Last year the VCU Rams captured countless imaginations with their improbable run from the First Four to the Final Four. After losing four key seniors, the Rams are unexpectedly back in the NCAA tournament. Thursday night, the new look Rams face the Wichita State Shockers on CBS in what promises to be a classic battle between a great offense and a great defense.
- What: #12 VCU Rams (28-6, 15-3) vs. #5 Wichita State (27-5, 16-2)
- Where: Portland, Oregon – Rose Garden
- When: Thursday, March 15th at 7:15pm (EST)
- Watch: CBS
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Where to Watch
Most every place that has a TV will more than likely have the game on, but here are a few to get you started.
1501 W Main St
The Continental Westhampton
5704 Grove Avenue
421 East Franklin Street
2905 Patterson Avenue
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One year after their historic run to the Final Four, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams are back in the NCAA tournament. While the entire nation learned about the high octane Rams last March, few casual viewers will recognize VCU without former players Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon, and Jamie Skeen.
Third year coach Shaka Smart has done an incredible job replacing key cogs in last year’s team. Led by lone Senior Bradford Burgess, the Rams tied a school record for wins using tenacious defense instead of deadly 3-point shooting. Leading the nation in steals, the Rams have compensated for their offensive struggles by stealing the ball on 16.2% of possessions–the highest steal percentage in Division I since 2006.
Thursday night’s game promises to be no different. While Bradford Burgess and Rob Brandenberg are beginning to see the light of day after experiencing some shooting struggles, the Rams will not likely be able to outshoot the Shockers. The black and gold’s best chances of an upset is by imposing their tempo and forcing the Shockers to buckle under the pressure of “HAVOC” defense.
Last year Joey Rodriguez drained two free-throws with 0.8 seconds remaining to beat Wichita State 68-67. Adding insult to injury, VCU then picked up the last at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and WSU was left in the NIT. The Shockers went on to win the NIT while VCU fought their way to Houston.
Wichita State is an under-seeded, extremely experienced offensive beast. The Shockers are the nations 5th most experienced team with 86% of their minutes coming from five seniors and two juniors. While they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2006, their NIT victory last year proves that they can beat elite teams in the postseason.
The Shockers win with efficiency. They only average one more shot attempt per game than their opponents, but they average 15 more points per game. The Shockers average an incredible 1.14 points per possession and they connect on 57.2% of their 2-point attempts.
While this is all very impressive, the Shockers can, and do, lose. Their most recent loss came on March 3rd in the Missouri-Valley Conference tournament semi-finals against Illinois State. The key for Illinois State was getting center Garrett Stutz and forward Carl Hall in foul trouble which forced less efficient players to take more shots. The Shockers finished the game shooting 34.9%. In their five losses this season, the Shockers have shot 37.2%; a full 11.3% below their season average.
- The Shockers have six players with higher offensive ratings than VCU’s leader Bradford Burgess
- The Rams have six players with top 500 stealing percentages, including #1 Briante Weber. The Shockers have zero players.
- The Rams average 11.5 steals per game in their 28 victories and 6.6 steals per game in their 6 losses.
- Wichita State and VCU are a combined 50-6 in their last 56 games.
- The Shockers score 77.7 points per game (15th nationally) while the Rams only allow 59.8 (21st nationally).
Senior Joe Ragland is about as good as point guards get. Shooting 62% from 2-point range and 50% from 3-point range, he has the 3rd highest effective field goal percentage nationally and the highest true shooting percentage in Division I basketball. In addition to his extremely efficient scoring, Ragland has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio.
A full foot taller than Ragland, 7’-0” Center Garrett Stutz completes the inside-out duo that could finish the Rams. Stutz averages 13.5 points per game, is the 14th best defensive rebounder in the country, and at one point this season he hit six consecutive three pointers over a two game span. While he probably won’t be taking many three-pointers, Stutz is a matchup nightmare for the Rams. DJ Haley probably isn’t tough enough to play extended minutes and Juvonte Reddic gives up three inches and some considerable weight.
In 2009 VCU picked up a key verbal commitment from junior college transfer Carl Hall. Averaging 18.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 3.6 BPG at Middle Georgia College, Hall was a huge recruit that would have added much needed front court depth for the 2011-2012 season. Hall eventually switched his commitment and signed his letter of intent with the Wichita State Shockers where he has started 19 games. Hall averages 8.3 points per game on 57% shooting, and he is the Shockers second best rebounder. He was a no show as he picked up 4 fouls in 13 minutes in WSU’s loss to Illinois Sate.
Ken Pomeroy statistically picks Wichita State to win 72-64 with a 76% chance of victory.
It is always difficult to predict how VCU will perform against a non-CAA opponent. With every turnover the Rams force, the more their odds of winning drastically improve.
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Wichita State’s Profile
- Location: Wichita Kansas
- Enrollment: 14,806
- Conference: Missouri Valley
- All time series: Tied 1-1
- Last meeting:VCU won 68-67
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