Rams back to underdog role in this year’s tournament…sorta

VCU didn’t get the result they wanted in yesterday’s A-10 tournament championship game but went to bed with a smile on their faces thanks to yesterday’s inclusion into this year’s NCAA tournament, the Rams sixth straight appearance.

Unlike the previous two seasons however this year’s group is back in the role of seed underdog. The Rams took on Ohio State last year as a No.6 seed versus the Buckeye’s 11, as well as a No.5 seed against No.12 Stephen F. Austin the season before that, but lost both games in overtime as the favorite.

Will Wade continues VCU's NCAA tournament streak at six consecutive appearances.
Will Wade continues VCU’s NCAA tournament streak at six consecutive appearances.

Will Wade wasn’t apart of either group but finds himself back at VCU as an underdog for the first time since 2012, the year VCU upset 5th-seeded Wichita State in Portland, Oregon as a part of a classic 12 over 5 upset. They nearly repeated that results the two nights later against Indiana but saw a lead get away from them in the final minute of play.

The Rams grabbed a 10 seed in this year’s event and will head to Oklahoma City for a matchup with the Pac-12’s Oregon State Beavers, one of this season’s No.7s.

The casual hoops fan would assume that returns VCU to underdog status and in terms of seed line that is certainly true, but the Rams enter Friday night’s matchup 25 spots higher than OSU in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (my preferred source for rankings and advanced statistics) and as of this post enter as the Vegas favorite as well.

The Rams opened as a three-point favorite and have seen that line move to as high as 4.5 points in some books.

With that said, in terms of kenpom rankings, VCU will have to be much-improved to knock off this Oregon State team. The Rams went just 4-8 this season against kenpom top-100 squads compared to a 10-11 record from the Beavers. The black and gold were 1-4 against the top-50 and 3-4 against teams ranking 50-100 while Oregon State went 3-8 against the top-50 and 7-3 against teams 50-100. VCU boasts a 2-6 road/neutral record against kenpom top-100 teams compared to a 3-10 record for Oregon State.

Long story short: these two appear somewhat evenly matched, but based off who’s the most battle-tested, you’d have to lean Oregon State.

The Rams however did draw the type of matchup needed to pull off a first round win, getting an OSU team that is stronger from range than inside the arc. The Beavers have struggled to rebound this season and have been bad at both scoring and defending inside the arc, just the opposite of the types of teams that have given VCU trouble all season long.

The VCU versus Oregon State matchup is one of the more intriguing first round games and in one way or another both enter Friday night’s battle as the underdog. This should be fun.

A two-time graduate of VCU (School of the Arts '07, Center for Sport Leadership '10), Mat is a co-founder of VCU Ram Nation and a longtime fan as the ...