Well, here we are. We have reached a point in our hoops history where we are officially POed at consecutive losses to power conference teams. That is both the good and the bad. Consecutive losses = bad. Pissed at losing to power conference teams = good?
I think so.
Either way, it’s a completely new chapter of VCU hoops and an interesting start to our 2016-17 hoops journey.
The reality is we are about where we were last year. VCU has dropped to 49th nationally according to kenpom.com after last night’s overtime loss. The Rams ranked a little better nine games in last season at 40th according to kenpom, but started 5-4 instead of this season’s 6-3 start. At this point last year VCU was 1-4 against the top-100 versus 2-2 this season, but this year’s Rams has a sub-100 loss they did not own at the same point a year ago, albeit against a Georgia Tech team that now ranks just outside of the top-100 at No.112.
THE PATH AHEAD
Good news: VCU’s next two games are against top-100 teams.
Bad news: VCU has two very losable games coming up.
The Rams have back-to-back top-100 contests coming up, first at ODU this Saturday followed by a Saturday Dec 17 tip against Middle Tennessee after six days of. Those are sneaky resume builders that the Rams really need, but also two realistic chances to stretch this losing streak to four games. Those are VCU’s only two good available non-conference win opportunities remaining.
Note* ODU is terrible on offense and fantastic on D. That basically equals the ultimate frustration potential for VCU fans.
After that, VCU will likely need to run up a very impressive A-10 record to impress the committee. This year’s A-10 has been down with just six teams ranking within the kenpom top-100 versus seven last season plus Davidson at No.106. Richmond sits at No.108 this season and has a great shot at jumping into the top-100 if the Spiders can manage a home win over No.31 Texas Tech. You don’t need to wear blue and red that day, but you’ll want to root for the Spiders to pull that one off for VCU’s sake, as the Rams play Richmond twice this season.
The Rams ultimately danced via at-large bid last season despite bad losses at UMass (No.167) and Mason (No.199) and relied heavily on their A-10 schedule that included a share of first in the conference an an A-10 tourney runner-up finish — VCU picked up six top-100 wins in eight opportunities through A-10 play, three of which were on the road. Currently VCU is looking at an A-10 slate that includes seven top-100 games, three of which are on the road.
BAD STAT!: 20.6%
That is VCU’s turnover rate. It ranks 240th nationally and is the worst rate at VCU since 2004 (oddly enough, that 2004 team was pretty darn good and made the NCAA tournament after winning the CAA championship). The Rams turned the ball over 21 times last night, thus negating a nice turnover night defensively, seeing 20 from GT.
If you include VCU’s exhibition loss to DII Queens University in which the Rams turned the ball over 25 times, VCU is averaging 19.3 turnovers in their four losses this season.
GOOD STATS!: 52.8%, 48.1%
The Rams seem to go VERY cold at times but statistically their actually shooting pretty well — we go from very hot to very cold in the span of one game but typically it evens out to a nice number. VCU’s 52.8% effective field goal percentage on the season is the Rams best EFG% since 2004.
On the other side of the ball VCU’s 48.1% effective field goal D is their best over the past three seasons. The Rams finished at 47.8% during the 2013-14 season and 47.2% in 2011-12, both teams finishing within the national top-25 of defensive efficiency. This year’s Rams rank 33rd nationally defensively and overall appear to be on track for a good defensive year.
STAT CONCLUSION!: Turnovers, man. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot/feet! If we can get a shot off, usually we’re pretty darn accurate. But we’re giving up the ball 1/5th of our possessions and when we aren’t hitting our shots we are doing a miserable job of securing second-chance opportunities (27.1% offensive rebound percentage ranks 246th nationally).
Is that something that cleans up itself? I’m not so sure.
Many of the usual suspects (JeQuan, Justin, Jordan, Johnny and Doug) are about on their usual turnover percentage paces. The problem is some of the rates from those players were much worse than heavy-minute guards, Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury, who graduated this offseason. That equals a not decline in turnover rate and perhaps with no reason for optimism that it changes.
Mo Alie-Cox is turning the ball over about 4% more than we’re used to seeing from him while Ahmed Hamdy is turning it over about 12% more than last season, so combine that with the net decline and we’re hurting.
VCU’s freshman are all turning the ball over 20% or worse, which is pretty par for the course with freshman. They just need to have that luxury with upperclassmen doing a better job setting an example.