VCU heads to what has become a home away from home when they travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY to take on the No.12 Villanova Wildcats in the first of two games the Rams will play as a part of the Legends Classic. The Rams are coming off a 40-point throttling of UMES in which VCU was able to rest their starters while Villanova is coming off a tough seven-point home win over Bucknell. The Wildcats coincidentally played UMES as well, defeating the Hawks 81-44 two games ago.
No.15 VCU (3-0)
No.12 Villanova (3-0)
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has shown a ton of depth and firepower over their first three contests, averaging 92.7 points to start the season, currently good for ninth nationally. VCU has dramatically improved their effective field goal percentage (56.8%) from last year’s squad that ranked 244th nationally at 47.9%). The biggest difference has been VCU’s ability to hit shots inside the arc, odd considering the black and gold graduated All A-10 Second Team selection, Juvonte Reddic. The Rams have connected on 53.8% of twos this year versus 45.6% of two-point attempts last season. Defensively VCU has been wreaking havoc once again, stealing the ball on 18.2% of possessions, good for fourth nationally, actually 3% better than last season’s team that ranked No.1 in the country. When they aren’t turning teams over they have struggled to stop them from scoring however. Teams have gotten hot from deep against the Rams overall an d are hitting 47.9% of twos against the black and gold despite the presence of shot-blocking monster, Mo Alie-Cox.
A QUICK LOOK AT VILLANOVA
While teams have had some success at hitting threes against VCU this season, Villanova has had a tough time hitting them thus far. The Wildcats are an experienced group coming off a 29-5 season that saw the No.2 seed’s season end at the hands of eventual national champ, UConn, in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32. Gone from that team is leading scorer James Bell but back are returning double-digit scorers, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, not to mention the likes of Dylan Ennis, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ocheful who have all elevated their games early on into this season. The experienced Wildcats have done a great job of holding on to the ball on offense, their 13.6% turnover percentage ranking 13th nationally. On defense the Jay Wright-coached squad has forced a very VCU-like 32.1% turnover rate, wreaking havoc of their own against the competition they’ve faced thus far.
Scoring Offense: VCU 92.7, Villanova 76.7
Scoring Defense: Villanova 58.3, VCU 71
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 56.8%, Villanova 49.4%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 50%, Villanova 51.8%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 40.2%, Villanova 26.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Villanova 33.3%, VCU 35.7%
Rebounds per game: VCU 41, Villanova 34
Turnover Percentage Defense: Villanova 32.1%, 26.6%
Turnover Percentage Offense: Villanova 13.6%, VCU 17.3%
VCU WINS IF
VCU has some experience this season with talented, experienced rosters, having defeated Toledo 87-78 two games ago. The Rams did struggle however, trailing 45-42 at the half in that one, and in front of a rowdy Siegel Center audience no less. VCU will need to do a better job of defending from start to finish against this Wildcats squad, particularly in the halfcourt, or the black and gold’s early season tournament struggles could continue in this season (VCU is 2-4 in similar tournaments over the past two seasons). Keep the shots falling with a combination of Freight Train attacks and deep ball success like we’ve seen so far but defend, defend, defend on the other end of the court and move on to the Legends Classic final. A big night of rim protecting from Mo Alie-Cox would work wonders for Coach Smart’s squad.
VILLANOVA WINS IF
Defense wins championships and that includes early season tournaments. Villanova will try and wreak havoc against havoc and could have some success against backup point guards Jonathan Williams and JeQuan Lewis who boast sky-high turnover percentages of 49.9% and 37.6%. They’ll try to do that while keeping the fouls down against a VCU team that has stacked those up early this season (averaging 24.7 per contest). On offense Villanova has to start hitting shots or it could be hard to keep up with the hot-handed Rams. The Wildcats have shot an abysmal 26.3% from range so far this season. Their 20 makes as a team are tied with Melvin Johnson’s 20 in his three games this season.
Kenpom.com: 79-78 Villanova win with a 47% chance of a VCU victory.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch: ESPN 2. 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.
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation