Game Preview: VCU v Missouri State [INSIDER]

It's been over a week since the black and gold hit the court, but Mike Rhoades and Co. are finally back in action, taking on the Missouri Valley's preseason No.1, the Missouri State Bears. VCU has lost two of their last three and need to hold serve at home to keep building their at-large case. Missouri State comes in riding a three-game winning streak, but have dropped every key contest they've played this season, currently 0-3 against kenpom top-100 teams.

VCU (7-2)
The Bears grabbed 29 of the available first place preseason votes and checked in a No.1 in the Valley heading into the season and have been a tricky team despite their deceiving 6-5 record. Four of their five losses this season have become by four points or fewer including a 3-point road loss at No.32 Xavier and a 4-point neutral court L to Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes. State's two worst losses, kenpom No.162 Little Rock and No.119 Buffalo, came by a combined two points.

The point? This is a scary team posing as a bit of a mediocre one.

And mediocre is exactly what Missouri State was last season, boasting a 16-16 overall record and a 10-8 finish in the Valley, mind you a Valley conference that no longer includes the Shockers of Wichita State. But why picked No.1 after such a boring 2018-19 year? Most likely answer: transfers.

Basically all of State's key players this season started their journeys elsewhere.

Gaige Prim is in his first year with the Bears after some JUCO time at South Plains College. He's averaging 14.5 points and leads the team with a field goal percentage of 55.2%. Prim has missed five of the Bears games this season including the aforementioned close L to Little Rock, buy scored double-digits in all but one of his games this season.

Tulio De Silva is in his second season with the Bears after starting his career with South Florida. The 6'8 Brazilian has been an efficient scorer and rebounding machine for the Bears when on the floor. He leads the team at 8.1 rebounds per contest this year.

Lamont West started his career under Bob Huggins at West Virginia where he gave the Mountaineers some great minutes, but transferred to the Valley where he's already paying dividends for Dana Ford's second Bears team. West has chipped in 10.2 points per contest for the Bears, just down from his 11.1 during his final year of Big 12 action.

Josh Hall has been another solid add via Nevada, but it's Keandre Cook (JUCO) that leads the team at 17 ppg, a scary 6'5 guard who's currently shooting 42% from deep.

In short...Missouri State has some hoopers.

Jelling as a team will be their challenge, so don't be surprised if this team looks considerably more dangerous come March if they find their way into the NCAA tournament field via Valley at-large.

One key stat VCU fans will enjoy: Missouri State currently ranks 295th nationally in offensive turnover percentage. The team turned the ball over 17 times recently even against Mississippi Valley State, a SWAC team that ranks 350th nationally in defensive turnover percentage (which means they don't turn teams over).

You should know these guys by now, but if not, here's the quickest of refreshers:

-Strong defending team (2nd nationally in D steals and turnover %, 9th in blocks %)
-Hot or cold offensively because guards/wings struggle to finish inside
-Experienced group (ranks 20th nationally in experience)

VCU has been a tough team all season, but SHOULD have a much higher ceiling. Why? Well because VCU's senior star, Marcus Evans, has struggled. Evans' 98.6 offensive rating is a career-low, thanks mostly to a career-worst 25.3% turnover percentage paired with a career-worst (by a lot) 38.5% two-point percentage. He has helped himself with a career-best lights out 47.4% three-point percentage, but SOMEHOW ranks second to last on the team with a defensive box +/- of -1.2. He's an A10 POY type of player, so his ceiling is much higher than how he's produced so far.

Scoring Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 73.1, MSU 69</span>
Scoring Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 62.1, MSU 64</span>
Effective Field Goal% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 51.1%, MSU 50%</span>
Effective Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 46%, MSU 46.7%</span>
3-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 36.7%, MSU 33.5%</span>
3-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #ff0000;">MSU 29.7%, VCU 30.5%</span>
2-Point Field Goal%: <span style="color: #ff0000;">MSU 49.9%, VCU 48.5%</span>

2-Point Field Goal% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 46.1%, MSU 47.8%</span>
Rebounds per game: <span style="color: #ff0000;">MSU 37.7, VCU 32.8</span>
Turnover% Offense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 19.7%, MSU 22.2%</span>
Turnover% Defense: <span style="color: #339966;">VCU 27.6%, MSU 19.4%</span>

One of the slower teams in the country (Missouri State) in terms of tempo versus one of the fastest (VCU), I really believe VCU may need to turn turnovers into points and speed State up to win what I think could be a tough game at the Stu on Sunday night. State's Gaige Prim is reportedly a game time decision, so his absence might pave a bit of an easier path for the Rams as well, but regardless of his status I just believe VCU is just such a deadlier team when they get going up and down the floor and playing with confidence.

Kenpom: 72-59 VCU win with an 88% chance of a Rams victory.

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

Watch: MASN
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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