Game Preview: VCU at Seton Hall [INSIDER]

On paper, VCU's toughest test of the season comes today: a road tip against a top-20 Seton Hall team with four top-100 wins already including a big recent road win at Louisville. Their only loss of the season coincidentally coming to another A-10 Rams team: Rhode Island. Kenpom's computers give VCU just a 12% chance of winning this one and predicts a double-digit loss for VCU. Mission impossible or a team primed for a big upset win? We'll find out at 3PM on Fox.

VCU (5-4)

Kevin Willard's Pirates are looking to make their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and it looks as though they are well on their way to doing so. His highest-ranked team since taking in 2010, Willard's Pirates own blowout wins over Indiana and Vanderbilt, a double-digit defeat of a really good Texas Tech team and that aforementioned win at Louisville this past weekend. This experienced group is efficient on both sides of the ball and ranks top-20 nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Four Pirates are chipping in double-digit scoring for Willard including senior leading scorer, Desi Rodriguez (20 ppg). Rodriguez is on of three seniors to chip in double-digits for Seton Hall, a group joined by former VCU target, sophomore shooter, Myles Powell. Hall is large and physical and do what you'd expect from teams like that: rebound. The Pirates are a good shooting team but make things even more difficult for opponents by rebounding 36.8% of their misses, making them the 21st best offensive rebounding team in the country. Defensively Hall turns teams over at a very high rate and are holding opponents (and remember, some good ones at that) to a solid 49.7% effective field goal percentage defense. Long story short: these guys are really, really good.

The story so far this season is that of a good Rams team that has little to show for how hard they've played. The Rams battled back from a huge 19-point deficit to take a late lead on Texas before surrendering that lead within the final two minutes of play, making it the second game VCU dropped against a top-100 team in the final two minutes of play. VCU moved to 1-4 against the kenpom top-100 in the loss. Three of VCU's losses have been single-digit affairs to top-50 teams, making VCU a dangerous team Seton Hall will no doubt respect today. But defensive issues all season long have doomed the black and gold early in the schedule. VCU's 53.3% two-point defense is one of the 100 worst in college basketball, dragging their defensive EFG% up to a 52.7%. The Rams 18.7% defensive turnover percentage is anything but "havoc-like" and is VCU's first sub-20% turnover defense since Mack McCarthy's Rams finished at 19.1% (284th nationally) in 2002. Injuries have also been a bit of a bugaboo for Mike Rhoades' first group on Broad Street, as the Rams have been without sophomore shooter Malik Crowfield the last three games and saw Issac Vann re-injure an ankle that had held him out the four games prior to giving it a go against Texas.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 80.6, VCU 79.6</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 68, VCU 75</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 54.4%, VCU 53.8%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 49.7%, VCU 52.7%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 39.5%, SH 36.7%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 34.5%, SH 34.7%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 54%, VCU 50.7%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 48.2%, VCU 53.3%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.6, SH 37.4</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 17.5%, SH 18.4%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">SH 23.3%, VCU 18.7%</span>

The Rams will need a massively improved two-point defensive effort -- or need to throw some different defensive looks out there -- to pull off a huge upset today. Seton Hall relentlessly attacks the basket, getting 40.2% of their shots at the rim and 56.1% of their points inside the arc. VCU has struggled all season long defending inside the arc, giving up at least 50% shooting there against every top-100 team they've played including one 70% night against Marquette. We haven't seen a sub-50% night since the Rams held a bad California team to 48.9% on twos. I think until the Rams mix something up there they will have to win almost every game in a shootout and those types of wins became an extreme challenge against balanced groups like Seton Hall today.

Kenpom: 83-70 VCU loss with a 12% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 3PM at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ

Watch: Fox, Official game day headquarters at Buffalo Wild Wings location at Westchester Commons in Midlothian, VA.
Listen: <a href=";pname=1248&amp;campid=header&amp;cid=index.html">Fox Sports 910 AM &amp; 98.5 FM</a>
Live Tweets:¬†<a href="">@VCURamNation</a>​

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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