What to expect: Rams vs. the Rams, Part 1

Coming off a disappointing 0-2 week, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams will visit the Rams of Rhode Island on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM.

  • What: VCU (16-5, 4-2) vs. Rhode Island (6-12, 1-4)
  • Where: Ryan Center
  • When: Wednesday, January 30th at 7:00 PM
  • Watch: CBS 6.3 (Comcast 206; Verizon 466)
  • Listen: Rams Radio

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Coming off a disappointing 0-2 week, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams will visit the Rams of Rhode Island on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM.

The Rundown

“You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” ~Lou Holtz

After winning 27, 28, and 29 games including an 11-2 postseason record with a CBI Championship, a Final Four, and an NCAA 3rd round appearance, it’s easy to overreact after back to back losses. Don’t. I know I did on Saturday, February 26, 2011 when VCU lost at home to James Madison on Senior Day. We all remember what happened next. That being said, VCU hasn’t quite played like VCU since opening A-10 play against Dayton on January 9th.

Are their struggles the result of poor 3-point shooting or poor defense?

VCU is shooting 36-133 (.270) from 3-point range in A-10 play versus 133-369 (.360) out of conference. While it’s easy to blame the 3-point shooting, VCU leads the A-10 from 2-point range at 54.9%, and they have put enough points on the board to win games.

Part of the reason VCU has found success inside is that Troy Daniels attracts so much defensive attention. Recently, Juvonte Reddic has found space to operate, Darius Theus scored 22 points when he entered the lane on command against St. Joseph’s, and the list continues.

Defense is where things get a little scary. The Rams are only +2 in turnover margin in their previous two games. In those games, Briante Weber AKA Mr. HAVOC!, picked up early fouls that limited his effectiveness. Far from their only great perimeter defender, Weber’s contributions in energy and deflections are even more important than his stat line.

When the Rams don’t force turnovers, they struggle to dictate tempo. Saturday’s game ended up being a 64 possession game and Thursday was a 71 possession game including overtime. When the Rams speed up the game, their defense flows into offense. Look no further than their 17-0 run to start the second half against La Salle, it was textbook HAVOC! Making things worse, the Rams rank 16th of 16 in the A-10 in defensive 3-point percentage and defensive effective field goal percentage. The bottom line: teams score when VCU doesn’t force turnovers.

The Team

At 6-12, Rhode Island has had their share of struggles this season. They are coming off of a bad loss at Fordham, but they have shown an ability to keep games close no matter their opponent, particularly in A-10 play:

Date Opponent Outcome
1/9 at Richmond L 64-61
1/12 vs. Charlotte L 58-50
1/19 at St.Louis W 82-80 OT
1/23 vs. George Washington L 66-65
1/26 at Forham L 66-63

Rhode Island likes to play slow basketball. They rank 16th in the A-10 in tempo. One of the few things they do well is limit turnovers. VCU needs to jump start HAVOC! if they hope to win the A-10, and Wednesday is another battle against disciplined guards. Briante Weber needs to assert himself without fouling, VCU needs to lock down the 3-point line, and VCU needs to dictate tempo with their pressure.

Whether or not they dominate the turnover battle, VCU should take more shots because Rhode Island struggles with rebounding. Coach Dan Hurley added, “If we don’t do a significantly better job rebounding the ball, we’re going to be noncompetitive in the game.”

One of Rhode Island’s greatest weaknesses entering the game is their lack of depth. Four players, Xavier Munford, Nikola Malesevic, Mike Powell, and Andre Malone play an insane 66% of the team’s available minutes. All four of those players average more action than anyone on VCU’s roster. Expect a more extreme version of the usual look of exhaustion that plasters the faces of VCU’s opponents down the stretch.

The Star: Xavier Munford

17.4PPG, 3RPG, 2.1APG, .404 FG%, .315 3PFG%

What junior shooting guard Xavier Munford lacks in efficiency, he makes up for in sheer usage. Averaging 14.8 field attempts per game, Munford somehow still finds enough possessions to tally 2.1 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game. He has scored 20+ points eight times, including 33 points (8-15 3-point shooting) in a huge victory at Auburn and 24 points in that inexplicable win at St. Louis. On the flip side, Rhode Island is 0-5 when he scores 10-point or less. Munford is the type of player that will keep on shooting no matter what. Catch him on an off night and it’s a blessing, catch him when he’s on and it’s a nightmare.

The Prediction

VCU needs a confidence boosting, HAVOC! filled, 3-point shooting domination more than ever, and Wednesday is as good a time as any. If VCU can dictate tempo early and put Rhode Island on their heels, then VCU should win by double digits. KenPom picks VCU to win 69-59 with an 84% chance of victory.

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Rhode Island Profile

  • Location: Kingston, RI
  • Enrollment: 19,095
  • All time series: Tied 2-2/
  • Last meeting: 12/02/10. VCU won 82-80.

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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