The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago have yet to win an A10 conference game this season, but they’ll have another chance to do so tonight as they play host to the VCU Rams. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be backing the road favorite tonight.
VCU will enter tonight fresh off their second conference win, which was a 17-point victory over Davidson at home. The Rams' record for the season is now up to 11-5, and after winning six of their last seven games, their offense has found its stride. During this recent hot stretch, the Rams have scored 70 or more points in all seven games and brought their overall NET efficiency rating up to +5.45, according to KenPom.
Leading scorer Ace Baldwin Jr. has kicked things into high gear since the start of conference play, averaging double figures in all three games. Baldwin Jr. led the Rams to a 58% shooting effort in their win against Davidson, and in that win, the team was also able to shoot 62% from three.
It may have taken some time for the Rams' offense to click, but their defense has been solid all season. VCU currently ranks 51st in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and they will now face a Loyola-Chicago team that ranks 184th in offensive efficiency.
The Ramblers have yet to put a full game together on both sides of the ball in conference play. In two of their three games, they scored 87 and 75 points, but in those games, they also allowed their two highest point totals of the season, so their defense held them back. The other conference game resulted in them only managing to score 57 points in the game.
Shooting-wise, this team can be successful on that end of the floor, and they have the shooting numbers to prove it. Ultimately if this team wants to start competing in A10, it comes down to improving on defense. The 103.7 defensive efficiency rating will not cut it on a nightly basis in conference play.
Across most books, VCU can currently be found as -3.5 point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them as my best play for the game. The Ramblers are 3-12 ATS this season and have yet to cover in a conference game, and with the way the Rams are playing on offense, I think their conference struggles continue.
If VCU can continue to shoot the ball at a high level and run at the quick tempo they have been, then they should be able to build an insurmountable lead as the other three conference teams have done to them. The second-half struggles of the Ramblers will likely cost them again, as they are allowing an average of 38.9 points in the second half.
Loyola-Chicago was tied at half in their last game and allowed 51 points to be scored in the second half, leading to an 11-point loss. VCU has managed to outscore all three conference opponent’s in the second half, even in their one loss, so even if the game is close at halftime, I expect the Rams to come out on top and cover.
VCU Rams (-3.5)