Game Preview: No.10 VCU v No.2 Oklahoma [INSIDER]

Melvin Johnson will take on this season's favorite for National Player of the Year when he goes up against OU's Buddy Hield today in OKC.
Melvin Johnson will take on this season’s favorite for National Player of the Year when he goes up against OU’s Buddy Hield today in OKC.

The Rams defeated Oregon State for VCU’s first NCAA tournament win in three seasons and will be rewarded with a matchup against No.2 seed Oklahoma. Make no mistake, VCU will be playing about as true of a road game as you can get in the NCAA tournament, with OU fans making the quick 20 minute drive from their Norman campus. VCU will be up against15,000+ crimson-clad fans and NCAA Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield, as well as a cast shooters that ranks among the best in the country. A win however and VCU is back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the Rams’ Final 4 run in 2011.

VCU (25-10)
OKLAHOMA (26-7)

A QUICK LOOK AT OKLAHOMA

Previously the top-ranked team in the country, the Sooners had to settle for a 2-seed in this year’s tournament out of the West region and two tournament opening games in their backyard. They were tested early by the Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield but were able to pull away late in the 82-68 win and have now turned their attention to VCU. OU ranks top-20 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency and will be one of VCU’s toughest tests in years. The Sooners rank second nationally in three-point shooting thanks to Hield’s insane 46.4% mark on his 280 attempts this season, but see him joined by fellow senior Isaiah Cousins at 43.8% and junior Jordan Woodard at 44.9%. Three other players shoot at least 37% from deep including 6’8 senior Ryan Spangler (37.2%) who is the Sooner’s biggest post presence, finishing 64.2% of his shots inside the arc as well. Defensively Lon Krugar’s squad will be a tall task for the Rams, having held previous opponents to just 44.2% shooting inside the arc, giving OU the look of the type of teams that have bothered VCU all season long. OU lost just one home game this season, a four-point loss to this year’s overall No.1, Kansas. Long story short, this Oklahoma team is the type of team that typically makes a deep NCAA tournament run. They are loaded with talented guards who can shoot the three and defend on the other side of the ball. Throw in this extremely favorable location and the Rams have a massive uphill battle in front of them today.

NAMES TO KNOW

Buddy Hield – 6’4 senior guard, Player of the Year candidate, Hield can do everything and will be a major matchup problem for VCU just as he’s been for everyone all season long. Deadly from range but just as scary using dribble penetration, Hield ranks 10th nationally with a 66.4% true shooting percentage.

Isaiah Cousins – Yet another senior guard with good size (6’4 200), Cousins does most of his damage from deep as a 43.8% three-point shooter. Leads OU in assists so while it’s Hield who may do most of the scoring today it could be Cousins driving the stagecoach.

Jordan Woodward – Junior guard who’s another deadly three-point option for OU (44.9%). Not as good inside the arc (37.8%) but uses dribble penetration to find open looks for Hield and Cousins.

Ryan Spangler – OU’s best big, Spangler is a serious stretch floor who can’t be left alone from distance and is one of the best two-point finishing bigs in the country.

Khadeem Lattin – OU’s best defender, Lattin is a top-30 shot-blocker with a 2.4% steals percentage (very good for a big). Doesn’t get the minutes of a Spangler but is OU’s best offensive rebounder when on the floor.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

The Rams took down Oregon State with a tried-and-true VCU formula that’s stacked black and gold wins all season; they attacked the basket for a 63.9% two-point shooting mark and 17 made free throws while limiting OSU inside the paint themselves. JeQuan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox had the type of connection in that one that we saw when VCU was at their best this season. Both scoring over 20 points with Lewis adding eight assists, several of which were to a cutting Mo Alie-Cox for momentum-grabbing slams. The Rams however picked up that win with down games from key players Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury, who combined for 18 points on 7-21 shooting, which hopefully points to a bounce-back today in a game where the Rams will most definitely need all hands on deck. The Rams held OSU to just seven makes from distance and will need to repeat that effort tonight against the best three-point team they will have seen all season long. VCU has however faced two top-15 three-point shooting teams this season, holding eighth-ranked North Florida to 27.8% from the field and 14th-ranked Middle Tennessee State (who just knocked Michigan State out of the tournament) to 19% when VCU took them down on the road earlier this season. VCU has been a good team at scoring inside the arc but will have one of their toughest tests today against the Sooners. The Rams had mixed results earlier this season against good two-point defenses, routing two of the A-10’s stingiest two-point Ds in Duquesne and Rhode Island while struggling against the likes of Dayton, GW and George Mason.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: OU 80.4, VCU 77.3
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.7, OU 70.4
Effective Field Goal% Offense: OU 54.7%, VCU 50.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 49%, OSU 49.4%
3-Point Field Goal%: OU 46.5%, VCU 49%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: OU 33.8%, VCU 33.9%
2-Point Field Goal% Offense: VCU 50%, OU 48.1%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: OU 44.2%, VCU 48.2%
Rebounds per game: OU 38.8, VCU 37.5
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 21.6%, OU 17.7%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 16.3%, OU 17.9%

VCU WINS IF

Two keys to this one for me: 1) defend the three. The Rams will need one of their best three-point defensive efforts of the season (or just a bad shooting night from OU, which is not outside the realm of possibility…hey, they happen) to survive Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. If that three and VCU isn’t answering with threes of their own, this will not be a pleasant atmosphere for the Rams. And 2) get looks looks on offense inside the arc. OU’s three-point shooting scares me but their two-point defense terrifies me. The Rams have struggled when they can’t get it going inside the arc so will need a true team effort to upset OU today.

Kenpom: 77-70 OU win with an 24% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 5:15PM EST at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK

Watch: CBS, 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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