One week removed from an emotional loss to #7 Virginia, VCU has another opportunity to pick up a marquee win against #23 Northern Iowa.
- What: Northern Iowa (9-0, 0-0) at VCU (5-3, 0-0)
- Where: Stuart C. Siegel Center
- When: Saturday, December 13th at 7:00PM
- Watch: NBCSN
- Listen: Rams Radio
One week removed from an emotional loss to #7 Virginia, VCU has another opportunity to pick up a marquee win when #23 Northern Iowa (9-0) visits Broad Street. VCU is 3-1 against ranked opponents in the Siegel Center. Saturday is already the Rams’ third game against a top-25 opponent this season, but VCU has yet to capitalize on their opportunities.
Northern Iowa beat the Rams in an ugly game in Cedar Falls last season. VCU scored just seven points in the first 10 minutes and had 20 at the half. Starting guards Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg finished a combined 3-of-17 from the field, and big men Juvonte Reddic, Mo Alie-Cox, and Terrance Shannon combined to go 2-of-8, a quantity of shots that is more concerning than the shooting percentage. Overall, VCU finished 14-of-40 from 2-point range while the Panthers finished 20-of-30.
The only bright spots were freshmen Jordan Burgess and JeQuan Lewis who combined for 31 points, including 7-of-10 3-point shooting. The Rams have the tools to be incredibly balanced on offense, but desperately need a 3rd scorer behind Treveon Graham (17.4 PPG) and Melvin Johnson (16.9 PPG).
VCU should look for Jordan Burgess in the corner, JeQuan Lewis ready for the triple-threat (3-point shot, dribble-drive, or pass) on the right or left wing, and Mo Alie-Cox in the high-post early and often.
Northern Iowa finished 16-15 last season after getting carved up in a brutal Missouri Valley Conference. Their offense was one of the best in the league, but their defensive effort against VCU was an aberration instead of a sign of things to come. This season, they’ve matured into a defensive force.
They rank 344th in adjusted tempo, so expect the Panthers to slow things down–something they have the personnel to accomplish. One way they slow down the game is by drawing fouls, an area where they rank 13th nationally. UNI regularly goes ten deep, and they have five seniors. They boast several capable ball handlers and are probably the best passing team VCU has played this season not named Villanova or UVA.
The Panthers are one of just ten unbeaten teams in the nation. They are joined by Villanova and UVA, two of VCU’s three losses. The long story short: UNI is skilled on both ends of the court, has a skilled roster that can slow things down, and boasts one of the best big men in the country in Seth Tuttle.
The Star: #10 Seth Tuttle
**15.9 PPG (45-70 2PFG, 3-5 3PFG, 44-60 FT) **
Seth Tuttle is playing like the best big man in a strong but top-heavy Missouri Valley Conference. He’s scoring at will and has the physical tools give VCU big problems. In addition to shooting 64% from the field, he’s drawing 7.2 fouls per game and has hit 44 free-throws on 60 attempts through only nine games.
#1 Deon Mitchell (PG, Senior) • Mitchell had an impressive junior season but has struggled starting his senior campaign. He’s a starter, but he’s 11-37 (.297) on 2PFG and 3-14 (.214) on 3PFG.
#5 Matt Bohannon (G, Junior) • He’s the anti-Briante Weber. Bohannon finished 2nd nationally in offensive turnover percentage last season–but that may have more to do with a lack of ball-handling responsibilities than remarkable handles.
#20 Jeremy Morgan (G, Sophomore) • Morgan went a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range in last season’s matchup. VCU was really effective at defending the 3-point line last season. They’ve been horrendous defending the arc this season. He could spell more trouble.
#12 Marvin Singleton (F, Senior) • Singleton finished with nine points (3-3 shooting) and six rebounds in only 16 minutes in last season’s meeting.
#11 Wes Washpun (PG, Junior) • He’s the team’s second leading scorer despite coming off of the bench and he’s been incredibly effective at PG during the struggles of Deon Mitchell. He sports a respectable flat top.
#14 Nate Buss (F, Senior) • Buss came off the bench and scored 16 points (5-5 2PFG, 2-3 3PFG) in last season’s matchup. He was a hair away from a perfect game and the difference maker on a cold, dreary Sunday when the Rams failed to muster even a modicum of energy.
KenPom picks VCU to win 67-64 with a 64% chance of victory. The Rams usually find their groove in December after sluggish starts. Saturday could be a breakout victory. If not, the Rams could be in trouble because their next three opponents are a combined 22-4.
Northern Iowa PROFILE
- Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
- Enrollment: ~14,000
- Conference: MVC
- All time series: Tied 1-1.
- Last meeting: 12/14/2013. UNI won 77-68.