Team Ram Nation will take on The Basketball Tournament defending champs Overseas Elite tonight in a 9PM ESPN2 tip that puts this VCU group in a role they are all too familiar with: underdog. Ram Nation knocked off two opponents as the favorite but will take on last year’s, a team coming off a seven-point win over a talented HBC squad featuring fellow Ram, Jamal Shuler, as well as a 22-point first round blowout of 15th-seeded Showtime. The Rams are banged up but found themselves clicking in their last contest. Can they pull off another win and move one step closer to the $2 million prize, knocking off one of this year’s favorites in the process?
A QUICK LOOK AT OVERSEAS ELITE
Like Ram Nation, OE had a bit of a slow start in this year’s tournament, stumbling out to a two-point halftime lead over the heavily outmatched team known as “Showtime”. But like Ram Nation, the second half of their first Saturday contest was just what the doctor ordered. Elite dumped 62 second-half points on Showtime, punching a ticket to the round of 32 where they faced a much more competitive opponent, ultimately outlasting a talented HBC team featuring VCU’s Jamal Shuler, 91-84. Elite has been led early in the tournament by former Arizona guard, Kyle Fogg alongside former St. John’s hooper, DJ Kennedy. The Wildcat dumped 27 on HBC including 16 from the free throw stripe while Kennedy has been a 6’6 human Swiss Army knife for Overseas, doing whatever the champs have needed to get done to secure wins. Elite picked up those wins without talented guards Myck Kbongo (Texas) and Travis Bader (Oakland). The appearance of both would give Elite some nice added guard depth, Kbongo an added slasher and Bader a deadeye three-point shooter. They join Errick McCollum (brother of NBA baller, CJ McCollum) in what’s already a talented backcourt. That group has some beef in the paint to work with as well including 7′ center Ryan Richards, a 2010 NBA draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs.
A QUICK LOOK AT RAM NATION
After a very slow start that saw Ram Nation down 20 at one point in this tournament, it’s been all VCU, as Ram Nation has outscored both of their first two opponents by 20 or more points in the second half. Ram Nation roared back to defeat the NC Prodigal Sons in their first game, then, utilizing a smaller lineup, diced up an even more talented team in the Kings of the South, 102-76. Ram Nation has been forced to play small — a style that was extremely effective during the Rams’ 2011 Final 4 run — thanks largely in part to the absence of 6’11 center, Larry Sanders. Sanders played professionally in the NBA after being the 15th overall draft pick in 2010 but has been absent from team Ram Nation’s journey thus far. The Rams also went the majority of their first two games without the services of 6’6 G/F Reggie Williams (VMI). Williams injured his groin in NBA Summer League play, tried to give it a go in Ram Nation’s first game, but was shelved early and forced to contribute as a coach from the sidelines. Michael Anderson has helped carry the load for VCU in the paint while the Rams have also gotten big minutes down low from 6’6 Bradford Burgess and 6’4 Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Offensively Burgess has been a star as well, scoring 24 points in Ram Nation’s game-one win with some serious help from Brandon Rozzell who dumped 22 including some huge second-half threes in the effort. Darius Theus was much more aggressive offensively in game-two and because of that was virtually unstoppable, scoring an effortless 27 points over Kings of the South. With a lineup that includes some of VCU’s most prolific three-point shooters in the history of the program, don’t be surprised to see more of the small ball that’s been so effective for VCU over the years tonight.
Game tips at 9PM and can be viewed on ESPN2.