Game Preview: VCU v Campbell [INSIDER]

Losers of three of their last four contests, the Rams are hoping to start a winning streak against a Campbell Camels team riding a four-game tear of their own. Both teams have battled top-10 teams, VCU competing with the Bears of Baylor and Campbell hanging tight with Duke and both will expect to win today in this underrated matchup at the Stu.
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VCU (3-4)

The Rams' Big South opponent today has just one loss on the year, an 11-point L to Duke, a game Campbell kept tight late, but like VCU against Baylor and UConn, saw a golden opportunity get away. Outside of that it's hard to know what to expect from Kevin McGeehan's squad considering their schedule. Two of the Camel's wins this year are against DII teams, with three more coming against teams ranked 235th or worse on kenpom. Two of those victories came by just one basket, as did Campbell's best win of the season, a 67-65 W over kenpom No.116 Marshall.

In a way Cambell is very similar to this year's Richmond and St. Bonaventure squads (or well, extremely similar to Richmond, which we'll get into). They are very experienced, starting four seniors and a junior (rank 20th nationally in experience), but don't use their bench at all (ranking 337th nationally in bench minutes). This group had a very mediocre 2020-21 campaign, finishing 17-10 on the year and third in the Big South with no top-100 wins. Their defense ranked 281st nationally, but they faired much better on the offensive side of the ball (162nd) thanks to the nation's 11th-ranked effective field goal percentage offense. Like this year's Rams, that group really struggled to rebound, which should come as no surprise considering McGeehan comes from the Chris Mooney coaching tree, having spent eight seasons under Mooney with the Spiders.

And that in a way is where I could almost stop this part of the preview. Campbell is just about in every way a Richmond clone. They play the same level of experience and depth and run the same stuff. It's a smart scheduling move by the Rams to prepare for two A-10 games against the Spiders, but it is also a challenge. Campbell is slow and methodical and does not hurt themselves on offense. They create easy scoring opportunities even if they don't score a ton, but do not rebound well and were easy to score on down low this past season.

The Rams were about 1.5 minutes away from a shockingly good Battle 4 Atlantis showing, considering VCU's start to the season, seeing a 3-point lead over No.17 UConn vanish into overtime in the eventual loss. A win would've paired nicely with the Rams' upset of Syracuse and close loss to No.4 Baylor, but a las, the Rams come into today's contest with a losing record and looking to start their first real run of the season.

The Rams showed their nationally-ranked defense (4th in the land in adjusted defensive efficiency) was the real deal, limiting Syracuse's 15th-ranked offense to a season-low 55 points, limiting Baylor to a season-low 69 points and limiting UConn to a season-low 56 points in regulation before surrendering 14 points in the five-minute overtime. VCU's offense looked a bit improved as well, especially considering the competition. VCU hadn't scored in the 60s all season, but did so in all three contests in the Bahamas despite star forward Hason Ward's continued offensive struggles (Ward averaged just 4.7 points in the Bahamas).

VCU saw three of the better offensive performances from point guards Marcus Tsohonis and Jayden Nunn this year. With a looming Ace Baldwin return, that could really be a positive sign for the black and gold. The big question will be if Baldwin can quite literally assist in increased efficiency for all the VCU bigs not named Levi Stockard. The Rams quartet of front court athletes in Hason Ward, Mikeal Brown-Jones, Jalen DeLoach and Jimmy Nichols ALL have true shooting percentages under 50%, an insanely-inefficient stat considering Ward's 60%+ the past two seasons and each's ability to finish high-percentage shots with ease. Something has to give there and it's a key stat to watch.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 69.3, VCU 56.3</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 57, CAM 57.3</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 50.2%, VCU 44.7%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.6%, CAM 50.2%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 34%, VCU 28.4%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 23.8%, CAM 33.3%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 49.7%, VCU 45.7%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 38.7%, CAM 50.3%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 36, VCU 32.9</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">CAM 14.2%, VCU 24.7%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 26.4%, CAM 16.8%</span>

Getting back to that last true shooting percentage stat I mentioned, you have a Campbell team here who ranked 325th nationally in two-point percentage defense this past season. 54.7% of the Camel's opponents' points came inside the arc, which was the 49th highest percentage there in the country. That is just sooo extremely similar to Chris Mooney-coached Richmond squads, so I want to see VCU bring the defensive heat we've gotten used to, but also find a way to flip those true shooting percentage numbers from their bigs and take advantage of Campbell's beatable interior defense. If the Rams can crack the code on efficient shots, they can be downright scary and what better time to show they are capable of that than today?

Kenpom: 62-54 VCU win with a 77% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 4PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA


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Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of and
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Mat Shelton-Eide
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