Game Preview: VCU v Bucknell [INSIDER]

The Rams hope to halt a two-game losing skid today when the Bison of Bucknell visit the Siegel Center at 6PM. After dropping back-to-back games to top-40 teams, VCU gets a sneaky good and experienced Bison squad coming off a 2017 NCAA tournament appearance and a 26-win season. It’s likely VCU’s last top-100 non-conference resume opportunity of the season.

VCU (5-5)
BUCKNELL (4-6)

A QUICK LOOK AT BUCKNELL

Zach Thomas (6’7 G/F), Nana Fouland (6’10 F), Kimbal Mackenzie (6’1 G), Stephen Brown (5’11 G)…what do they all have in common? Answer: They all averaged double-digit scoring for last season’s NCAA tourney Bison and are all back to do more damage this year. This Patriot League team is experienced and dangerous thanks to an offense that ranked 20th nationally in effective field goal percentage O last season. Nathan Davis’ squad plays an uptempo game similar to VCU and like the black and gold, have hung some points on the board this season. Where they have struggled (also like VCU), is on the defensive end. Bucknell was a top-100 defense last season, but thanks to a tough opening schedule, check in at just 198 nationally to start this season. This is basically the same group that defeated Richmond at home last year and pulled off a huge road upset at Vanderbilt. This season they have a top-100 win over Vermont, came up three-points short of a win at Maryland and were within four of defending national champ, North Carolina, with under seven minutes to play…on the road. Thomas and Fouland are the stars of this year’s team, Thomas shooting a blazing hot 46.7% from three while also leading the team with 9.3 rebounds per game. Fouland and Brown are both chipping in over 13 points per contest. Freshman Jimmy Sotos is another player to watch. Sotos’ minutes have increased these last six games, playing a season-high 35 minutes in the Bison’s win over Vermont. He’s shooting 47.6% from three on the season.

A QUICK LOOK AT VCU

The Rams are still looking for some balance and that is likely made easier as the team gets healthy. VCU has been without key players Malik Crowfield and Issac Vann the past few games and were unable to pull out some key wins without them. The black and gold have struggled defensively all season and saw the offense fail them as well in last Saturday’s 90-67 bludgeoning at the hands of a ranked Seton Hall team. That loss was a bit of an offensive outlier, but the defense has been searching for answers all season long. The Rams 53.3% effective field goal percentage defense ranks 249th nationally and is the worst EFG% D at VCU since kenpom has been keeping the stat (2002). The Rams are allowing an insane amount of easy baskets, giving up 54.1% shooting inside the arch this season, a weakness Seton Hall exploited for 60 points inside the arc last weekend. VCU’s numbers however are somewhat skewed by an incredibly challenging schedule, one that lightens up soon enough, but just not today against this dangerous Bucknell team.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Scoring Offense: BU 81.2, VCU 78.3
Scoring Defense: VCU 76.5, BU 84.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: BU 53%, VCU 52.7%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 53.3%, BU 54%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.3%, BU 36.5%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 34.6%, BU 36.1%
2-Point Field Goal%: BU 51.9%, VCU 50%

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: BU 53.1%, VCU 54.1%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.3, BU 32.5
Turnover% Offense: BU 14.7%, VCU 17.7%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 18.5%, BU 16.6%

VCU WINS IF

A big defensive effort would go a long way, but if we’re being realistic, the stats just don’t suggest that’s happening. So on paper, everything suggests the Rams either gotta win in a shootout or just catch Bucknell on an off day offensively.

One thing I like about VCU in this potential shootout is how they are getting their buckets. 41.3% of VCU’s shots are coming at the rim compared to 34.1% for Bucknell. The Bison allowing 53.1% scoring inside the arc is a good number for the Rams.

Defensively VCU isn’t really turning teams over this season, but not for a lack of trying. Bucknell ranks 14th nationally in turnover percentage offense this season but I suspect that number has been a bit skewed by a schedule that consists mostly of teams that don’t turn ya over.

Finish your high-percentage shots on offense and create some extra opportunities through turnovers and offensive boards and I think VCU can out-pace Bucknell in a game that should go into the 80s or 90s tonight.

Kenpom: 84-80 VCU win with a 65% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 6PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: CBS 6, Official game day headquarters at 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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