The VCU Rams are tied for first in the A10 conference, and they’ll look to continue their strong play tonight against the UMASS Minutemen. We’ll preview the game before going over my best bet for the action.
VCU enters tonight on a three-game win streak and has won eight of its last nine games. The Rams have lost just one game at home this season, which is relatively unsurprising with how their defense has been all year. According to KenPom, the Rams' defensive efficiency rating of 95.8 is ranked 41st in the country.
In their five conference games this season, they have managed to hold three of their opponents under 67 points, and they are currently forcing the 4th most turnovers per game in the country with an average of 17.9.
Offensively, Ace Baldwin Jr. leads the team in scoring but is coming off his worst offensive performance since conference play started. Baldwin Jr. only managed six points on 37.5% shooting against Dayton, and he will be challenged again tonight against a UMASS team holding opponents to a 31% three-point percentage.
The Minutemen have been able to run shooters off the line, but as a whole, their defensive efficiency rating ranks 106th in the country, according to KenPom. After a rough start on the defensive end of the floor in conference play, the Frank Martin led team will enter tonight off their best defensive performance since A10 play began. UMASS held Rhode Island to 65 points on 37% shooting in their second conference win.
The good news for the Minutemen is that they were able to pick up that win without leading scorer Noah Fernandes, who is questionable tonight but is trending in the direction of playing. Fernandes was on a scoring tear up until he missed the Rhode Island game, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can find his touch right away and help continue to improve the Minutemen’s 102.1 offensive efficiency rating.
UMASS is currently listed as +10.5 point underdogs, and I’ll be taking them as my best bet for the game. UMASS is undervalued at this number, and since they run at a fast tempo themselves, they will not be uncomfortable playing at the same pace and style as the Rams.
The Minutemen also possess a rebounding advantage on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. UMASS is averaging 11.4 offensive rebounds per game, which is the 11th-highest average in the country. With VCU’s 275th-ranked defensive rebounding percentage, the Minutemen are primed to get a lot of second-chance opportunities tonight.
VCU’s offense has proven to be inconsistent at times this season, and I don’t think they can hold a double-digit lead tonight, especially if Fernandes plays. The Rams have been shooting at a higher percentage since conference play started, and I think they are due for a little bit of regression on that end of the floor.