VCU has played an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule this season, taking on seven top-100 teams over their last 10 games including four top-40s and two others in the top-75. If you didn’t enjoy that, boy do I have a game for you. Tonight the Rams will host the Keydets of VMI, the 327th-ranked team in the country according to kenpom, making tonight’s matchup on paper the worst team VCU will face all season. Try to enjoy it.
A QUICK LOOK AT VMI
Some quick stats that will tell you a lot about this VMI team: 1) VMI went 6-24 as the 135th most experienced team in the country last season, or just 4-24 if you only count games against DI opponents. 2) The Keydets are now the 342nd “most” experienced team (out of 351 teams), but to their credit are just one win away from matching last season’s DI total. 3) VMI has lost both games against A-10 opponents (Duquesne and Davidson) this season by an average margin of defeat of 19.5 points and have lost their two top-100 games this season (Davidson and NC State) by an average margin of defeat of 29 points. 4) Their four wins against DI opponents this year are all against teams ranked lower than 300th nationally by kenpom and they own a sub-300 loss as well.
This is a classic bye game. The Rams played just two sub-300 teams last season and defeated them by an average margin of defeat of 36.5 points. They played one to open the season and beat them (Grambling St.) by 29.
With all that said, three players to keep an eye on tonight:
Bubba Parham (5’11 guard) – leading scorer shooting 38.5% from three but terrible inside. Takes most of their shots.
Tyler Creamer (6’10 center) – Fairly efficient scorer with size. Strong rebounder. Getting him in foul trouble would give VCU an extreme advantage down low.
Austin Vereen (6’4 forward) – He’ll go back and forth from the 3 to the 4 in the lineup and is having a career year from three (44.4%). On paper he’s a threat but going off previous year’s number I suspect he’s a candidate for a regression to the mean.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams set a Mike Rhoades era record this past Tuesday when holding Winthrop to just 55 points (31 below their season average), for the lowest points allowed by VCU this season. Winthrop went just 3-25 from three while shooting 50% inside the arc. VCU’s defense has been the key concern all season long, particularly in defending inside the arc, so that 50% effort versus Winthrop is actually the lowest rate from a VCU opponent since the Rams defeated California seven games prior. VMI’s 339th ranked offense (the worst VCU will have faced all season) should present another opportunity for improvement tonight.
The Rams will likely use tonight’s game as another opportunity to get healthy as well. VCU got a second consecutive game out of Malik Crowfield after missing the previous four with a high ankle sprain and I suspect will take tonight’s contest as another opportunity to rest the ankle of the recently bootless Issac Vann, who’s been shelved with a high ankle sprain himself for the past month of action.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 78.1, VMI 69.9
Scoring Defense: VMI 69.9, VCU 74.9
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.4%, VMI 49.5%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VMI 50.1%, VCU 52.3%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 38.1%, VMI 33.7%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 32.1%, VMI 32.3%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 49.7%, VMI 48.8%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VMI 51%, VCU 54.6%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.3, VMI 34.7
Turnover% Offense: VCU 17.9%, VMI 23.1%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 19%, VMI 17.8%
VCU WINS IF
On paper this is such a mismatch that it shouldn’t be about how they win so much as by how much. Basketball does happen however, so the Rams can’t get caught looking ahead to A-10 play if they want to avoid what would be just an absolutely horrendous loss.
Personally I think one key will be VCU’s ability to finish the easy buckets. We know the Rams like to stroke the three but I’d like to see some polishing of the inside game before we kick off the conference season.
VMI is giving up 51% shooting inside the arc heading into tonight’s date with Justin Tillman and Khris Lane, a duo shooting a combined 59.6% inside the arc this season against what’s been a slew of top-50 defenses. I’d love to see Johnny Williams take this opportunity to improve his finishing number as well, as the PG has dragged down the team’s overall 2p% with his 36.5% finishing inside the arc this season, his lowest rate since his freshman year.
Attack the basket, defend, win, then enjoy the next eight days of holiday season before welcoming Fordham to the Stu for Atlantic 10 play.
Kenpom: 84-64 VCU win with a 97% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 7PM 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