Game Preview: VCU v Florida State [INSIDER]

The Rams and the Seminoles get together for the third time since 2011, FSU having won the last meeting, an 85-67 blowout of the Rams, perhaps payback for VCU's previous win in the series, an overtime Sweet 16 victory during the black and gold's historic Final 4 run. They'll meet yet again on a neutral court today, this time at Atlanta's Phillips Arena, coincidentally the site of FSU's last ACC tournament championship run.
<blockquote>"VCU has been one of the more successful teams in the nation over the last four to five years, so we know this will be a tremendous test for our team.  They are an ACC caliber team and this is a game that will certainly help us prepare for our ACC schedule.” - FSU Head Coach Leonard Hamilton</blockquote>

VCU (5-2)
FSU (4-2)[/HEADING=3]

A season after a mediocre 17-16 finish, Florida State hopes a group of talented freshmen will lead the 'Noles to a NCAA tournament-caliber season. Head Coach Leonard Hamilton's freshmen class came into this season as the No.11 recruiting class of 2015 and so far have lived up to the hype. Freshman Malik Beasley was a one-time VCU target before opting for the Seminoles and leads the team with 20 points per contest, just ahead of the No.14 player in last year's class, freshman Dwayne Bacon, who has chipped in 19 a night for FSU to start the season. They are two of three players to average double-digits for the ACC team, with sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes rounding out the group at 10.8 points per contest. FSU ranks 10th nationally in points per contest at 88.7 per game. Like the previous Florida State squads VCU has faced, Leonard Hamilton once again brings in a gigantic group, including 7'3 Boris Bojanovsky who's averaging 9.2 points and 1.2 blocks per contest for FSU. With such a large team it should be no surprise FSU has been a very efficient rebounding team, ranking top-100 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Offensively they do the vast majority of their damage right around the basket, getting 56% of their points inside the three-point arc. Defensively they have been very beatable in the halfcourt however. FSU ranks sub-200 in both three-point and two-point percentage D. While they have scored 90 or more points three times this season, they have done so against teams ranking 198 or worse and have losses to the two top-100 squads they've faced, losing to both Hofstra and Iowa while averaging 76 points over those two contests.

[caption id="attachment_15524" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href=""><img class="wp-image-15524 size-medium" src="" alt="VCU's Joey Rodriguez gets set to inbound the ball on what would be the eventual game-winning play of the Rams' 2011 Sweet 16 win over FSU." width="300" height="200" /></a> VCU's Joey Rodriguez gets set to inbound the ball on what would be the eventual game-winning play of the Rams' 2011 Sweet 16 win over FSU.[/caption]

The Rams gutted out their first road win of the season, outlasting kenpom No.119 Middle Tennessee State in a 62-56 defensive rock fight in Murfreesboro. They needed every ounce of that D too in one of the Rams' worst offensive efforts of the season, shooting 31.7% on the evening. Offense has been a struggle for the Rams all season, breaking 80 points just once, a 92-74 W over No.197 Radford. The Rams effective field goal percentage of 48.5% ranks 192nd nationally while allowing a 48.9% EFG% on D. VCU has done most of their damage the old-fashioned VCU way, turning teams over 24.9% of their possessions. VCU has been the 11th best team in the country at doing that this season and ranks No.2 nationally in steals percentage. No team has scored over 80 points on VCU this season, with the best effort coming from No.7 Duke, a 79-71 Blue Devils win. Melvin Johnson is one of two VCU players averaging double-digits this season and leads the team at 17.6 ppg. ORU transfer Korey Billbury is the other at 11 ppg while JeQuan Lewis is sniffing double-digits at 9.3 per contest but is averaging 15 points per night over his last two. JUCO transfer Ahmed Hamdy has been sensational offensively, averaging 7.9 points per night despite just a 14 minute average (a per 40 average of over 22 points per game). VCU will look to find more efficiency from that group tonight as well as guys like Jordan Burgess, Doug Brooks and Justin Tillman if they are to pick up their biggest win of the season this afternoon.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">FSU 88.7, VCU 74.4</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 63.4, FSU 74.8</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense:<span style="color: #ff0000;"> FSU 56%, VCU 48.5%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 48.9%, 51.1%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 37.4%, FSU 34.5%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 34.5%, FSU 36.1%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">FSU 39.3, VCU 38.4</span>
Turnover Percentage Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 24.9%, FSU 19.9%</span>
Turnover Percentage Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 16.9%, FSU 17.7%</span>

The Rams absolutely must find some consistency on offense if they want to hang with a FSU team that can put points on the board with ease. Anyone who watched the MTSU team could probably tell you VCU was about one pass shy on every possession as the Rams would continually attack the basket with yes, reckless abandon, but mostly just recklessness. Defensively VCU will need to keep up the good work with a focus on protecting the front porch. FSU ranks 15th nationally in two-point percentage offense and hits 58% of their deuces to just 34.5% of their threes, so forcing Florida State to hit the hard ones will be key for VCU today.

FSU's season-long offensive percentages look amazing, as does their 80-plus points per game. But dig a little deeper and you'll see they shot under 40% from the field against the two top-100 teams they played. Does that make them a pretender? I'm not sure. FSU is loaded with talent but until they can put up come consistent offense against a good team themselves there will definitely be some questions marks. They'll look to do that this afternoon against a VCU team that has allowed fewer points than both of the teams (Hofstra and Iowa) that handed the 'Noles their previous two losses. Sounds odd to say an improved offensive effort is what FSU will need today but that's the honest truth.

Kenpom: 77-76 FSU win with a 49% chance of a VCU victory.

Game tips at 2PM in Atlantic, Georgia at Phillips Arena.

Watch: <span style="color: #ff0000;">ESPNU</span>, Official watch parties at Buffalo Wild Wings locations at Virginia Center and downtown on Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.
Listen: <a title="FM 107.3" href="">107.3FM</a>
Live Tweets:¬†@VCURamNation​

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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