Game Preview: VCU at Davidson [INSIDER]

Mo Alie-Cox scored a team-high 18 points in VCU's most recent game against Davidson, a 93-73 A-10 Tournament Semifinal win en route to VCU's first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship.
Mo Alie-Cox scored a team-high 18 points in VCU’s most recent game against Davidson, a 93-73 A-10 Tournament Semifinal win en route to VCU’s first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship.

A rowdy Belk Arena and a sharp-shooting Davidson Wildcats team stands between VCU and their 11th consecutive win. The Rams will hope to be road warriors once again, taking an undefeated 3-0 road record to Charlotte for the first time since last season’s 82-55 road loss. The Wildcats on the other hand will look to remain undefeated in their building, winning all ten of their home contests this season in their 27th year under head coach Bob McKillop.

VCU (15-5, 7-0)
Davidson (12-6, 4-3)

A QUICK LOOK AT DAVIDSON

This year’s Davidson team will look very much like the one VCU played three times last season (winning two of those contests), the only difference being the graduation of 2015 A-10 Player of the Year, Tyler Kalinoski. The Cats offense has taken a small hit due to Kalinoski’s departure — as well as some percentage dips from their starting lineup — going from last year’s No.8 offense nationally to 31st this year, thanks largely in part to a drop in their three-point shooting percentage, down to 34.1% this year from over 38% last season. The Cats have been a middle-of-the-pack shooting team in Atlantic 10 play as well, checking in at seventh in the A-10 in 3p% (35.3%) and ninth in 2p% (49.2%). Just as their offense has dipped, so has what was an already porous defense, dropping from 197th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency last season to 251st this year. No better example exists of their defensive struggles than their recent 96-87 defeat at Saint Louis. The 96 points was the most Saint Louis had not only scored this year, but the most they had scored since the 90-91 season. It was also 40 more points than VCU had surrendered in their game at Saint Louis. Davidson did however tighten things up the following game, holding Richmond’s high-scoring offense to just 70 points in the Robins Center in a 78-70 Wildcats win. The Cats have both struggled to defend and rebound, but with the likes of Jack Gibbs (24.8 ppg), Peyton Aldridge (16.3 ppg) and Brian Sullivan (13.9 ppg) running the offense, give themselves a chance to defeat most teams in a shootout.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

The Rams have been known for their defense since about the 2011-2012 season, but it’s VCU’s offense that has been doing most of the damage as of late. VCU currently ranks No.1 in conference play in adjusted offensive efficiency. The black and gold have scored 84 or more points in all of their last four contests, a streak that none of Smart, Grant or Capel accomplished while at VCU. JeQuan Lewis has looked spectacular as a scoring point guard, Melvin Johnson is having a First Team type of season, Korey Billbury has been a brilliant transfer pickup and Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman have given the Rams a scoring duo down low that makes this offense tough to stop when those powers combine. Prior to Wednesday night’s Dayton dominance of Saint Louis, the Rams had led the A-10 in adjusted defensive efficiency in conference play as well, but 37 points out of the Billikens dropped VCU to a still very respectable No.2. VCU has been wreaking havoc all season to the tune of the nation’s No.4 turnover defense and No.2 steals percentage D, two stats that will be challenged tonight against the nation’s No.1 turnover offense. They have left some room for improvement however in defending the paint, something they have somewhat struggled to do at times despite the presence of shot-blockers Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tillman. They’ll need an improved effort down low against a Davidson team that can absolutely shred you inside the arc, despite being a somewhat undersized group. Fouling has also been an issue. VCU is racking up just over 20 fouls per contest, ranking them 214th nationally in fouls committed. Overall the Rams are playing some very good basketball and will hope to build on that throughout the second half of Atlantic 10 play but will need to shore up some defensive details to do so.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: DAV 81.5, VCU 78.1
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.8, DAV 79.7
Effective Field Goal% Offense: DAV 51.7%, VCU 50.5%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.9%, DAV 51.6%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.1%, DAV 34.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33.9%, DAV 35.4%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.2, DAV 35.9
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 24.4%, DAV 16.5%
Turnover Percentage Offense: DAV 13.1%, VCU 16.8%

VCU WINS IF

VCU will need a disciplined, hard-fought defensive effort to take down this Davidson team at home. Davidson will screen you all night, so I’ll be interested to see how Wade attacks that, be it switching on everything or basically fighting through for a good portion of tonight’s 40 minutes of action. The Rams struggled to do the later during their last trip to Belk and were shredded in a road loss, 82-55, Shaka Smart’s biggest defeat as a head coach. A prideful defensive performance will go a long way toward extending VCU’s win-streak to 11 on Friday night.

DAVIDSON WINS IF

Conversely, if these guys heat up on offense it may be hard for the black and gold to win a road shootout. Sure, they did just that at the Robins Center but rest assured Will Wade would like to avoid that tonight. Defensively Davidson will need to catch some breaks as well. The Cats caught some major breaks in their recent win over Richmond, seeing a ton of open looks simply not fall — the Spiders were 0-15 from three. It’s always nice to have luck on your side but not something you want to depend on. Davidson comes into this game with more of a reputation as a three-point shooting team than VCU but it’s actually the Rams bringing in tonight’s higher deep-ball percentage. A similar defense performance to the one the Cats played at Richmond might see vastly different results against Melvin Johnson, JeQuan Lewis and this VCU team.

Kenpom: 83-80 VCU win with a 63% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 6PM at Belk Arena in Davidson, NC

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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