Game Preview: VCU at Georgia Tech [INSIDER]

VCU point guard JeQuan Lewis will look to lead the Rams in a bounce-back performance from a Dec 6 loss to Florida State.
VCU point guard JeQuan Lewis will look to lead the Rams in a bounce-back performance from a Dec 6 loss to Florida State.

VCU looks to pick up a big road win this evening when the Rams travel to Atlanta to take on the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech. The black and gold will also hope to snap a three-game losing streak against ACC opponents that dates back to December 6 of last year when the Rams fell at home to UVA. VCU and Georgia Tech last faced each other in November of 2011, a 13-point neutral court win for the Yellow Jackets. The Rams would go on to win the CAA tournament that season then upset Wichita State in the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. Georgia Tech would finish that season 11-20 and haven’t seen tournament action since March of 2011.

VCU (5-3)
Georgia Tech (6-2)

A QUICK LOOK AT GEORGIA TECH

Fifth-year GT head coach Bryan Gregory is off to another solid non-conference start but will hope this experienced Yellow Jackets squad can for the first time carry that momentum into ACC play. Tech has two kenpom top-100 wins so far this season, one being a two-point home win over Tennessee (No.83), the other a 10-point neutral court win over the Razorbacks of Arkansas (No.90), but also failed to protect their home court against No.239 East Tennessee State as the Bucs shocked GT 69-68 this November. Georgia Tech is one of the better rebounding teams VCU will play all season and is currently ranked 18th nationally in rebounds per game. That effort is led by 6’8 269lb senior Charles Mitchell who ranks fifth nationally at 13 rebounds per contest to give the Atlanta native a 14.5-point, 13-rebound double-double season average. Mitchell is one of four players averaging double-digit scoring, second to just fellow senior, Marcus Georges-Hunt (14.6ppg). They are joined by Adam Smith, who Ram fans will remember from both his time at UNCW and Virginia Tech before eventually finding his way to GT. Smith is averaging just over 12 points per game and is the Jackets’ best three-point shooter at an impressive 43.4% on the year. 6’8 Senior Nick Jacobs is rounds out the group at 10.8 ppg, giving the Ramblin’ Wreck a strong group of experienced scorers the Rams will have to deal with tonight. GT loves to take their time on offense, crashes the glass and does a good job of holding on to the ball. They don’t score a ton of points but have been a methodical and efficient team up to this point that will most likely look to beat VCU in an old-fashioned rock fight.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

VCU has been solid throughout the season but haven’t had the offensive balance needed to pick up the big marquee wins, checking in at 1-3 against kenpom top-100 opponents. All three losses have come on neutral courts, the last coincidentally in the same city VCU will lace em up in tonight: Atlanta. The Rams got an all-world effort from Melvin Johnson in a close loss there against Florida State, Johnson dumping 36 on the Seminoles but saw limited help from all of his teammates not named Alie-Cox, getting 25% shooting on 32 attempts from all not named Mo or Melvin including a combined four points from the Rams bench. Scoring inside the arc has been a particular problem for the black and gold, as the Rams are connecting on just 43.9% of their two-point attempts, ranking 295th nationally in that stat. VCU shot just 38.6% inside the arc in a close loss to Florida State and just 31.6% inside the arc in a six-point road win at Middle Tennessee State. Defensively havoc has remained the name of the game, with VCU forcing a turnover one of every four trips down the court for their opponents. Despite less pressing than Shaka Smart’s squads on Broad St. and one less Briante Weber, the Rams have been a defensive pest yet again, stealing the ball 15.8% of their opponents possessions, a stat that ranks second nationally and is the highest rate since VCU’s 2012-13 team.

Scoring Offense: GT 81, VCU 74
Scoring Defense: VCU 65, GT 70.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: GT 51.6%, VCU 48.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.9%, GT 49%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 39.2%, GT 33.8%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: GT 32.9%, 34.8%
Rebounds per game: GT 43.5, VCU 37.8
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.9%, GT 16.4%
Turnover Percentage Offense: GT 15.9%, VCU 18.1%

VCU WINS IF

VCU needs a havoc-filled night for two reasons: 1) turnovers will help create easy scoring opportunities for a Rams team that has struggled to hit shots at times and 2) Georgia Tech’s rebounding is somewhat negated if they are handing the ball over to the Rams one in every four possessions. Offensively the Rams need to take better care of the ball themselves, surrendering a season-high 20 turnovers against Florida State including a career-worst seven from starting point guard JeQuan Lewis. I don’t suspect that will be a problem (knock on wood). VCU wants this game at a faster pace but has to do so under control and need to either finish in transition or make damn sure they get fouled in the process.

GEORGIA TECH WINS IF

GT needs to do a good job of taking care of the ball. The Yellow Jackets have a top-50 turnover offense so far this season but have had double-digit turnovers against the three top turnover Ds they’ve played (Villanova, Arkansas, Tulane), none of which have turned teams over at the rate of the Rams. They’ll also need a solid night from distance to beat this VCU team. Tech shot a combined 7-31 from deep in their two losses this season, including that inexcusable home loss to ETSU where they were just 5-17 from long range.

Kenpom: 73-72 Georgia Tech win with a 46% chance of a VCU victory.

Game tips at 9PM in Atlantic, Georgia at Hank McCamish Pavilion.

Watch: ESPN2, Official watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: 107.3FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

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