The Rams will wrap up their non-conference schedule over these next three games, then enter Atlantic 10 play. VCU’s 5-5 record against a brutal OOC slate is perhaps not surprising, yet no less disappointing after letting two potential top-100 wins (Michigan and Texas) escape despite leads within the last two minutes of play.
What have we a learned and what can we expect from this start to the season, our second 5-5 start in the past three seasons?
SHOOTING/DEFENDING v TOP-100s AND SUB-100s
It should surprise no one that ya typically do better against sub-100 teams than top-100s. That’s obviously been the case for this year’s black and gold with all five of their losses coming against teams ranked 53rd or higher in kenpom.com’s current rankings.
Here’s how the Rams shot and defended in those games:
VCU shooting versus top-100s (sub-100s)
2-point attempts: 48.1% (52.7%)
3-point attempts: 35.2% (42.4%)
Top-100 opponent shooting (sub-100s)
2-point attempts: 58% (48.4%)
3-point attempts: 37.2% (31.2%)
These numbers can be somewhat misleading due to top-100 teams excelling in different areas, but interesting to take a peek at how things change for the Rams when stepping up in weight class. One reason I show those stats is because outside of VCU, just three other conference opponents reside in the top-100 at this moment: Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure and Davidson. Only one of those teams (Rhody) resides in the top-50 and all three play VCU in the Siegel Center in their only meetings this season.
OVERALL BOX PLUS/MINUS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF TWO VCU ANKLES
Injuries can play a huge role in a team’s success and that certainly appears to be the case with VCU’s OOC schedule this season. The Rams have been without Issac Vann the last six games (although he tried to give it a go, playing three minutes against Texas before re-injuring his ankle against the Longhorns) and have been without Malik Crowfield the last four games.
How much has that hurt VCU?
For starters, the duo was averaging a combined 20.7 points per game prior to injury, but perhaps more importantly was their effect on the team when in the game. Crowfield’s overall box/plus minus of +5.9 is second to only De’Riante Jenkins on this year’s team while Vann’s +2.9 was fourth best on the team. So in many ways, VCU has played a decent chunk of a brutal non-conference schedule without two of their best players.
Get well soon, Issac and Malik. We need ya.
THE EMERGENCE OF SANTOS-SILVA
Injuries are never fun, but they do offer up a chance to see what other players can do. One player who has used additional minutes to carve out a solid role for himself in his freshman season is Marcus Santos-Silva.
In 18.7 minutes per game these last three contests, the Taunton, MA native is averaging 9 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. On the year Santos-Silva’s per-40 minutes is a strong 14.6-point, 16.2-rebound average.
The kid can play and he’s only going to get better.
RAMS GOING STREAKING?
I’ve probably hammered home the point of just how brutal the Rams’ OOC schedule has been and it stays tough Saturday against an underrated Bucknell team. If VCU can hold serve at home a week from now, the opportunity is there for this year’s VCU team to put together a bit of a run through the early portion of the conference schedule.
Kenpom has VCU the favorite to win all but two of their next 12 games heading into a home contest with league favorite, Rhode Island. Of those 12, VCU is a double-digit favorite in four and an eight-point favorite in half of those contests. VCU’s toughest games over that stretch are predicted two-point losses at Saint Joseph’s and Dayton. Both of those teams have at least two sub-100 losses to start the season, Dayton recently losing at home to Penn with a neutral court loss to Hofsta and Saint Joseph’s owning three losses already outside of the kenpom top-150.
If VCU can lock in, get a little healthier and pull off a couple of small road upsets, they have they potential to pull off a 12-game winning streak after a 5-5 start for the second time in three years.