After back-to-back losses that effectively knocked the Rams out of the top-25 last week, VCU looks to get back on track against rival Old Dominion Saturday night. The Rams lost to their former conference rival in last season’s meeting, a 10-point road L against a considerably different looking Monarch team. That group went on to claim the CUSA tourney title and with that, an NCAA tournament appearance. This year they’re riding a five-game losing streak early that has included three losses against former CAA rivals. Can VCU extend that streak?
A QUICK LOOK AT OLD DOMINION
The biggest difference in this season’s Monarchs team is how they’ve responded to the departures of last year’s leading scorers, B.J. Stith (16.8 ppg) and Ahmad Caver (16.6 ppg): not well. ODU has gone from a pretty bad offensive unit last season (238th in adjusted offensive efficiency) to a really bad one this season (312th). They have been downright abysmal at putting the ball in the hoop, checking in at 317th nationally in effective field goal percentage, a number that looks even worse when you consider the competition. ODU has played just one kenpom top-100 team, No.99 North Iowa. They struggle to get to the free throw stripe, meaning this team has, somehow, someway, eight players with true shooting percentages below 50%.
Defensively the Monarchs are solid as usual, ranking 65th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, but again, this is a Monarch’s D that has yet to really be challenged.
The Monarchs have been led this season by junior Xavier Green, a capable long range shooter who leads that team at 15 points per contest. He is joined by Malik Curry as the team’s only other double-digit scorer (10.6 ppg), but hot on their heals is Richmond native, Jason Wade at 9.9 points per game, having opened the season with five consecutive double-digit scoring nights.
This is basically a bit of a classic ODU “rock fighting” type of squad, but one that has yet to flash the offensive potential of some of the previous Monarch groups that have managed to defeat VCU in this long rivalries’ history.
A QUICK LOOK AT VCU
The Rams have lost their last two contests, but in doing so still held their own (lost by 3 twice) against two teams that currently rank 21st or better nationally by kenpom. Both games showed some of the offensive inconsistency that the Rams have hinted at all season long, VCU hitting just 17.6% of their threes in the loss to Purdue and then just 35.7% of their twos against Tennessee. VCU’s offensive leader, Marcs Evans, had his worst two-game stretch of the early season on that weekend, going a combined 2-13 during the event for one of the worst two-game stretches of his career. Fellow starter, Issac Vann, struggled as well, going 3-10 in the Emerald Coast Classic to make for a combination of struggles from two of VCU’s key pieces that proved just too much to overcome against two NCAA tournament level teams.
Offensively the Rams have looked improved overall due to a reduced turnover percentage and improved three-point shooting, but have been somewhat handicapped by a lack of consistent interior efficiency, not from dominating big man, Marcus Santos-Silva, but from guards and wings being unable to consistently finish down low.
Defensively the Rams have once again been a tall task for opponents, turning in some of the best steals and shot-blocking numbers of any team in the country. VCU ranks first nationally in defensive steals percentage and fifth in blocks percentage and are currently ranked the 22nd best team in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Points Per Posssesion Offense: VCU 1.006, ODU 0.88
Points Per Possession Defense: VCU 0.857, ODU 0.919
Effective Field Goal% Offense: VCU 51%, ODU 43.4%
Effective Field Goal% Defense: VCU 46.4%, ODU 48.2%
3-Point Field Goal%: VCU 36.3%, ODU 29.2%
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 32.2%, ODU 34.3%
2-Point Field Goal%: VCU 48.9%, ODU 43.3%
2-Point Field Goal% Defense: VCU 45.4%, ODU 45.6%
Rebounds per game: ODU 38.2, VCU 33.5
Turnover% Offense: ODU 18.5%, VCU 19.9%
Turnover% Defense: VCU 27.8%, ODU 22%
VCU WINS IF
VCU’s shot location this season — 42.3% at the rim, 38.6% from 3 and only 19.2% coming via the dreaded “2-point jump shot” — has been pretty desirable from a number’s geek’s perspective, but that hasn’t really meant their shot selection has. The Rams have attacked the basket with reckless abandon this year, but have often looked one pass away from being an extremely efficient offensive unit and with that, an extremely dangerous team. The Rams ability to make that extra pass is what I’ll be looking for when VCU hosts the Monarchs tonight. VCU’s ability to lock down defensively on good offensive teams should look amplified against one that struggles to shoot like ODU. So combine that with some smart, efficient scoring and Ram fans have a chance to have some real fun tonight against one of their most hated rivals.
Kenpom: 72-56 VCU win with a 93% chance of a Rams victory.
Game tips at 8PM at The Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA