VCU travels to Kingston, RI, Friday to take on Rhode Island in a game with serious conference and NCAA Tournament implications. VCU enters the game in third place in the Atlantic 10 at 6-2 in conference play and 16-5 overall, while Rhode Island is currently 15-5 overall and 7-1 in league play, sitting in second behind Dayton.
Rhode Island took care of VCU in Richmond less than three weeks ago, 65-56. Jeff Dowtin and Fatts Russell paced Rhode Island with a combined 37 points, while Russell was also responsible for seven steals in the game.
That game was the second in Rhode Island’s current seven-game winning streak, during which it climbed 35 spots in the Kenpom rankings. The Rams are led by a trio of guards in Russell (19.7 points), Dowtin (13.9 points) and sophomore Tyrese Martin (12.9 points, seven rebounds).
VCU is also on a winning streak, as the Rams have won four games in a row, with their most recent victory coming earlier in the week at home against Richmond, 87-68.
Mike Rhoades’ group is led by a trio of upperclassmen in Marcus Santos-Silva (13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds), De’Riante Jenkins (10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Marcus Evans (10.4 points, 38 percent on threes).
The Atlantic 10 is currently boasting roughly six teams that could vie for an NCAA Tournament berths, and seeding for the conference tournament will be paramount. The conference has not received more than three NCAA Tournament bids since 2014, so every win is crucial.
Rhode Island is a one-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 141.5.
VCU looking for payback, second place
VCU averaged just 0.79 points per possession in its previous game against Rhode Island while surrendering 0.92 ppp. Both numbers are significantly worse than its season averages. The trends, however, are not in VCU’s favor.
The Rams’ record as an underdog this season is 0-4 straight up and 8-13 against the spread overall. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five games, however, and 4-2 straight up in their last six road games.
VCU has gone over in four of its last five games, but in just 10 of its 21 games overall on the season.
Keeping Pace With Dayton
Rhode Island is looking to move to 8-1 in conference play and push its hold on second place to a two-game lead. During the Rams’ current seven-game winning streak, the Rams are 6-1 against the spread.
They are 9-1 at home and 12-2 straight up as a favorite this season but just 4-6 at home against the spread on the season. Rhode Island has gone under in 11 of its 20 games overall and seven of its 10 home games this season.
The Headbanger’s Ball
These two teams may as well be mirror images of each other. There are experienced players on both sides, good defenses, and very mediocre offenses. Santos-Silva is the best frontcourt player in the game, while Russell is a guard who can put points on the board in a hurry, having put up 20 points on 12 occasions in 2019-20.
I do like the continuity of this VCU team, being one of the top 50 teams in the nation in experience. According to Haslametrics, the previous matchup was Rhode Island’s second-most efficient game of the season, while being VCU’s second-worst game in terms of efficiency this year. When you take experience, consistency and “the havoc” on defense into account, look for VCU to get that game back and win this game straight up.
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