Game Preview: Rams take on Davidson in bounce-back opportunity at the Stu

VCU looks to bounce back after a disappointing road performance this week at Duquesne, welcoming the always challenging Davidson Wildcats to the Stu, a now Matt McKillip-led squad who just picked up a 23-point home win over A-10 newcomer, Loyola Chicago. The Rams have lost all three of their last games against top-200 teams (at No.127 Temple, v No.172 Jacksonville and at No.144 Duquesne), two by double-digits and all three in games where VCU's normally tough defense did not manage to show up. Can VCU look like VCU again or will a rare noon tip find the Rams sleeping in?

VCU RAMS (10-5, 1-1)

Foster Loyer returns to lead a Wildcats team that should look quite different to anyone who pays attention to A-10 basketball. Davidson legend, Bob McKillop, has now retired, leaving son Matt to carry the torch and key players Hyunjung Lee, Michael Jones and Luka Brajkovic have all graduated or transferred. The result has been a pretty massive drop in offensive efficiency, the Wildcats ranking 11th nationally this past season in offensive efficiency with the 4th-best three-point shooting attack and tenth most efficient shooting offense overall, dropping down to 130th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency so far this season with the nation's 284th-ranked three-point attack.

That is quite the change.

Defensively Davidson has been microscopically better and because of this huge offensive exodus, the Cats have lost to the likes of Delaware (kenpom No.224) and at home to fellow former CAA conference mate, Northeastern (kenpom No.256). Still the Cats have one top-100 win, a home victory over No.100, San Francisco, and battle with top-ranked Purdue before ultimately falling 69-61.

Davidson comes into this game as one of the worst rebounding teams in the A-10 (something VCU has struggled with themselves) and rarely turns teams over on D, another positive stat for a black and gold squad who ranks 336th nationally in turnover percentage offense.

Foster Loyer is the obvious player to pay attention to today (17.3 ppg) with Sam Mennenga a challenging matchup in the post as a tough 6'9 stretch four who's hitting 44% of his threes so far this season.

People are quite frankly dragging VCU's offense on social media, but it's the defense that has let down Ram Nation in all three recent losses. The Rams gave up 78.3 ppg in those contests, allowing Temple, Jacksonville and Duquesne to all score above their season averages. The Rams were out-rebounded by five boards per contest in the losses and gave up 37%, 44% and 50% shooting from three in those games.

Last season's NIT Rams ranked an outstanding seventh nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, but just 209th on the offensive side of the ball. This year's group, which Rhoades earlier praised as perhaps his most talented team yet at VCU, ranks 51st nationally on defense and 238th on offense with the worst points per possession offense at VCU in over 20 years.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 72.1, VCU 69.5</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 64.5, DAV 68.9</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 50.1%, VCU 49.7%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 47%, DAV 48%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 32.2%, DAV 31.2%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 29.3%, VCU 33.9%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 51.7%, VCU 50.6%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 45.1%, DAV 50.4%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 33.4, VCU 33</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 16.7%, VCU 22.2%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 24.8%, DAV 17.4%</span>

Last season these two traded home losses, with VCU falling to the Cats at the Siegel Center, but taking a road W at Belk Arena. The Rams were out-rebounded in that matchup, but managed to turnover Davidson a bunch without turning the ball over much themselves. One massive difference in those contests however, was Davidson shot 21.4% from three in the VCU win and 40% in the Davidson win.

Coming of a loss to Duquesne while allowing the Dukes to connect on 44% of their threes, I imagine that will be a huge point of emphasis despite Davidson's struggles from deep on the season. Outside of that I think the Rams ability to crash the boards could go a very long way toward avoiding what could be a disastrous loss heading into back-to-back road games with what would be a 1-2 record.

This game feels huge in terms of where exactly VCU is headed as a team and as a program. Please win.

Kenpom: 69-66 VCU loss with a 64% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at noon at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: USA

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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