The Rams head back to their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament, this time taking on an Oregon State Beavers team returning to the dance for their first time in 26 years. VCU earned a No.10 seed as A-10 regular season co-champ and conference tournament runner-up while OSU backed in after a 9-9 Pac-12 record and a 19-12 overall mark that included 11 wins over kenpom top-100 squads. VCU enters as the lower seed but the betting favorite at the moment, sitting as a 4.5-point Vegas favorite as of this post.
OREGON STATE (19-12)
A QUICK LOOK AT OREGON STATE
The Beavers are dancing for the first time in almost three decades thanks to former Montana Coach Wayne Tinkle, who’s in his second season with the program. The last time OSU danced they featured future NBA All-Star Gary Payton. This time it’s Payton’s son, Gary Payton II, that will try to take the black and orange on a run through March. Payton II, a 6’3 senior guard and two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, is a projected second round NBA draftee that will hope to play the role of this year’s DeAngelo Russell against the Rams (Russell scored 28 against VCU in last season’s NCAA tournament for another OSU team, the Ohio State Buckeyes). Payton’s partner in crime this season has been coach’s son, 6’8 forward Tres Tinkle (13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), who is doubtful due to a foot injury. Tinkle has missed the Beavers last four contests with OSU going 2-2 in his absence.
NAMES TO KNOW
Gary Payton II – The senior found his way to OSU via Salt Lake Community College and has made himself a legit NBA prospect thanks to a strong game on both sides of the ball. Payton ranks tops in the Pac-12 in both assists and steals rate but can be a very streaky shooter. Not a huge deep threat (31.3% on 67 attempts this season), Payton does most of his damage inside the arc.
Stephen Thompson Jr – The freshman has seen an increased role due to the injury to starter Tres Tinkle and has been a volume shooter all season long, ranking first in the Pac-12 in percentage of shots while on the floor (shoots the ball once of about every three trips down the floor). Another very strong defender, Thompson is averaging 2.75 steals since the injury to Tinkle. He’s a capable shooter at 35.9% outside the arc (117 attempts) and 46.1% inside of it.
Malcolm Duvivier – A 6’2 Canadian junior, Duvivier’s numbers don’t jump out at you but you can expect to see a lot of him Friday. He takes about as many threes as twos but hasn’t been particularly efficient at either despite taking the third most shots on the active roster (due to Tinkle’s injury).
Olaf Schaftenaar – One of FIVE players standing 6’10 or taller on OSU’s roster, Schaftenaar plays smaller than his height, taking twice as many threes as twos typically. Doesn’t rebound well or finish in the paint for someone at his height but will attempt to stretch VCU’s defense for about 26 minutes on Friday.
Drew Eubanks – The 6’10 freshman can sometimes see his minutes limited due to foul trouble but while on the floor is a capable big, hitting over 57% of his attempts on the season while blocking 6.8% of his opponents shots on the other end of the floor. Has a tendency to disappear on offense but can give you OSU 13 points evenings from time to time.
As a team Oregon State fits the profile of the squads VCU has had the most success against this season. The Beavers have some size but don’t exactly play big like the likes of Saint Joseph’s, GW, Cincinnati, Duke, Florida State and so forth. They shoot the three well and defend it on defense but have been vulnerable inside the arc, ranking sub-200 nationally in both two-point offense and defense.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU will look to pick themselves up off the mat after a disappointing defensive performance in this year’s A-10 title game against Saint Joseph’s where the Hawks hit 71.7% of their attempts inside the arc and 53.6% of their shots outside of it. That came after a lockdown performance against a very good Davidson offense, not to mention a strong defensive road showing in the Rams’ regular season finale at Dayton, so we’ll hope to see the Rams defense of old on Friday night. The black and gold should bring a healthy roster into Friday’s game after taking it easy on a banged up Melvin Johnson this week, the senior guard having hurt his ankle/heel in VCU’s rout of Davidson this past week. The Rams are averaging 74.4 points scored this March (five games) while allowing 67.8. Only one of those games was played on the Siegel Center floor. The Rams are the 34th-ranked team in the country according to kenpom.com and will tip it up against an OSU squad ranked 59th. VCU may be the favorite according to Vegas but are just 1-7 against kenpom top-60 squads this season. Oregon State on the other hand is 5-9 against the top-60 but have gone 0-2 without starter Tres Tinkle. VCU played just one top-60 team at home while all five of OSU’s top-60 wins came on their home court.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.3, OSU 72.1
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.7, OSU 70
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 50.9%, OSU 49.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 49%, OSU 49.4%
3-Point Field Goal%: OSU 37.3%, VCU 35.6%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: OSU 32.8%, VCU 33.6%
2-Point Field Goal% Offense: VCU 49.6%, OSU 47.1%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.4%, OSU 49.5%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.5, OSU 34.6
Turnover Percentage Defense: VCU 21.9%, OSU 19.5%
Turnover Percentage Offense: VCU 16.2%, OSU 16.8%
VCU WINS IF
On paper this is a good matchup for VCU due to OSU being somewhat vulnerable in the paint. While OSU can get hot from deep, I think if VCU can win the battle inside the arc they stand a great chance of advancing to the second round (efficient scoring on offense, no easy buckets on D, attack the glass). VCU’s guards will have to do an improved defensive job than what we saw Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn or risk a barrage of threes from OSU’s shooters that could end the black and gold’s party earlier this weekend than Vegas predicts.