Atlantic 10 play tips up on Saturday with the entire league in action and to start things here at VCU we get a matchup with the northern Rams of Fordham University. Oddly enough this will also serve as not only a conference opener, but a revenge game as well, as Fordham took the last matchup between these two, shocking VCU in overtime in the Bronx last January on a game-winning buzzer-beater. If that doesn’t get you excited enough for this one just know that VCU will be wearing special gold 1985 throwback uniforms as a part of the 50th season of VCU basketball.
A QUICK LOOK AT FORDHAM
Question: Javontae Hawkins, Christian Sengfelder and Antwoine Anderson, what do they all have in common?
Answer: All three averaged double-digit scoring on last year’s Rams and none are on this year’s team.
The trio combined for 49 of Fordham’s 69 points in their stunning defeat of VCU last season but have moved on to do bigger and better things, Hawkins having graduated, Sengfelder and Anderson both transferring out after last season’s 13-19 finish. The result has been an already bad Fordham offense (307th in adjusted defensive efficiency) taking a hit (313th this season) and a defense that was once top-100 taking the slightest of dips as well. And that, on paper, is all this Fordham team has going for them. Defense.
The Rams have struggled offensively this season, scoring fewer than 60 points in four of their seven losses, twice on their own court. Fordham’s 47.3% effective field goal percentage ranks 279th nationally.
A large chunk (44.4%) of Fordham’s shots come from behind the three-point line, but they’ve yet to find much success back there, connecting on an abysmal 27.9% o their deep balls this season.
Defensively the Rams do wreak a little old-fashioned havoc however, turning teams over 24.4% of their possessions, ranking Fordham ninth nationally in that stat. It’s the sixth consecutive season a Jeff Neubauer coached squad has ranked in the top-10 nationally in turnover percentage defense.
Junior point guard Joseph Chartouny leads that defense with a Briante Weber-like 3.7 steals per game. He’s been one of the better defensive guards in the country and has ranked in the top-4 nationally in steals percentage these past two seasons.
When Fordham isn’t turning teams over they are vulnerable to easy buckets, allowing teams to finish 51.7% of their twos this season. That number goes up substantially against top-100 opponents, as the Rams have given up 63.6% shooting inside the arc against the three top-100 teams they’ve played this season.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
VCU rides a three-game winning streak into Atlantic 10 play and hopes to remain undefeated in Atlantic 10 openers by extended that streak to four against Fordham. The black and gold have been a better offensive than defensive team this season but have actually shot below their season three-point average (37.7%) in their last two games. The three-point offense could be challenged once again against a Fordham team limiting opponents to just 30.6% beyond the arc (35th nationally). The Rams will however add one more sharpshooter to challenge that D, returning transfer sophomore Issac Vann after missing almost all of the past nine games with a high ankle sprain (Vann gave it a go against Texas but came out after three minutes of action).
On the season VCU has five players shooting 39% or better from three, which doesn’t included Vann, a career 38.2% shooter who’s hit just 29% early this season after a 41% freshman year at Maine. It does however included Justin Tillman’s breakout 44.1% three-point year, making the preseason first-teamer a legit candidate for A-10 Player of the Year and an even tougher opponent to prepare for than the one that was already a nightmare for opposing teams.
Tillman is averaging a career-high 17.9 points to go with 8.3 rebounds per game. As good as those numbers look they don’t quite tell the tale of how hot the senior has been of late, averaging 22.6 points his past seven games to go with 8.7 rebounds per contest.
Defensively the Rams have had some work to do, but have either been improved as of late or have just looked improved against an easier schedule. The Rams 74.5 points allowed per contest ranks 225th nationally (a number skewed by VCU’s faster tempo), but VCU has held their last two opponents to 65 or less and are giving up 68.5 per contest to teams outside of the top-100, which would rank around the top-100 in scoring defense. The black and gold have just three games against top-100 teams in their 18 remaining regular season games and only two against current top-100 offenses.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.8, FOR 64.9
Scoring Defense: FOR 66.9, VCU 74.2
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.6%, FOR 47.3%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: FOR 49.6%, VCU 51.5%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 37.7%, FOR 27.9%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: FOR 30.6%, VCU 32.9%
2-Point Field Goal%: FOR 51.6%, VCU 50.3%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: FOR 51.7%, VCU 52.8%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.2, FOR 30
Turnover% Offense: VCU 18.2%, FOR 18.4%
Turnover% Defense: FOR 24.4%, VCU 19.4%
Strength of Schedule Rank: VCU 141, FOR 320
VCU WINS IF
This one, to me, would appear to be all about ball control and threes.
For starters, VCU can’t allow Fordham’s poor offense a large number of extra opportunities by handing them the ball. Fordham does a good enough job taking the ball themselves, so unforced errors like we’ve seen on occasion from this VCU team would be a killer and a way for Fordham to keep pace in the scoring column.
After that it’s all about three-point defense if ya ask me.
Fordham has been about as good of a three-point shooting team as I’d imagine they’d be with me at the 2-guard position for em, BUT, that doesn’t stop them from taking a ton of shots from downtown. If you don’t contest those threes a hot-handed Rams can surprise ya (ask the remaining members from last year’s VCU team). Fordham shot 48% from distance against Florida A&M, 45.8% against LIU Brooklyn and 43.8% against Manhattan, all wins. Statistically VCU has been solid at defending the three all season and take on a Fordham team that’s been bad at shooting it, but still, gotta run those guys off the line and respect the great equalizing power of the mighty three ball.
Kenpom: 74-63 VCU win with an 86% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 12:30PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: NBC Sports Network, 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