VCU has a chance to put a bow on a solid non-conference showing this season when welcoming the Broncs of Rider to the Siegel Center today. The Rams head into the matchup winners of a blowout of Wichita State while Rider, the MAAC’s preseason No.1, looks to pick themselves up off the mat after a surprising loss to kenpom No.311, Cal State Northridge. A win would give the black and gold a little two-game winning streak to ride into conference play on and prevent a resume-hurting L to a low-major opponent.
A QUICK LOOK AT RIDER
Coming off their best overall season under seventh-year head coach, Kevin Baggett, the Broncs rode into this season with high expectations that are still very much within reach within a MAAC conference that boasts Rider as the league’s only kenpom top-200 squad, but as far as competing among the big boys, Rider haven’t appeared ready for primetime so far this season. The Broncs’ road win at kenpom top-20 Penn State last season has kept the attention of every high-major opponent this year, especially considering Rider ranks 10th nationally this year in minutes continuity from the 2017-18 season, returning all five starters, but thus far that 1-point win appears to be more of an outlier than a legit measuring stick of how good this team truly is. Rider has lost all three top-100 matchups this season by double digits for an average margin of defeat of 14.7 points per contest. Still, a team with that much returning minutes and a group that boasts three players shooting above 40% from three this season will no doubt have the full attention of Mike Rhoades and Co. today in the Siegel Center. One thing they’ll need to have more of a shot however is the services of double-digit scorers Dimencio Vaughn (12.7 ppg) and Stevie Jordan (10.4 ppg and a team-high 4.2 apg). The duo represent 40% of this year’s All-MAAC first team but sat out for Rider in the loss to Northridge, Jordan via coach’s, Vaughn with an ankle injury. That duo is a huge part of one of Rider’s strengths, that being a havoc-like press that ranks 23rd nationally in turnover percentage defense, just a bit behind VCU who checks in at No.11. Vaughn leads the Broncs in steals percentage at a Doug Brooks-like 5.5% with Jordan not too far behind at 3.3%, the duo making up two of Rider’s five players above 3%. When they aren’t turning teams over however they are getting gashed by opposing teams’ offenses. The Broncs rank 275th nationally in effective field goal percentage defense at 54%. They’ve also struggled to press cleanly, Rider ranking 301st in the country in defensive free throw rate. Offensively Baggett’s crew does a solid job of getting to the stripe but have been terrible at converting there. So far the threes have been about the only thing falling for Rider this season, but for such a good three-point shooting team Rider doesn’t live off threes like you’d maybe imagine, taking just about 1/3rd of their attempts beyond the three-point arc. Either way, that shooting will be tested against a Ram D that ranks third nationally in three-point defense this season.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
Perhaps one of the biggest stories in college hoops this season is the turnaround of VCU’s defense. The black and gold were a mediocre D last season that ranked 156th nationally in adjusted efficiency but 209th in effective field goal percentage defense, but have looked like the Rams of havoc’s glory days in their second season under Rhoades. VCU’s is not only wreaking havoc, checking in at 11th nationally in turnover percentage D, but are strapping up in the halfcourt as well, ranking within the top-20 in both defensive two-point and three-point percentages for an overall adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of No.7 nationally. That has allowed the Rams to do absurd feats like shoot 28.1% on the road at Texas…and win. Offense has basically been just a bonus option for this year’s Rams and if and win some efficiency on that side of the ball finally consistently kicks in, VCU can been a top-25 caliber squad. What’s limited VCU most in that endeavor has been ice-cold three-point shooting for the bulk of the Rams’ games. The black and gold rank 338th nationally out of 353 teams in three-point percentage currently, but that hasn’t stopped the Rams from trying. Despite that lid on the basket the Rams are still attempting 44.2% of their shots from beyond the arc. If those ever fall…watch out.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Scoring Offense: RID 76.3, VCU 67.8
Scoring Defense: VCU 62.3, RID 76
Effective Field Goal% Offense: RID 51.3%, VCU 45.8%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 41.3%, RID 54%
3-Point Field Goal%: RID 37.9%, VCU 27.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 25%, RID 34.9%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 49.7%, RID 48.3%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 43.4%, RID 55.3%
Rebounds per game: VCU 37.7, RID 35.6
Turnover% Offense: RID 18.6%, VCU 20.4%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 24.3%, RID 23.3%
VCU WINS IF
I think if VCU’s defense can defend the arc without picking up cheap fouls in the process and if the Rams attack the basket on the other side of the court, they wrap up a 9-4 non-conference record.
On paper the black and gold have a defense more than capable of containing the Broncs’ offense, which is almost a bit of a Charleston light, but a certainly more of a Charleston light if Vaughn fails to log minutes today. But the stat that should most excite VCU’s scorers — IF they can avoid costly turnovers — is Rider’s interior defense, which at 299th nationally in two-point percentage (55.3%) is the worst two-point percentage defense the Rams will have played all season.
Rider plays a bit of a small ball lineup with the 6’5 Vaughn logging a majority of his minutes at the power forward position, but will throw some zone at the Rams. 35.8% of opposing teams shots have come at the rim against the Broncs, with opponents hitting 61.4% of those. Play the percentages of offense and defend like we’ve come to expect this Rams team to defend and the black and gold end 2018 with a win.
Kenpom: 74-65 VCU win with an 80% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 2PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA