Game Preview: VCU v No.22 Rhode Island [INSIDER]
VCU will welcome nationally ranked Rhode Island to the Siegel Center tonight for a key Atlantic 10 conference game on ESPN2. It will be the sixth game the Rams have played on the ESPN family of networks this season. VCU has gone 1-4 in those previous contests meaning there is no better time for a statement win than tonight.
VCU (14-8, 6-3)
No.22 Rhode Island (18-3, 10-0)
A QUICK LOOK AT RHODE ISLAND
The last time these two faced off was in last season’s Atlantic 10 tournament final. URI opened with a huge lead in that one early and despite a late VCU rally, were able to hang on for the win. It was the second consecutive win for URI in the series, a win streak the black and gold will hope to put a stop to tonight. Rhoades and Co. will also hope to end another URI streak, the Rams current 13-game winning streak that began all the way back on Dec 16. Rhody has been dominant during most games in that streak, winning eight of those 13 games by double-digits, but have had two close calls in their last two contest, outlast both Duquesne and UMass by a combined five points. The Rams currently rank 51st nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 36th on the defensive end, an offensive efficiency slightly above last year’s URI team and a D just a hair below thanks to the departure of shot-blocking 2017 A-10 defensive player of the year, Hassan Martin. Without Martin the Rams have been more vulnerable defensively in the paint, but have helped offset that with a havoc-wreaking turnover defense that ranks fifth nationally in turnover percentage. Rhode Island is an experienced group led by seniors Jared Terrell, E.C. Matthews, Stanford Robinson, Andre Berry and Jarvis Garrett, with A-10 POY candidate, Terrell, having a career year as Rhody’s most dangerous option. Terrell is one of two 40%-plus three-point shooters and leads a team with four double-digit average scorers at 18 points per game. Defensively Stanford Robinson is this team’s identity, a gritty 6’4 Indiana transfer (who nearly ended up at VCU) that leads the team with a 4.9% steals percentage (think Doug Brooks defensively).
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The black and gold Rams have strung together a three-game win streak, but one without a ton of sizzle. VCU’s best win in that sample game in a 1-point overtime road win at kenpom No.143 Saint Louis. That’s about the level of team VCU has gotten the majority of their best wins against, going 5-3 against teams ranked between 100-200 versus just 1-5 against current top-100 teams. That’s not the say the Rams haven’t been competitive against the top-100. VCU was within striking distance of big wins over No.36 Texas, No.23 Michigan and No.2 UVA — two of those three at the Siegel Center — but couldn’t close any of the three. They’ll take on a Rhode Island team that’s been somewhat of the opposite of that recently, a URI group that trailed by double-digits against both Duquesne (at home) and UMass (on the road), but managed to rally in both. VCU has done some rallying themselves, which is both good and bad news. VCU has trailed by double-digits in over half of their Atlantic 10 contests (five total), but rallied to win three of those games. VCU has been desperately looking for a complete game and have perhaps only showed anything close against both Fordham and George Mason, the A-10’s current two lowest rated teams by kenpom. The Rams defense has been questionable in A-10 play, ranking ninth in conference effective field goal percentage defense at 52% and offensively have had troubles both holding on to the ball — ranking 10th in A-10 turnover percentage offense — and in three-point shooting, connecting on just 31.7% of their conference threes, good for 11th in the A-10 out of 14 teams (the Rams have shot below 30% from three in three of their last four games). That three-point number however is considerably lower than the Rams non-conference average, meaning some poor team could soon be on the opposing end of a hardcore mean regression from VCU’s deep ball. Ram fans would enjoy watching that happen tonight.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 77.5, URI 77
Scoring Defense: URI 66.7, VCU 74.6
Effective Field Goal% Offense: URI 52.2%, VCU 52.1%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: URI 49.7%, VCU 51.7%
3-Point Field Goal%: URI 36.2%, VCU 35.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: URI 32.1%, VCU 34.2%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 51.6%, URI 51.3%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: URI 50.3%, VCU 52%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.5, URI 33.4
Turnover% Offense: URI 15.8%, VCU 18.78%
Turnover% Defense: URI 24.1%, VCU 18.7%
VCU WINS IF
It’s gonna take a lot for the Rams to pull this one off, so we’ll go bullet point on this one.
- Can’t turn the ball over – VCU has been a mediocre turnover offense this season (170th nationally), has been even worse in A-10 play and are getting ready to play the best turnover defense they’ve played all year. Ball security is everything tonight.
- Must win the paint – 41.8% of Rhody’s attempts come at the rim. They connect on 61.6% of those. 57% of URI’s baskets come on twos. VCU’s two-point D has been an issue all season, ranking 260th nationally at 52%. The Rams need to attack Rhody’s interior on offense but MUST be seriously improved defensively or this could quite frankly get ugly very much in the same way the Richmond game did.
- Get to the stripe – URI has three losses on the season. They averaged 25.7 fouls in those games. The had 21 fouls in a near loss against a bad UMass team. This is a TOUGH team to score on, so if you can get your attempts standing behind a line with no one guarding you, you obviously give yourself a major advantage.
- No little league heroes – Play smart, play with a plan, make the extra pass, no garbage circus shots, play like a team. Win.
Kenpom: 79-74 Rhode Island win with a 32% chance of a VCU Rams victory.
Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA
Watch: ESPN2, 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