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Kansas Vs. VCU: Previewing The Rams

Two weeks ago this was a controversial inclusion in the tournament.  Now the Rams are in the Elite Eight and the coach has suddenly become one of the hottest names in the country for all those programs currently looking for a head coach. The Rams are representing the Colonial Conference where they finished 4th in the league at 12-6.  The Rams have wins over tournament teams in UCLA, Wofford, ODU, George Mason and obviously the last two weeks are well documented.

On that note, is anyone else tired of hearing the phrase "shock the world".  I've heard Arizona say it, Kemba Walker say it and of course VCU say it.  It must be nice to pretend you have nothing to lose, but at some point things have to end for a Cinderella. Kansas of course has the target, the expectations and they're looking to get back to the Final Four for the first time since winning the title.  But before we tip, let's get to know the Rams.

Rank and Records VCU
RPI #35
Strength of Schedule #85
Overall 27-11
Conference 12-6
Home 11-3
Away 8-6
Top 25 1-0
RPI Top 50 7-6


The Players

The Rams go eight maybe nine deep but the bulk of the minutes go to the starters.   6'9" senior forward Jamie Skeen leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 15.1(ppg) and 7.3(rpg).  Second in both those categories is 6'6' junior forward Bradford Burgess who contributes 14.4(ppg) and 6.2(rpg).  The two definitely provide a test for the Kansas front line who is certainly more touted but won't have anything given to them. 

The man conducting the offense for VCU is 5'10" senior point guard Joey Rodriguez.  Rodriguez scores 10.6 per contest but also averages a solid 5.1 assists per game.  This will be a key matchup for Kansas as Rodriguez really is the player that holds the keys to the VCU offense and he's a major factor in their pressing defensive attack.  Limit his impact and Kansas could cruise in this one, but that isn't going to be easy to do. 

Brandon Rozzell is another senior starter for the Rams and he provides a three point threat shooting 40% from beyond the arc.  He isn't a huge scorer however because VCU does tend to work through Keen and Burgess whenever possible.  Rozzell averages 11.8 points per game.  Rozzell is averaging 17 per contest in the tourney.

Rounding out the starters is 6'4" senior guard Ed Nixon.  Nixon isn't an explosive scorer or contributor on the team but he does average a little over 7 points per contest and to use the cliche "glue guy" might be fairly accurate.

6'2" freshman guard Rob Brandenberg provides the most minutes off the bench and averages 5.2 per game.  6'3" Darius Theus and 6'9" Juvonte Reddic round out the bench rotation for the Rams.


Ram Trends

Clearly it's not secret that the Rams are playing about as well as they could have ever hoped to at this point in the season.  Two weeks ago they barely made it into the tournament and since then they've beaten USC, Georgetown, Purdue and Florida State.  Impressive yet, but how impressive?

This VCU team is by far the worst team statistically speaking that remains in the tournament.  They are fairly efficient offensively with a solid eFG% and they do not turn the ball over because of their point man Rodriguez.  They can hurt you from three but they don't rebound particularly well and they don't get to the line as much as a lot of other teams.  So far this sounds like a repeat of Richmond.  The biggest difference from that perspective is that Richmond is a better three point shooting team.  Defending the three pointer will be key for Kansas in avoiding a possible upset bid, but if they can play defense the way they did against Richmond, VCU isn't as formidable in that department.

On the defensive end VCU is a team that wants to pressure you on defense and  try to tire a team out.  Sounds like a familiar conference opponent doesn't it?  Much like Richmond the biggest area they struggle is keeping the opponent off the offensive glass.  Once again it sounds like a game where Kansas' strong frontline can come in and control the glass. 

Offensive Averages:

83rd / 2nd
60th / 1st
292nd / 8th
FG Pct
161st / 8th

Defensive Averages:

140th / 2nd
210th / 1st
241st / 8th
FG Pct
250th / 8th

Prediction Time

Value the basketball, defend the three and attack the glass.  It should be simple. Nothing is a given but Boston is the only team Kansas has played that would look like a more mismatched contest.  Illinois is better, Richmond is better, in fact Richmond beat VCU.  The wildcard is the fact that this team is hot and they're playing with NOTHING to lose.  No one expects them to win and that can sometimes allow a team to play very loose.  Kansas just can't let the pressure get to them and this should wrap up a trip to Houston.

Vcu VCU 71.9 43.7 71.5 36.7 32.3 10.9 21.4 14.5 11.3 8.4 3.6 18.2
Kansas KU 81.7 51.2 68.3 39.0 38.6 11.6 27.0 17.9 13.3 7.8 4.0 17.5
Vcu VCU Opponents 66.9 44.6 68.0 34.4 35.8 12.1 23.7 13.2 14.8 5.8 3.7 18.7
Kansas KU Opponents 64.5 39.4 72.9 29.1 30.7 10.5 20.2 11.2 14.1 6.0 2.8 19.4