Game Preview: VCU v Howard [Insider]

JeQuan Lewis leads VCU in scoring at 15.2 points per game but will need to cut down on turnovers (3.2 per game) for VCU to reach its full potential this season.

VCU will look to finish up the non-conference season in style when hosting the Bison of Howard University tonight. VCU has won their last three contests and nine of their 12 OOC games thus far. A win tonight would put the Rams two games ahead of last season’s pace with a better non-conference showing than the 2015-16 Rams that collected VCU’s sixth-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

VCU (9-3)
HOWARD (3-9)

A QUICK LOOK AT HOWARD

Know this: VCU has yet to play a sub-300 ranked kenpom team. Howard is a sub-300 ranked kenpom team. Two of the Bison’s wins this season have come against non-DI competition, the other came at home against No.316 American. The Bison’s average margin of defeat against top-100 teams like VCU is 19 points, their closest loss however coming just recently in a nine-point L at ODU. Statistically Howard basically does just about everything poorly, as one might expect of the 316th-ranked team. Defensively they are one of the 30 worst in America. Offensively they aren’t much better. What they are however is experienced and tested. The Bison have the 14th-ranked strength of schedule according to Pomeroy and the 25th most experienced unit. The Bison play about an eight-man rotation with four players currently averaging double-digit scoring. Junior guard/forward James Miller leads the Bison in scoring at 16.1 points per game but it’s 6’6 senior Solomon Mangham who essentially runs the show for the Bison at 12.3 ppg and a team-best 7.2 rebounds. The Bison’s greatest strength comes in getting to the free throw stripe where they are getting 26.8% of their scoring, a stat they rank 6th nationally in. That could cause some trouble for a VCU team who has found foul trouble early and often in their 12 games to start the season.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

I’m gonna throw this out there real quick: In 12 games so far, it appears to me VCU is essentially a team that plays to the level of their competition. That’s the only way I can describe a team that can lead Baylor by eight points at halftime and trail Louisiana Monroe by two (or barely escape at Liberty while also beating ODU on the road). Half of VCU’s games have been decided by single-digits, others closer than their final double-digit margins suggest — like VCU’s 78-65 win over LA Monroe after trailing at the half. As head coach Will Wade said early in the season, this is a VCU team that can beat anyone or lose to anyone, but ultimately one that’s mostly been on the right side of their final margins. One of the key factors in some of VCU’s struggles has been an offense prone to turning the ball over. The Rams rank 219th nationally in turnover percentage offense and defensively are committing way too many fouls. That’s allowing sub-par opponents to essentially keep things close before regressing to the mean. The Rams ability to clean up both those stats may ultimately decided how far this VCU team can go.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: VCU 72.8, HOW 62.5
Scoring Defense: VCU 66.3, HOW 74
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.8%, HOW 43.6%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 48.7%, HOW 56.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 35.6%, HOW 32.6%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 35.3%, HOW 42.5%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.4%, HOW 41.6%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 46.9%, HOW 51.9%
Rebounds per game: VCU 33.6, HOW 32.5
Turnover% Offense: VCU 19.8%, HOW 21%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 22.8%, HOW 19.3%

VCU WINS IF

You see all that green above? Rarely does VCU rank ahead of teams in every statistical category I post in my game previews. That would seem to suggest VCU is due for a classic 20-30-point win. The Rams have had just one of those types of game this season, a 39-point demolition of Binghamton, so another fun game like that would be a welcome site for Ram fans, as well as a nice confidence builder heading into VCU’s A-10 opener against 10-3 George Mason. Basically the key for VCU tonight will be in limiting turnovers and taking smart shots. If the Rams do that our highlight video will be long and full of dunks.

HOWARD WINS IF

VCU trailed kenpom No.262 Louisiana Monroe at the half and barely survived No.272 Liberty, so certainly anything is possible. The key for Howard will be forcing turnovers on defense and getting freebies on offense by attacking VCU’s basket in hopes of drawing easy fouls. Problem is Howard ranks 330th nationally in two-point percentage, meaning if they aren’t picking up those fouls, usually things don’t end well in the paint for the Bison.

Kenpom: 80-59 VCU win with a 97% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA.

Watch: ASN, Official game day headquarters are Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

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