Game Preview: VCU v Loyola (MD) [INSIDER]

The Rams return to the Stu after a two-game road trip that saw VCU go 1-1 against Charleston and Wichita State. The black and gold will have two straight at the Siegel Center starting with tonight's matchup against Loyola Maryland with a chance to wrap up the non-conference at 10-3 before entering A-10 play with a home matchup against Fordham on Thursday.

VCU (9-3)

The Greyhounds are hoping to take a big step forward under second-year head coach, Tavaras Hardy. After a 4-9 non-conference this past season, Loyola fans have to be somewhat pleased with their 8-4 start (winning cures everything). The problem is to this point Loyola's record might be a bit deceiving. Loyola has, for the most part, beaten the teams a mediocre team would hope to defeat, going 8-0 against teams currently ranked 234th or worse in kenpom's current rankings. The problem is so far they have an 0-4 top-200 record to go with that, but to be fair, have at least bit fairly competitive in most of the matchups. The Greyhounds own two single-digit road defeats at the hands of VCU rivals ODU (62-53) and George Mason (65-61), but lost by 35 to the one top-100 squad they've faced this year.

Offensively Loyola is somewhat improved this season, boasting a top-50 effective field goal percentage of 54.5%, albeit against what currently ranks agains the nation's 330th "toughest" schedule. Loyola has been incredibly efficient inside the arc, finishing 56.1% of their close-range buckets and have shot a solid 34.6% from long range. Loyola does a solid job of not turning the ball over on offense, a crucial trait for one of the nation's worst rebounding teams.

Defensively however is wear Loyola has made their biggest strides thus far. Last season's Greyhounds ranked 338th nationally in effective field goal percentage D at 55.6%, but have looked improved early, limiting opponents to a 49.1% EFG% so far in the non-conference. They have done a solid job of turning teams over so far and have made things tough down low, but have been very beatable from distance against teams built to capitalize on open looks from beyond the arc.

Loyola is a relatively experienced group, but do get big minutes from two freshmen with Cam Spencer checking in as the team's second best scorer at 10ppg in his 28 minutes per contest. He's joined by 6'10 250 youngin', Golden Dike, a Malaga, Spain import who ranks second on the team in rebounding at 5.3 a night despite averaging just 18.2 minutes per game.

Loyola's player to watch Sunday is Andrew Kostecka. The 6'4 senior has given Loyola four efficient years and leads the team in points (21.7), rebounds (5.6) and steals (2.4) in his team-high 32.7 minutes per contest.
The good news with VCU is they are playing a lot like last season's Rams that finished 16-2 in the Atlantic 10 and punched an NCAA tournament ticket. The bad news is statistically, they have not improved at all as an overall team from last season's group (adjusted margin is actually down ever so slightly) and are about to head into Atlantic 10 play attempting to win a regular season title against a top half of the conference that has a Dayton team that looks light years better than everyone in the conference at the moment.

The Rams have no bad losses and one good win (LSU), plus a few "ok" wins that could look a lot better at the end of conference play (eyes on Charleston there), but overall just haven't taken the step forward many analysts expected when they opened the season as a ranked team.

VCU currently checks in at No.51 nationally according to kenpom, down from 42nd at the end of last season's final rankings and down from 23rd in kenpom's preseason rankings.

Biggest area of improvement needed: two-point offense.

VCU has not gotten much efficiency inside the arc at finishing baskets, but have done a solid job of turning misses into converted free throws. Rams head coach Mike Rhoades commented after a recent loss that his players needed to do a better job of "eating the rim" (finishing toward the basket on two-point attempts instead of falling away from it) to improve VCU's current interior finishing concerns.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOY 73.8, VCU 71.5</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 62.8, LOY 69.8</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOY 54.5%, VCU 49.6%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 47.2%, LOY 49.1%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 35.6%, LOY 34.6%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 33.9%, LOY 35.6%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOY 56.1%, VCU 47.3%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 45.3%, LOY 46.9%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOY 33.5, VCU 33</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">LOY 18.1%, VCU 19%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 27.6%, LOY 21.6%</span>
<h4>VCU WINS IF</h4>
Loyola has been a terrible rebounding team, which if that stays the case today, means they absolutely can't afford any turnovers. The absolute best turnover D Loyola has faced all season is ODU's No.101 turnover percentage group. Everyone else has been garbage all year at turning teams over. The Greyhounds turned the ball over 21 times that night and head to the Siegel Center Sunday to face VCU's second-ranked (nationally) turnover defense. Ruh roooooooh.

If VCU has an old-fashioned havoc type of day and can find some moderate success finishing close-range baskets, they could really make this one a fun one for Ram fans to finish out conference play.

Kenpom: 79-65 VCU win with a 91% chance of a Rams victory.

Game tips at 5PM at the Stuart C. Siegel Center in Richmond, VA

Watch: NBC Sports Network
 <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>

About author
Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of and
Not open for further replies.


There are no comments to display.
Not open for further replies.

Article Information

Mat Shelton-Eide
Article read time
2 min read
Last update
Connect With Us