New VCU Wrinkle Gives Rams Big Potential

Something you may have noticed over the last few games and certainly something I've likely made you aware of if you frequent our forum, is VCU's dabbling into a new two-big lineup this latest chapter of the season.

The black and gold have opted for a small ball look most of the year, playing 6'5 senior wing, Mike'L Simms, the majority of the minutes at the four spot. The Highland Springs grad turned Ram by way of JUCO transfer is currently the fifth-most played player on the team, averaging a VCU career-high 23.3 minutes per contest including 25.5 minutes per contest over VCU's last four. But within that four-game winning streak, the Rams have done a little more experimenting with the rotation.

Lately, VCU has brought Corey Douglas in at the four alongside starting center, Marcus Santos-Silva, typically around that 16-minute mark in the first half, then has even dabbled in giving freshman Larry Sanders clone, Hasan Ward, minutes alongside Douglas for yet another two-big look with the first sub out of Santos-Silva.

The results have been extremely promising and have made the Rams a downright terrifying team and real threat to No.7 Dayton's current Atlantic 10 dominance.

Those who follow me in the forum have watched me slowly calculate these numbers, but for everyone else, here are the CliffsNotes:
v. St. Bonaventure +17 (12:15 of play)
@ St. Joseph's +10 (11:09)
@ La Salle +5 (9:03)
v Richmond +24 (11:40)

Total: Outscored their opponents by 56 points in 44:07 of play

[caption id="attachment_28789" align="alignright" width="480"]<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-28789" src="" alt="" width="480" height="267" /></a> Big to big: A triple-teamed Santos-Silva finds Douglas for the easy dunk in VCUs dominant win over Richmond.[/caption]

Note: VCU outscored those same opponents by a combined margin of just 15 points the other 115:53 of action in those contests (0.1 points per minute).

Those numbers show just how difficult of an opponent the black and gold have been during their current four-game stretch, a borderline night and day version of Mike Rhoades' squad, while employing a two-big lineup. Considering the fact a college basketball game is just 40 minutes long, VCU's double-big look has absolutely mauled their A-10 foes since going to it. The Rams are outscoring their opponent by 1.3 points per minute to what stretches out over 40 as a 50-point win versus the 0.1 per minute going small, a five-point victory.

As good as the seventh-ranked Dayton Flyers have been on the season, their largest A-10 W so far has been a 28-point win. Does VCU's double-big look make them an even scarier team than one of the current top-10 teams in the nation? A larger sample is likely in order to answer that question, but the early look suggests it puts VCU at least closer to playing on the Flyers' level.

Going off the early data from VCU's new wrinkle, it certainly appears to be a sample the Rams will want to attempt, especially considering VCU's Friday road rematch against a Rhode Island team that came into VCU and downed the Rams 65-56. VCU paired bigs for a total of 19 seconds of action in that contest and trailed by as many as 15 points on their home floor in the loss.

Corey Douglas checks in at second on VCU's team in overall box plus/minus and third in player efficiency rating, but just ninth in minutes played (one minute behind Vince Williams who has missed the last four games completely due to a broken hand).

It might be time that changes if VCU wants to ultimately unlock their full potential, at least as far as this season is concerned.

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Mat Shelton-Eide
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