VCU wrapped up its non-conference schedule on Monday with a win over Cleveland State and open up the conference slate at Fordham on Sunday.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what’s wrong with VCU, I’d be watching home games from the Tommy J. West Club. VCU was undoubtedly over-ranked at the beginning of the season, but it’s time to stop thinking about this team as disappointing in any way, shape, or form.
In addition to playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, the Rams picked up several quality wins while losing to teams that are currently a combined 38-2. UVA may be the second best team in the country, Villanova is thriving after returning almost everyone from a 29-5 team, and the addition of Trey Freeman has transformed ODU into the heavy favorite in Conference USA.
HAVOC! 6.0 isn’t perfect, but the Rams have greatly improved through the non-conference schedule.
VCU currently ranks 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 48th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Rams are shooting 49.3% from 2-point range, a dramatic improvement over last season’s horrendous 45.6%. They’ve also improved from 34.9% from 3-point range last season to 36.5% this season.
They rank 7th in offensive turnover percentage and 9th in defensive turnover percentage. The bottom line: VCU’s opponents are wasting possessions before even attempting shots, much less crossing half court, while the Rams are protecting the rock like never before in program history.
One concern is 3-point defense, where the Rams have regressed from 12th nationally last season to 304th nationally this season. Part of that is the graduation of Rob Brandenberg, and part is the level of competition. Expect that number to improve in conference play when VCU’s level of competition decreases.
Overall, the unadjusted defensive numbers for VCU are ugly, but the Rams’ adjusted defense efficiency is good enough to carry them to Coach Smart’s first conference championship. Add in a few favorable match-ups in March and this team has the same postseason potential as they did in October when the hype was high.
Putting HAVOC! to the test
VCU’a non-conference schedule ranks 10th according to Ken Pomeroy and 1st according to rpiforecast.com. This is how the distribution of games compares over the last four seasons using Ken Pomeroy’s team rankings:
|2011 – 2012||1-1||1-1||5-1||2-0||10-2|
|2012 – 2013||1-3||3-0||1-0||7-0||12-3|
|2013 – 2014||0-1||1-2||10-0||0-0||12-3|
|2014 – 2015||2-2||3-1||4-0||1-0||10-3|
Answering the test
The consistency of opponents is impressive. Unlike past seasons, the Rams have never had the opportunity to mail in any games. Here’s a recap of every matchup.
#93 Tennessee (8-4)
#86 Toledo (7-5)
#242 Maryland Eastern Shore (8-8)
#6 Villanova (13-1)
#68 Oregon (10-3)
#54 Old Dominion (11-1)
#103 Illinois State (8-5)
#2 Virginia (12-0)
#26 Northern Iowa (11-2)
#132 Belmont (9-5)
#42 Cincinnati (9-3)
#170 ETSU (6-4)
#135 Cleveland State (6-8)
These stats don’t add up to “disappointing.” They add up to “exciting potential,” which means, at the very least, some great matches to watch in the months ahead.
Photos by: Will Weaver