Game Preview: VCU at Seton Hall [INSIDER]

On paper, VCU’s toughest test of the season comes today: a road tip against a top-20 Seton Hall team with four top-100 wins already including a big recent road win at Louisville. Their only loss of the season coincidentally coming to another A-10 Rams team: Rhode Island. Kenpom’s computers give VCU just a 12% chance of winning this one and predicts a double-digit loss for VCU. Mission impossible or a team primed for a big upset win? We’ll find out at 3PM on Fox.

VCU (5-4)
SETON HALL (7-1)

A QUICK LOOK AT SETON HALL

Kevin Willard’s Pirates are looking to make their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and it looks as though they are well on their way to doing so. His highest-ranked team since taking in 2010, Willard’s Pirates own blowout wins over Indiana and Vanderbilt, a double-digit defeat of a really good Texas Tech team and that aforementioned win at Louisville this past weekend. This experienced group is efficient on both sides of the ball and ranks top-20 nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Four Pirates are chipping in double-digit scoring for Willard including senior leading scorer, Desi Rodriguez (20 ppg). Rodriguez is on of three seniors to chip in double-digits for Seton Hall, a group joined by former VCU target, sophomore shooter, Myles Powell. Hall is large and physical and do what you’d expect from teams like that: rebound. The Pirates are a good shooting team but make things even more difficult for opponents by rebounding 36.8% of their misses, making them the 21st best offensive rebounding team in the country. Defensively Hall turns teams over at a very high rate and are holding opponents (and remember, some good ones at that) to a solid 49.7% effective field goal percentage defense. Long story short: these guys are really, really good.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

The story so far this season is that of a good Rams team that has little to show for how hard they’ve played. The Rams battled back from a huge 19-point deficit to take a late lead on Texas before surrendering that lead within the final two minutes of play, making it the second game VCU dropped against a top-100 team in the final two minutes of play. VCU moved to 1-4 against the kenpom top-100 in the loss. Three of VCU’s losses have been single-digit affairs to top-50 teams, making VCU a dangerous team Seton Hall will no doubt respect today. But defensive issues all season long have doomed the black and gold early in the schedule. VCU’s 53.3% two-point defense is one of the 100 worst in college basketball, dragging their defensive EFG% up to a 52.7%. The Rams 18.7% defensive turnover percentage is anything but “havoc-like” and is VCU’s first sub-20% turnover defense since Mack McCarthy’s Rams finished at 19.1% (284th nationally) in 2002. Injuries have also been a bit of a bugaboo for Mike Rhoades’ first group on Broad Street, as the Rams have been without sophomore shooter Malik Crowfield the last three games and saw Issac Vann re-injure an ankle that had held him out the four games prior to giving it a go against Texas.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: SH 80.6, VCU 79.6
Scoring Defense: SH 68, VCU 75
Effective Field Goal% Offense: SH 54.4%, VCU 53.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: SH 49.7%, VCU 52.7%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 39.5%, SH 36.7%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 34.5%, SH 34.7%
2-Point Field Goal%: SH 54%, VCU 50.7%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: SH 48.2%, VCU 53.3%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.6, SH 37.4
Turnover% Offense: VCU 17.5%, SH 18.4%
Turnover% Defense: SH 23.3%, VCU 18.7%

VCU WINS IF

The Rams will need a massively improved two-point defensive effort — or need to throw some different defensive looks out there — to pull off a huge upset today. Seton Hall relentlessly attacks the basket, getting 40.2% of their shots at the rim and 56.1% of their points inside the arc. VCU has struggled all season long defending inside the arc, giving up at least 50% shooting there against every top-100 team they’ve played including one 70% night against Marquette. We haven’t seen a sub-50% night since the Rams held a bad California team to 48.9% on twos. I think until the Rams mix something up there they will have to win almost every game in a shootout and those types of wins became an extreme challenge against balanced groups like Seton Hall today.

Kenpom: 83-70 VCU loss with a 12% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 3PM at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ

Watch: Fox, Official game day headquarters at Buffalo Wild Wings location at Westchester Commons in Midlothian, VA.
Listen: Fox Sports 910 AM & 98.5 FM
Live Tweets: @VCURamNation

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