Hey guys, glad you’re still here. It’s been a rough season thanks to a brutal February that saw the Rams go just 2-6. VCU’s two victories came by four points in overtime against the leagues current 9th place team, Dayton, and a four-point nail-biter win at UMass, a Minutemen team tied for last with the squad the black and gold will take on today: Fordham.
Hey, but you’re still here and it’s March, so let’s get weird!
VCU (16-14, 8-9)
FORDHAM (9-20, 4-13)
A QUICK LOOK AT FORDHAM
It’s been just as tough of a February for these Fordham Rams as it has been for our black and gold version. Jeff Neubauer’s squad also went 2-6 during the month, dropping all six losses by double-digits. The lone bright spot really was a surprising blowout road win at Duquesne, 80-57. Fordham has the distinct honor of boasting the league’s last place offense and hasn’t been much better defensively, checking in at 12th in conference play in defensive efficiency.
Fordham does essentially one thing well: steal the ball.
The Rams rank 33rd nationally in turnover percentage defense thanks to the nation’s No.1 steals percentage D. But in conference play their defense has struggled in basically every other area. Teams are connecting on 51% of their twos against the Rams and 36.7% of their threes for an effective field goal percentage of 52.9%.
The Rams have given up 74.4 points per contest over their last five games while scoring just 58.6, an absolutely brutal stretch heading into today’s home finale against VCU.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The black and gold just can’t seem to pair solid versions of both their offense and defense in the same game. The Rams limited St. Bonaventure, the A-10’s No.2 offense, to their lowest point total (68) since Dec 22 at Syracuse, but managed just 63 points themselves thanks to a frigid 23% shooting night from deep combined with just four free throws. The then followed that up by dumping 80 on George Mason only to give up a heartbreaking 81 in a home senior night game.
It’s been rough.
But here’s how….maybe(?) it gets better? Ok, I’m basically reaching here, but I want to point out a stat that I noticed yesterday that sorta blew me away.
Like this year’s VCU team, the 2011 (cough::Final 4::cough) Rams could not hit threes in conference play. After shooting 40% from three halfway through conference play this season and 37.7% entering it (note: that 37.7% would rank 4th currently), the 2018 Rams are shooting an abysmal 32.8% in Atlantic 10 games. The 2011 Rams — as crazy as it seems now — ranked ninth, NINTH, in CAA regular season three-point shooting at just 33.8%. That 33.8% would be tied with Richmond in this season’s A-10 regular season at ninth in this year’s A-10 as well. But what happened next was a borderline miracle.
Over the six NCAA tournament games Brandon Rozzell and Co. played, the Rams would connected on an NCAA record 61 threes, hitting a ridiculous 42.7% team three-point mark during the run.
Pretty wild, right?
I’m of the opinion this current VCU team can get going from deep (see: 13-33 39% night against Mason), but that alone won’t do it.
This year’s Rams absolutely must do something different on defense or we are doomed to fail (as we did in six of our eight February matchups). I’ve been screaming that since the Seton Hall game and I’ll nag that message all the way through this season’s end.
This year’s VCU group is the worst defending Rams team in decades, statistically speaking, so quite frankly, sitting just two games over .500 with the nation’s 228th ranked effective field goal percentage defense, we have nothing to lose.
The 2011 Final 4 Rams not only went nuclear from deep, but also paired that with a serviceable defense (ranked 78th nationally by the end of the season).
The 2018 black and gold can get as hot as they want from three, but it may matter little if we continue with a defensive strategy that gives us next to no shot of extending our season beyond next week.
Time to gamble, YOLO.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: VCU 76, FOR 62.1
Scoring Defense: FOR 69.6, VCU 75.5
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 52.2%, FOR 47.9%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: FOR 51.6%, VCU 51.9%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 34.9%, FOR 29.1%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: FOR 34.1%, VCU 35.4%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 52.2%, FOR 51.7%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 51.1%, FOR 51.8%
Rebounds per game: VCU 36.6, FOR 28.9
Turnover% Offense: FOR 18.7%, VCU 19.1%
Turnover% Defense: FOR 21.3%, VCU 18.1%
VCU WINS IF
Statistically speaking, Fordham has the 16th worst offense out of 351 DI college basketball teams. In theory, that makes today’s game with VCU’s struggling D that much more manageable.
If the Rams can limit turnovers and pair a patient, smart offense with a simply serviceable D, we escape from the bronx with a W.
And speaking of Escape from the Bronx, here’s the full trailer for the movie of that name from 1983. Enjoy.
Kenpom: 72-67 VCU win with a 66% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 2PM at Rose Hill Gym in Bronx, NY
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