The 93rd meeting between rivals VCU and Old Dominion tips up today in the 50th season of Rams basketball. VCU will be looking for their 50th win in the series, but it won’t come easy against an experienced Monarchs group looking to break VCU’s current two-game streak between the two.
A QUICK LOOK AT OLD DOMINION
Last year’s Monarch group that battled VCU to a 67-64 home loss is essentially the same group we’ll see in Richmond today. With the 14th stingiest defense in the country thanks partially in part to the country’s fourth slowest tempo, ODU is very much in the mold of the Blaine Taylor-coached “rock fight” Monarchs Ram fans got to know in the past, just now under the leadership of fifth-year head coach, Jeff Jones. ODU is brutally stout defensively down low, allowing teams to connect on just 40.5% of their two-point attempts this season. Through seven games ODU has had one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country, rejecting 17.1% of opponents attempts. That defensive block party is led by 6’10 junior, Trey Porter, and the teams top rebounder, 6’7 senior, Brandon Stith. Stith alongside brother B.J., ODU’s leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, combined for 27 points against last year’s VCU team. The Monarchs have just one top-100 win this season, having defeated kenpom No.100 Towson to open the year, but lost their only other top-100 contest and trailed that Temple team by 17 points at the half before the eventual 76-65 loss. The Monarchs are 1-1 in true road games this season, having defeated JMU early in the year and suffered a recent road loss at another former CAA foe, William & Mary, thanks to a game-winning miracle three. Offensively the Monarchs rely mostly on scoring inside the arc thanks to a long range game that has struggled to connect. ODU is shooting just 31.3% from distance but 51.1% inside the arc. About 1/3rd of ODU’s attempts are from distance, 1/3rd with the majority of the Monarch’s attempts coming off two-point jumpers.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Still looking for that quality win, VCU has competed with all of the top teams on their schedule but sits a winless 0-3 against the kenpom top-100. After a tough loss to Michigan in Maui, a game VCU led with under two minutes to play, the Rams bounced back by defeating Appalachian State with relative ease. They did so without the services of Malik Crowfield and Issac Vann, both missing that contest with ankle injuries. The status of each is unknown as of the time of this post. This year’s Rams have been a high-scoring, fast paced group, averaging 81 points per game, a number dragged down somewhat by VCU’s 67 points against UVA, the most any team has scored on the Cavaliers’ top-ranked defense this season. While the Rams have excelled offensively they are still looking to tighten things up on the other side of the ball. VCU’s high averaged points allowed (75.6 per game) is somewhat to be expected thanks to a high-tempo gameplan against a good schedule, but their interior defense paints a picture of a team that could become much more dangerous if they can find a way to plug the holes down low. The black and gold are allowing 53.4% scoring inside the arc, one of the 100 worst two-point defenses nationally.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 81, ODU 69.7
Scoring Defense: ODU 59.6, VCU 75.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 54.3%, ODU 49.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: ODU 45.9%, VCU 51.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 39.8%, ODU 31.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 33.1%, ODU 35.1%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 51.4%, ODU 51.1%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: ODU 40.5%, VCU 53.4%
Rebounds per game: ODU 38.7, VCU 37.7
Turnover% Offense: ODU 14.8%, VCU 16.8%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 20.1%, ODU 19.1%
VCU WINS IF
This is one of those “unstoppable force versus immovable object games”. The Rams will look to speed this one up while ODU, in classic fashion, will look to drag things into the mud. At whatever pace it ends up being, VCU’s ability to connect from distance (like the Rams have done all season) is key and VCU’s health status could play a huge part in that. Malik Crowfield and Issac Vann are two of the Rams’ top long distance threats (although Vann’s 3p% is down this season) and a black and gold team without them could put more pressure on the likes of Johnny Williams and Justin Tillman to match their combined 6-8 three-point performance from the win over Appalachian State. Defensively VCU needs to find a way to make ODU hit the shots they are uncomfortable shooting. The Rams gave up 61.1% shooting inside the arc to Appalachian State, 60.6% to Michigan the game before that and a season-worst 70% to Marquette in Maui as well. Another day like gives ODU the opportunity they need to head home down 64 East on a rare happy bus ride from Richmond to Norfolk.
Kenpom: 69-66 VCU win with a 56% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA