VCU wraps up the nation’s strongest non-conference schedule with a home tilt against the Vikings of Cleveland State tonight. Winners of their last four contests, the Rams look to keep things rolling against the Horizon league squad looks to get back to .500 after a disappointing home loss to Eastern Illinois.
CLEVELAND STATE (6-7)
A QUICK LOOK AT CLEVELAND STATE
The Vikings have been a solid program since Gary Waters took over in 2006. Cleveland State boasts five seasons of 20 or more wins including a 21-12 finish last year before falling in the opening round of the CIT tournament. Things are off to a rough start this season however, losing the ones you’d expect Cleveland to lose (Louisville, UVA), but also some head-scratchers as well, most notably an overtime road loss to kenpom No.324, Savannah State as well as this most recent home loss to No.256 EIU. The Vikings are a fairly experienced squad but not a very deep one. They are led by 6’2 junior guard, Trey Lewis, who is shooting a lights-out 47.1% from deep this season and averaging a team-high 17.6 points per contest on the nation’s 218th-ranked scoring offense. Lewis is joined by fellow junior, 6’8 forward, Anton Grady. Grady leads the Vikings with a team-high 5.7 rebounds per contest and averages 12.1 ppg, second to only Lewis. Grady is a high volume shooter but not a particularly effective one. His 37.2% effective field goal % is pretty bad for someone that size and would rank dead last on VCU’s team. Cleveland State makes most of their money from beyond the three-point arc but have been really bad inside of it (42.5% ranks 300th nationally). They are also not the best team at holding on to the ball, turning it over on 20.1% of their possessions this season. Today is Briante Weber’s birthday, and he likes that stat.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU has blown out their last three opponents by an average of 24 points per contest. How? Well a number of factors, but what appears to be the big difference to me is the Rams have had much more success defensively in the halfcourt than they had had in their three previous losses. VCU has held all three of their last opponents to under 40% shooting from the field while turning over each team at least 15 times. Offensively the black and gold have put together some solid performances as well, getting hot from either deep or inside the arc but never going cold altogether. VCU shot a 65.6% inside the arc against ETSU as well as 56.1% inside against Belmont while hitting 48.4% of thier 31 three-point attempts against Cincinnati. VCU’s adjusted offensive efficiency has climbed all the way to No.11 nationally at 111.3 while their defense ranks 42nd at 92.8. Only one other VCU team finished the season ranked in the top-50 in both stats since kenpom.com has kept track: the 2012-13 VCU team that went 27-9 before falling to national runner-up, Michigan, in the round of 32.
Scoring Offense: VCU 76.8, Cleveland State 66.4
Scoring Defense: Cleveland State 61, VCU 67.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51.6%, Cleveland State 47.7%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: Cleveland State 49.8%, VCU 52.1%
3-Point Field Goal%: Cleveland State 37.4%, VCU 36.3%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: Cleveland State 37%, VCU 38%
Rebounds per game: VCU 35.3, Cleveland State 32.5%
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.6%, Cleveland State 22.3%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 15.6%, Cleveland State 20.1%
VCU WINS IF
The Vikings have been a good three-point shooting team this season and will certainly need the three tonight. If VCU can bring the D like they’ve done over these last three games they’ll likely pick up their 10th win of this young season while handing Cleveland State their sixth road loss out of seven tries.
CLEVELAND STATE WINS IF
Limit turnovers, hit the three and force VCU to hit the tough shots. Sounds easy enough, right? Cleveland State will come to the Stu as a relatively battle-tested team, having faced Louisville and UVA already this season on the road. the Vikings played Louisville relatively tight but dug themselves too deep of a first half hole to hang with the Wahoos. Cleveland State is 0-4 against top-100 teams this season and have just one win against a team ranked in the top-250 (a four-point OT home win against No.129, San Francisco). It will take a special effort tonight for the Vikings to pick up their signature win of the season against a VCU team that has lost just one home game the past two seasons.
Kenpom: 73-59 Rams win with a 92% chance of a VCU victory.
Vegas: VCU a 14-point favorite
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, Richmond, VA.
Watch: CBS 6, 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