February 22, 2013

Scouting the VCU Rams

Record: 20-5 Overall, (7-1 Away), (8-2 Conference)

Key Wins: Memphis, Alabama, St. Bonaventure, Charlotte, UMass, Belmont
Key Losses: at Richmond, LaSalle, Missouri, Duke

Starting Personnel

#10 Darius Theus - 6'3 senior PG: Averages just 7 points but gets 5 assists a game, and is also the leading steals man.

#11 Rob Brandenberg - 6'2 junior SG: Three-point shooter is good for just over 10.8 points per night.

#21 Treveon Graham - 6'5 sophomore SF: Rams best player leads team at 16 points per game. Graham is a versatile player who averages 6 rebounds a game, but is also an excellent shooter at 48% from three-point range.

#30 Troy Daniels - 6'4 senior SF: Third leading scorer is top three-point specialist; averages 12.2 points and is shooting well over 40% from three with 89 made long-balls already.

#15 Juvonte Reddic - 6'9 junior C: Second leading scorer averages 14 points per game and leads the team in rebounding at 8.2 boards per game. Reddic is the only true interior player in the VCU rotation.

Bench Personnel

#32 Melvin Johnson - 6'3 freshman SG: Sixth man averages 6.6 points and is top contributor off the pine.

#2 Briante Webber - 6'2 sophomore PG: Averages 5 points and 3 rebounds in energy minutes off of the bench.

Xavier Defensive Keys

• Sprint down the floor: VCU is a dynamic offensive team that loves to push tempo. The Rams are the best overall scoring team in the Atlantic 10 when you look at efficiency, and that shows in their incredible 77.2 points per game average as a team. The Rams can shoot the ball, they play fast and they don't turn it over; meaning you need to sprint back and not let them get quality shots off in transition. If Xavier can make this game into a half court grind it out matchup than the Musketeers might just have a better chance than most people think, especially considering the boost that Xavier will likely get from the home crowd.

• Find the shooters: In addition to being one of the top scoring teams in the country, VCU is also one the better shooting teams. The Rams shoot over 35% from three, have a trio of starters who are very dangerous in Graham, Daniels and Bradenberg and as a team are making almost 9 three's per game. If VCU is allowed to hit at their normal clip from deep by Xavier's defense then it will be very, very difficult for the often offensively-challenged Musketeers to score enough points to keep this game close.

• Change defensive looks: Against a team like VCU that plays such a hectic style the best strategy is often to switch to various defenses throughout the game, confusing a team that is making such an effort to play fast that they'll often border on out of control. VCU has the talent advantage in this game, so a lot of pressure will be on Xavier coach Chris Mack to win the "chess match" against VCU head man Shaka Smart, causing the Rams to potentially pump the brakes a little bit from their chaotic tempo.

Xavier Offensive Keys

• Handle their pressure: What VCU does to win games is pretty simple, use pressure defense to create easy scoring opportunities and be relentless in that attack. The Rams have a whopping +8.3 turnover margin, which allows them to dictate the pace, and thus usually means that their talent advantages on the wings will take over and lead to wins. For Xavier to have a chance to win this one they'll have to be strong with the ball, control the tempo and feed the post to create offense. Should the Musketeers try and match VCU's speed, or hesitate against that full-court pressure than VCU doesn't hesitate to step on the gas, evidenced by their 20 wins and +14.7 average scoring margin.

• Play big: The one major weakness that the Rams have is that they are very small, both in terms of quantity and quality. VCU only has one true big in their rotation, which they play off of well by using such a quick pace that they can usually neutralize their opponent's size. To work the ball into the post Xavier will not only have to get good performances from their big men, but they'll also have to control the tempo, as we talked about earlier, if they want to win this game at home.

• Have no fear: As the Musketeers try and stay relevant in the upper part of the Atlantic 10 standings they'll have no reason to feel any type of pressure in this game. In fact, it is the conference newcomer, the Rams, who should be feeling the pressure of trying to work their way towards a league title by winning a key road game at the Cintas Center. The Musketeers should look to come out with a fun and laid back style entering this game; knowing that if they match VCU's intensity and hit a few shots this game could come down to the wire.

Overall: We rarely if ever take this approach, but this game could come down largely to coaching. Xavier's Chris Mack is going to have find ways to get the ball inside, handle the VCU pressure and slow the game down so that the Rams are unable to run up and down the floor. Obviously, the Musketeers are going to have to play an above average offensive game, match the Rams intensity and use what should be a lively Cintas Center crowd to their advantage; but Mack will be the ultimate key here as he matches up against one of the best young coaches in the business in Shaka Smart. VCU is the clear favorite in this one, but the Musketeers have been known to create late-season magic at home.


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