Rams attempt to avoid bubble in final stretch

[caption id="attachment_10391" align="alignright" width="300"]<a href="http://www.vcuramnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/8479897853_b12bf10c94_b.jpeg"><img class="size-medium wp-image-10391 " alt="8479897853_b12bf10c94_b" src="http://www.vcuramnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/8479897853_b12bf10c94_b-300x227.jpeg" width="300" height="227" /></a> Teams have hit 50% of their field goals while turning the ball over just 11 times per game in the Rams three Atlantic 10 losses this season.[/caption]

The Rams will have their work cutout for them during this four-game stretch to end the season. VCU faces the 2nd and 3rd ranked A-10 defenses in their next two games, starting with a road tilt at Xavier followed by a Final 4  home rematch against  the nationally ranked Butler Bulldogs on ESPN2.

All four of the Rams final games are against teams in the upper half of the conference in scoring margin. They are also against two current RPI top-50 teams (No.21 Butler at home and No.49 Temple on the road), as well as two other top-100 teams (No.89 Xavier on the road and No.81 Richmond at home). In other words, VCU is in a much better place than we were at the same point last season playing in the CAA.

Handle our business and we're in, but even if the Rams have an off night--or MAYBE even two--there are no bad losses to be had, only good wins left to pick up (not to mention potential A-10 tournament wins).

And that's what VCU needs right now. Analysts have come down on VCU as surviving off reputation, an RPI boosting appearance in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, and decent, but not quality wins.

The black-and-gold's wins over Memphis (23-3), and even Alabama (18-8, and currently 2nd in the SEC), are now starting to look better and better. There victory over a highly underrated Belmont squad has been an RPI booster, but isn't moving the perception dial. Two major network opportunities (v Butler on ESPN2, then at Temple on CBS...not CBS Sports Net...C-B-S) will give the Rams two crucial opportunities to sell havoc to selection committee members.

Some numbers to chomp on on a hoops-free Thursday.

VCU (21-6, 9-3)
RPI - 37
SOS - 75

NCAA Tournament Projections
Jerry Palm <a title="CBS bracketology" href="http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/bracketology">CBS bracketolgy</a> projected seed - 8
Joe Linardi <a title="ESPN bracketology" href="http://espn.go.com/ncb/bracketology">ESPN bracketology</a> projected seed - 7
<a title="Bracket Matrix" href="http://bracketproject.50webs.com/matrix.htm">Bracket Matrix</a> average seed - 7

Versus RPI top-25 = 1-1 (1-1 neutral)
Versus RPI top-50 = 3-5 (2-2 home, 0-1 away, 1-2 neutral)
Versus RPI top-100 = 7-6 (5-2 home, 1-2 away, 1-2 neutral)

National Rankings
Points per game - 77.5 (16th)
Field goal % - 45.1% (84th)
Effective field goal % - 51.5% (66th)
Effective field goal % defense - 49% (200th)
Rebounds per game - 35.7 (130th)
Scoring defense - 62.9 (87th)
Steals per game - 12.3 (1st)
Turnover % offense - 17.6% (41st)
Turnover % defense - 29% (1st)

Point Distribution (National Ranking)
3-Pointers - 31.1% (77th)
2-Pointers - 52.2% (169th)
Free throws - 16.7% (322nd)

Turnovers forced in losses (team's season average):
Wichita State (13.3) - 13
Duke (11.2) - 8
Missouri  (13.3) - 13
Richmond (12.6) - 11
La Salle (12.1) - 14
Saint Louis (11.4) - 8
Average turnovers forced in losses - 11.16

Turnovers forced in wins<em id="__mceDel"> - 25 (FGCU), 21 (Winthrop), 22 (Memphis), 22 (Stetson), 22 (Belmont), 14 (ODU), 16 (Alabama), 32 (WKU), 25 (Longwood),  33 (FDU), 24 (ETSU), 21 (Lehigh), 26 (Dayton), 16 (St. Bonaventure), 19 (Saint Joseph's), 19 (Duquesne), 17 (Rhode Island), 22 (Fordham), 17 (Charlotte), 24 (UMass), 25 (GW)
Average turnovers forced in wins - 22

Field goals in losses - 17-49 (WSU), 21-63 (Duke), 27-65 (Missouri), 22-57 (Richmond), 23-60 (La Salle), 24-54 (Saint Louis)
Average field goal % in losses - 38.5%
About author
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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