Quick look: VCU's A-10 Tournament path

The Rams of Fordham University kicked off the A-10 tournament with a bit of an upset today despite their higher seed line, downing the Davidson Wildcats in overtime, 71-63. That pens in VCU's first opponent in this year's Atlantic 10 tournament, allowing us to take a quick peek of the black and gold's path.

Fordham entered their first round A-10 game as a 5-point kenpom underdog thanks to a No.201 national ranking. The Davidson Wildcats (kenpom No.116 entering the day, now down to No.124) were the favorite via a higher-ranked offense and defense, yet after winning their two regular season games against Fordham this year, lost the one that mattered most. That means VCU will take on the Bronx Rams once again in New York, this time in a neutral court contest with win or go home stakes. Coach Odom's squad won the first matchup between these two, downing Fordham 75-60 in Rose Hill back on Feb 6. The Rams had an incredibly efficient offensive night and limited Fordham to under 39% from the field. Following Fordham's defeat of Davidson, they check in at 271st nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 122nd on D. They have the last-ranked A-10 offense in conference play and check in at No.10 in the A-10 defensively. Fordham is an elite shot-blocking team and does a great job of turning teams over. Outside of that however, almost everything else has been a struggle. VCU is currently an 8-point kenpom favorite with a 77% chance of victory.

Should the Rams survive Fordham, they'll get a matchup with a UMass team that absolutely dominated the black in gold in their one and only meeting. Frank Martin's squad is led by the First Team All-Atlantic 10 big man duo of Matt Cross and Josh Cohen. It's a combination that is a serious matchup problem for a VCU front court that has struggled to defend capable bigs all season. UMass won the last meeting by 22, limiting VCU to 0.8 points per possession compared with their own 1.14 ppp. VCU's starters combined for just 16 points in that game, 10 of which came from VCU First Teamer, Max Shulga. UMass finished with the second most efficient A-10 offense and the eighth-ranked defense. While their strength lies in the paint, their weakness on paper comes via an inexperienced and inefficient backcourt. The Minutemen ranked 15th in the conference in three-point percentage and ninth in three-point percentage defense.

Should the Rams survive their first two contests, they'd matchup with one of three teams they've beaten already, two of which are in-state rivals. The Rams went 3-1 overall against this group, winning two at home (St. Joe's & Richmond), one on the road (Mason) and losing at Richmond, 79-76 in a game they led most of the contest. The Rams beat Richmond at the Siegel Center by 11, but all other contests were decided by four or fewer points, meaning a battle could await if the black and gold were fortunate enough to make it to Saturday.

Can a team ranked below this group advance to the final? Perhaps, but the odds of one of Saint Louis, La Salle, Rhode Island and GW getting to this point are extremely slim. The third-seeded Flyers of Dayton are your likely favorite to get to this point, especially with the announcement that starting point guard, Javon Bennett, will be back in the lineup, but don't be surprised if any of the other three that headline this section make it to the final. Duquesne is coming off a recent win at VCU (albeit without Max Shulga) and is led by arguably the most talented backcourt duo in the conference. Loyola has been on a roll to earn the No.2 and St. Bonaventure may be one of the most well-rounded starting fives in the league, although a bit of an inconsistent one. The Flyers are looked at as a lock for the NCAA tournament field regardless of this week's events, but will they get caught looking to comfortable before a potential rematch of last year's A-10 title game with VCU?
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Licensed Virginia Realtor and part-time basketball writer. Co-founder of VCURamNation.com and A10Talk.com.


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Mat Shelton-Eide
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