%, URI 20.1%


Look up at those final two stats in the tale of the tape. VCU is THE BEST team in the country at turning teams over, Rhode Island is one of the worst (278th) at holding on to the ball. That typically spells trouble for a team coming into a Thursday night game at the Siegel Center. On paper the stats favor VCU right on down the line, but beyond that, VCU is also just playing damn good basketball since losing at George Washington. If the Rams don’t get caught looking ahead toward a big Saturday matchup against Saint Joseph’s they should be able to do their thing Thursday night against Rhodie. That thing is turn teams over and feed the beast that will be yet another sellout Siegel Center crowd hungry for a win.


Rhodie is 2-8 on the road and more often than not have looked really bad outside of Kingston. Things get no easier Thursday night in Richmond. URI will rely heavily on their guards in their upset attempt, and if they can replicate the game plan employed by Richmond in the second half of VCU’s last game, they have a shot. UofR guards Kendall Anthony and Cedrick Lindsay went Juggernaut on VCU in that half, combining for 11-of-20 shooting (they had 20 of their team’s 25 attempts) and drawing 17 second half fouls on VCU. On the majority of the team’s possessions they simply (right, “simply”) went north-south, attacking on every play and getting those “freedom of movement” whistles teams want to get against VCU when the Rams press. What they didn’t do however was stop VCU, giving up 57.7% shooting to the black and gold. But the blueprint remains: attack attack attack, hope for the whistles, hope for the best.

PREDICTIONS 76-63 VCU win with an 90% chance of victory.

When: 7PM
Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: CBS Sports Net. 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

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...