Game Preview: VCU v Davidson

Unstoppable force versus immovable object on display tonight when the nation's 17th-ranked offense in Davidson takes on the second-ranked defense in VCU. The Rams are looking to bounce back after a non-competitive road loss at defending champ St. Bonaventure while the Cats are simply hoping to extend their winning streak to 14 games while keeping themselves on the right side of this year's NCAA tournament bubble.
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VCU (10-5, 3-1)
DAVIDSON (14-2, 4-0)[/HEADING=3]

The Cats are on a roll thanks to the A-10's top-ranked offense under longtime head coach, Bob McKillop. Gone are Kellen Grady and Carter Collins from last year's sharpshooting squad, but in their place are Michigan State transfer, Foster Loyer (15.9 ppg, 47.4% 3p%) and a more experienced and depended on Mike Jones (13.3 ppg, 50% 3p%) and with that the Cats have one of the most dangerous offense in the country.

As a team Davidson is hitting 41.9% of their threes, the second best mark in the nation, they don't turn it over and thanks to a constant cutting offense full of high-level shooters, are a top-40 offense inside the arc as well. They have absolutely torched their Atlantic 10 competition on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively the Cats -- as we've gotten used to since 2015 -- haven't been as intimidating. Davidson ranks 233rd nationally in defensive effective field goal percentage and despite their undefeated conference start, check in at 10th in-conference in defensive efficiency.

Statistically this is just a Cats team that is insanely similar to last year's group. That Cats team went 7-4 in the A-10 regular season, but overall struggled against top-100 teams, going 1-6 against that level of competition. The unfortunate part of that stat is that one win came against the Rams, a 65-57 home W in Belk Arena. The Rams did however avenge that loss in a return game to the Siegel Center, this time a 12-point Rams W that punched VCU's ticket to the 2021 A-10 championship game. That style of game was exactly what VCU needs tonight: a lockdown defensive performance that limited the Cats to under 30% shooting inside the arc and just 33% outside of it.

The Rams defense has carried them all season long, but their offense has failed them in several big games this season including most recently against St. Bonaventure. The biggest issue: no easy buckets. That and turnovers really, both of which have been absolute killers.

But starting with the shooting, VCU has become a bit dependent on the three-ball, hitting a strong 38.8% of their threes in A-10 play, but check in at 11th in conference games in two-point shooting at 46.8%. They hit just 40% inside the arc against Bona and only managed eight free throw attempts to the Bonnies' 53.3% inside the arch and 23 made free throws.

Potentially one cause there is that the Rams are getting their bigs next to no looks. The black and gold foursome of Stockard, Ward, DeLoach and Brown-Jones combined for just eight attempts in a combined 52 minutes of action. That's two fewer shots than both Ace Baldwin (3-10) and Marcus Tsohonis (4-10, but 4-8 from three) had each against Bona, the same amount as KeShawn Curry (4-8) and just one more than freshman Jayden Nunn (0-7). DeLoach and Stockard are two of VCU's top-three players this season in true shooting percentage and Hason Ward has historically been one of VCU's best (although has struggled there this year), so deferring offensively for less efficient scorers is a pretty obvious way to limit your offensive efficiency.

A related issues in conference is the Rams inability to get to the stripe. VCU ranks 13th in-conference in free throw rate. They took just two free throw attempts in the dramatic victory at Dayton (to Dayton's 27 attempts), took 12 total against GW and had a -19 free throw attempts margin against Bona in the 20-point loss. The Rams shot a conference play high 21 in their 19-point road win at La Salle, coincidentally a game led by Hason Ward's 10 attempts.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 78.8, VCU 62.7</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 58.1, DAV 66.8</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 58.1%, VCU 48.5%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 41.8%, DAV 51.1%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 41.9%, VCU 32.3%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 25%, DAV 35.2%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 54.8%, VCU 48.5%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 44.1%, DAV 49.7%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 34, VCU 33.2</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">DAV 14.8%, VCU 22.4%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 26.2%, DAV 18.3%</span>

Last year's matchups essentially came down to whoever won the paint. In the first contest Davidson hit 66.7% of their shots inside the arc to 45.5% from VCU in the eight-point Cats win. In Richmond the Rams finished 58.3% of their shots inside and limited Davidson to an ice-cold 26.7% inside the arc in the 12-point Rams win. So I'll go with that. While the three-point matchup (Davidson's 2-ranked 3-point offense versus VCU's 2nd-ranked defense) might grab the headlines, I think whoever can really win the paint takes the game.

Kenpom: 66-65 VCU loss with a 53% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 7PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: CBS SportsNet

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