VCU will look to snap a two-game losing streak after suffering two heart-breaking defeats this past weekend against last year’s national title contenders, Duke and Wisconsin. The Rams led at the half of both games and would have left Manhattan 1-1 had it not been for a game-winning shot by the Badgers Sunday night. VCU has had two days to stew on those losses while making some tweaks and will look to take their anger out on the Eagles of American University tonight.
A QUICK LOOK AT AMERICAN
The Eagles have stumbled out of the gates to a winless 0-3 record that has included blowout losses to Hampton, Saint Francis PA and A-10 conference mate, Rhode Island. The main culprit in American’s struggles being horrendous shooting that has seen Mike Brennan’s squad average just 46 points per contest against a schedule you quite frankly can’t average that against. American has started the season as the fourth worst three-point shooting team in the country, connecting on just 20.4% of their long distance attempts. The Eagles are led by senior Jesse Reed and junior Paris Maragkos, American’s only two double-digits scorers, and run a nine-man rotation that consists of four freshman averaging double-digit minutes. Head coach Mike Brennan is a former Princeton guard himself and will bring a very Princeton offense to the Siegel Center tonight. Watch out for those backdoor cuts because here they come!
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU is coming off two close loses to the two teams that made up last year’s national championship game: Duke and Wisconsin. The Rams let those games get away from them thanks to a poor second half performances where VCU’s shooting dropped off a cliff. VCU shot over 50% from the field to start both games but saw second halves that were closer to 30%, while failing to really slow either team down in the second half themselves. Despite the losses VCU proved they belong amongst the best teams in the country thanks largely in part to a big weekend from senior Melvin Johnson along with some breakout performances from transfers Korey Billbury and Ahmed Hamdy. VCU is still very much a team figuring out a rotation and has seen nine players average double-digit minutes this season. Offensively the Rams have been great from distance, but by Rams I mean pretty much just Melvin Johnson who is currently carrying the team from deep. VCU’s 38.4% three-point shooting mark is the best the Rams have shot as a team since the black and gold’s 2007 squad led by the likes of Eric Maynor, BA Walker, Jamal Shuler and Jesse Pellot-Rosa, but in terms of volume shooters Johnson is the only Ram shooting over 30% from downtown so far this season. Johnson also leads the Rams with 19.5 points per contest, the highest average at VCU since Eric Maynor dropped 22.4 points per contest his senior season. VCU’s bigs have been solid offensively in the paint, particularly JUCO Transfer Ahmed Hamdy who had a breakout performance in New York and is shooting a blistering 62.5% on the season. Defensively the Rams have struggled somewhat, allowing teams an effective field goal percentage of 50.8%. Defense has been a huge priority for the Rams at practice since returning from New York so I expect the Rams to clamp down on American tonight.
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.8, American 46
Scoring Defense: American 64.7, VCU 69.3
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 50.2%, American 40.1%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: American 50.3%, VCU 50.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.4%, American 20.4%
3-Point Field Goal% American 25.6%, VCU 36.9%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36, American 28.3
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 25.4%, American 19.1%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 17.7%, 24.1%
VCU WINS IF
VCU is winning this game, it’s just a matter of how good they look doing it. Here are my goals for the Rams tonight:
- Hold American to under 20 points per half.
- Force 20 or more turnovers
- Finish 50% or better on offense (like Wisconsin did against us).
- Play hungry and as a team.
AMERICAN WINS IF
They aren’t winning this game but if they do it will be because they are shooting lights out from three, something they haven’t dreamt of doing so far this season. The Eagles rank 336th nationally at NOT turning the ball over on offense and come to the Stu to face an angry Rams team who has been the 11th best team in the country at turning teams over. American will need to be, well…un-American when it comes to holding on to the ball tonight. Last year the Eagles’ best games came in a road win against a La Salle team that beat VCU, as well as a rock fight three-point loss at Temple. It would be in Americans best interest to make tonight another ugly one of the Eagles are going to have any chance at leaving VCU with their first win of the season.
Kenpom: 71-56 VCU win with a 94% chance of a VCU victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA.