Game Preview: No.20 VCU v Purdue [INSIDER]

VCU opens Emerald Coast Classic play with a tough matchup against Purdue this afternoon, a Boilermakers squad coming off an Elite 8 run this past season in which they lost an epic battle to UVA for a spot in this past season's Final 4. The Boilermakers have lost both of their top-100 matchups this season including a contest with a similar style team to the Rams, falling at home to former VCU head coach Shaka Smart and his Texas Longhorns, 70-66. VCU is looking to add another top-100 victory to their resume, having won their only one so far, a two-point victory over Will Wade's LSU Tigers. A win would advance the Rams to this year's Emerald Coast Classic Championship where they would meet the winner of today's Florida State versus Tennessee matchup.

No.20 VCU (6-0)

Purdue has the tough task of replacing four of last season's starters, most notably the dynamic duo of Carsen Edwards (24.3 ppg, 33rd pick in NBA Draft) and Ryan Cline (12 ppg, 41.7% 3p%). So far one of those holes has been filled by High Point grad transfer, Jahaad Proctor. The 6'3 guard is one of three Boilermakers averaging double-figures (15.6 ppg) on an offense that currently ranks 13th nationally in offensive efficiency. It's an offense that has valued the ball (15th nationally in offensive turnover rate) and attacks the glass on missed shots (6th nationally in offensive rebound percentage), but one that's not particularly proven against top competition. Purdue posted a 39% effective field goal percentage against Marquette and 47.5% against Texas, averaging 60.5 points in those two contests. They are a methodical squad, ranking 352nd nationally in adjusted tempo this season, so far the slowest-playing team Matt Painter has had as head coach in West Lafayette.

Purdue is one of the bigger teams VCU will face this season, anchored down low by 7'3 250  junior, Matt Haarms, an efficient offensive weapon who finishes everything around the rim and blocks everything defensively, currently ranking fifth nationally in blocks percentage defense. He's a part of a frontcourt that goes 6'9 and 6'7 with 6'9 270 backup center Trevion Williams coming in for reserve duties.

The Boilermakers are captained in the backcourt by leading assist man, Eric Hunter Jr. The 6'4 sophomore averages a team-high 4.2 assists to just 1.4 turnovers per contest to go with his 10 points per game.

The black and gold are nationally ranked and off to their best start in school history at 6-0 and have yet to be challenged since that contest against LSU. VCU coasted past three outmatched teams in Jacksonville State, Florida Gulf Coast and Alabama State, but seemed to play a bit down to their competition in the last two, getting outscored by kenpom No.317 Alabama State in the second half of VCU's last contest, 34-32.

The Rams suffocating defense has returned this season -- as was expected with so much returning talent -- and the black and gold have so far been improved statistically on the offensive side of the ball thanks to an improved three-point stroke early. VCU has connected on 37.2% of their threes early, up about 7% over last seasons final number, but have done much of that damage against greatly outmatched opponents. VCU hit 32% of their threes in their only contest against a top-100 team, going 9-28 from deep against LSU.

One recent area of concern to monitor tonight is the Rams ability to efficiently finish down low. The black and gold finished just 41.3% of their twos against their last two opponents, both of whom have sub-200 overall defenses including Alabama State who held VCU to that number but gave up over 55% shooting inside the arc to the other three top-100 squads they faced prior (Gonzaga, Houston and Tennessee).

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 77.3, PUR 74.8</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 58, VCU 61.8</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 52.6%, VCU 52.4%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 44%, VCU 45.5%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.2%, PUR 33.9%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 31.8%, VCU 33.1%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%:<span style="color: #ff0000;"> PUR 53.6%, VCU 50%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 41.3%, VCU 43.3%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 39.8, VCU 36</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">PUR 15%, VCU 20%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 29.2%, PUR 20.6%</span>

VCU's interior scoring troubles have worried me leading into this one. The Rams have connected on over 50% of their deuces just twice this season, first against St. Francis PA (57%), then against Jacksonville State (67.5%), but both teams rank sub-270 nationally in defending inside the arc. In Purdue the Rams will face the toughest interior D they've seen this season, with Haarms promising to become a literal tall task for VCU when attempting to finish down low. I'm betting VCU struggles once again down there. So with that I think the Rams will need to hit their threes and score in transition to pull this one off.

Kenpom: 65-61 VCU loss with a 36% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 9:30PM at The Arena at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida.

Watch: CBS Sports Network
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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